Drawing Water: Low Lying

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‘The end result is giant collaborative artwork: effectively a 1:1 interpretive scale map of past and future projections.’   Gabby O’Connor

What will the floodplain look like when our young people are old? Working with schools and scientists to visualise future and historical changes, a giant 1:1 flood map was made collaboratively with rope, on the grassy flood banks of Strand Park. With particular thanks to the contributions over many months of Hutt Valley High School, Te Ara Whanui Kura Kaupapa Maori, GWRC and Boffa Miskel. Sat 25 Feb – Sat 4 Mar 2017

Gabby O’Connor worked with the Hutt’s young people and scientists to visualise and help us understand the future changes to the Te AwaKairangi Hutt River. The top rope line of the work extending almost 350 metres followed a floodline of only three weeks before the festival.

This at a time when climate change will lead to increased flooding and sea level rise, and the Hutt comes to terms with the relocation of large areas of housing under threat. Equally this is a time when there is increasing interest in the health of the river, moves to draw city focus to the river, and increasing recreational use of its banks.

O’Connor notes that parts of the Hutt are at or only barely above sea-level which makes some areas particularly vulnerable if both the water table and sea level are increasing. Straddling the river’s giant floodbank, and situated around the much used Hutt River Trail at Strand Park, the work is in conversation with the flood-prone Hutt Valley High School (sited on a former market garden), a short walk from the Lower Hutt city centre.

Participants met and worked with various experts on issues relating to the local changing environment – considering geography, hydrology, science, and urban planning. In each workshop information will be exchanged while the artwork is created.

‘The project will start by looking concurrently at historic flooding, future sea level rise and site usage,’ writes Gabby O’Connor.

‘There are a series of local community housing populations that are in the process of being relocated to account for increased flooding and projections in the area. Workshops will talk about the global and local implications of climate change and how the landscape/water systems work and effect the immediate stake holders.



Wellington-based Gabby O’Connor’s sculptural installations and workshop processes focus on climate change and community. Her work often involves working with large groups to piece together multiple handmade components – a way for people to connect with issues through working together, learning more about the science underpinning fundamental environmental changes.

O’Connor’s installations have been shown at Pataka Porirua, City Gallery Wellington and Mahara Gallery Waikanae, and she has worked in numerous public spaces around New Zealand, including with Letting Space’s Urban Dream Brokerage programme.

O’Connor is about to commence a Sustainable Seas PhD scholarship through Auckland University working with NIWA in Wellington, and she is the community art project director of the Upstream public art festival in Central Park, Wellington, due to happen for the second time in 2017.

She studied sculpture in Melbourne at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne and did her masters in Sydney at the College of Fine Arts. New Zealand has been her home for 16 years. In 2015 O’Connor spent several weeks in Antarctica on a fellowship, working in a shipping container laboratory on sea ice 4 metres thick over 500 metre deep McMurdo Sound where she will continue her research on sea ice platelets in October 2016.

Images of first workshop: Te Ara Whanui December 2016


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Date: November 15, 2016