Posts Tagged ‘Britomart’

WOW! . . .

May 24, 2011

. . .  stands for ‘World of Wearable Art’ – it’s a museum of clothes in which theatrical costume meets Lady Gaga.  And for some imponderable reason, all this shares space with a Museum of Classic Cars.  The style is wonderfully surreal and joky.

outside the museum

I was a bit dubious, not really being into fashion.  But the first sight of the museum was promising. The car appears to float on water –

this improbable creature reigns by the entrance

the labels are lovingly detailed

This tells us that the glamorous white beauty is an Excalibur.

Model              Four door touring sedan.
Year                 1988.
Engine             350 Chevy V8
Car stylist Brooks Stevens designed the first Excalibur as a show car for Studebaker, using an Avanti engine and a Lark chassis.  When Studebaker pulled the plug on the project, even though the car had been a huge success at the show, his sons decided to set up their own company to produce the neo-classic which was originally based on the 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK sports car.
. . . a Chevrolet rather than a Studebaker power unit, and all production Excalibur cars have been fitted with Chevrolet Corvette engines, though the Studebaker chassis was retained until 1970.

So it seems as if it’s ‘classic’ in a fairly modern interpretation of the term.  (There’s more on the sign, if you care to enlarge it and read on.)
To my great delight, you are allowed to sit in some of the cars.  Memories of childhood: the smell of leather upholstery, the satisfying complex crunch of the doors closing – part sound, part sensation.   Like a little kid I played at driving – moving the gear stick, holding the wheel, pressing the pedals in.

There was a De Lorean (dolled up as the ‘Back to the Future’ car’), a thirties gangster car (with fake shotgun holes), a ‘before restoration’ example which made the gleaming beauties even more impressive – and too many more to name.
There was also an abandoned black backpack by the entrance door.  I thought – here I am in a temple to American wealth and consumerist display – and there’s a lonely bag just next to me.  But then again, I am in New Zealand.  All those railway station and airport announcements about ‘unattended luggage’ had their sway: I could phone the cops and have it eliminated in one of their ‘controlled explosions’.  Instead, I accosted some mild individuals, just a little way further around the room, who looked glazed.  Next I found a good-looking young man with a tripod, taking sophisticated photos of the cars – yes, it was his bag.  He was amazed to hear that he was doing sinister and scary things with it.  And slightly amused, too, to find the modern world impinging on him, borne by a grey-haired worrier-type.  “We are in Nelson,” he pointed out.  “Not many extremists here.”  I was only slightly abashed – after all, even if there is no threat, making people nervous should perhaps also be avoided.
A tantalising selection of random bits of three different vehicles, and some unreadable labels.  My childish technique of non-composition at work again, I guess.

this one is called a 'Commander' - that's a dummy standing next to it.

All this, and I was less than halfway round.  G. was waiting for me outside – how much can one really try a hosts’s patience?
The WOW! really is amazing – and more and more convincing as you work your way around through it.  The centrepiece is a video screening of the fashion parades that have displayed these pieces over the years – but they are more like athletic/gymnastic/dance shows.  Quite stunning and amazing.  Many of the costumes perform (or represent) ideas derived from myth – animal legends, bird myths, Maori and other cultures – all feature here and are interpreted in extraordinary and challenging ways.

Eos - a bird god

The displays are static – you need movement as well, really, to see how they worked when they were new and fresh.  I couldn’t resist buying a copy of the DVD for my mother, who loves art.

Ornitho-Maia (bird mother) is made of leather - one thinks of Boudicca, or maybe of Britomart again.

Amazingly, the gift shop also sells little bits of the Ornitho-Maia.  It’s like a talisman to have something tactile like that to keep – but how can they possibly do it?  Maybe the designer made a lot of spares? It’s a wonderful small gift shop: full of variety, interest and good taste.

luminous costumes, circling the dark

You are allowed to take photos of the cars but not of the costumes – but I only noticed the sign as I left (having entered in the wrong direction, and exited through the entrance door).  (I must have been fairly disorientated that day). So I had already taken lots of photos.  Anyway, I mentioned this to the lady behind the desk, and she said it was OK.  I don’t know how moral it is to put them up here – but maybe it will bring more visitors to the Museum, rather than fewer. Here are some more:  The annual fashion show of Wearable Art became so popular that it started to swamp Nelson with visitors, and had to be moved away to a larger venue – (possibly Auckland?) – but the Museum remains.

Travellers’ Tales – Surprises in Auckland

March 26, 2011

(First weekend in Auckland)

Ann and Colin kept us busy, all right. We walked up the defunct volcano that is Mt Eden – wondering why the name. Did it look like the Garden of Eden to someone? Perhaps someone had thought that New Zealand looked like a world before the Fall?  Alas – it was named after George Eden, Lord Auckland: an even more complete cultural appropriation. At the top we found busloads of tourists, mostly Japanese, taking photos of one another. Our hosts were amazed at the crowds and at the size of the coaches that were trying to turn in a very tight parking area. Some local folk were disobeying the sign that forbids access to the crater – perhaps New Zealanders are like the French in their creative attitude to rules.

needless to say, I found this photo on the internet

In the evenings we roared with laughter at reruns of a truly riveting TV show – ‘Wonder Dogs’. Why this has never been networked in Australia or the UK entirely defeats me: it is a hoot.
The promo video shows them all succeeding, and loses much of the naturalness. It’s much more fun on the actual programme, which shows just how difficult it is for the dog-plus-human teams. There’s a downside, though, as unfortunately the re-runs are in random order, so one doesn’t get to follow any one competition through the various stages to its finals. Apparently the format (the idea, not the shows) has been bought by Canada and Fiji – but for me the whole New Zealandness of the thing is a major part of its attraction. (A 2006 news item tells me that TVNZ has licensed ‘Wonder Dogs’ to the Discovery UK network – I think they are missing the point – it should screen alongside ‘Flight of the Conchords’.)
Also on TV was a wonderful doco about James Cook – we caught episodes two and three – and we were soon sold on finding out much more about this extraordinary and talented man. A reading project for the future, but for now we had enough superficial knowledge to sustain some conversation.
By Saturday we were ready to stroll through the city centre past ann’s favourite chinese chippy
(I think she mostly likes it for its name)
to take the ferry across Waitemata Harbour to Devonport, and another tall hill. The transport centre is called ‘Britomart’ but there is no sign of an armoured female knight, nor of Spenser’s Faerie Queene.

Here she is -

– the warrior knight of heroic myth and legend, reduced to modernity and functionalism.  I can’t help thinking of Marvin the Robot from The Hithchikers’ Guide: ‘brain the size of a planet’ but reduced to parking cars until the end of the world.  In this way we subsume the richness of the past, of heroism and complexity, into our triviality.
It turns out that like so many slightly odd-sounding Australian and New Zealand place names, the connection is via a ship of that name. Of course, nineteenth century ships still very commonly had names from mythology and literature, so these concepts in turn stand a chance of being carried forward through time, via the places named for them because they had visited, or where they were shipwrecked.
Here is a small part of the information that Auckland Transport Centre kindly tell us on their website. HMS Britomart was a brig-sloop, one of 101 vessels of the Cherokee class, built at Portsmouth in 1820. The ship was 237 tons, armed with ten guns, and was sold in Singapore in 1843.
(You may need to scroll to the end to see the picture of  a brig-sloop.) 
[I love the next sentence.] In command of HMS Britomart in 1840 was Commander Owen Stanley, the eldest son of the Bishop of Norwich. [Surely he must be the bloke after whom they named the Owen Stanley Ranges.] HMS Britomart gave her name to an area of Auckland where fighting between Europeans and Maori took place, and thence to a street, and finally to a transport hub. So it goes.
By the ferry wharf there towered two enormous white cruise liners, huge and daunting as the castles that Spenser’s knights  occupied: suddenly the busloads of tourists at Mt Eden were explained.
Moored at Devonport, by a wharf full of earnest fishermen and their little sons, was a beautifully restored tug, the William Crush Daldy. We goggled at it, as this was the very ship named after Andrew’s Great Great (and possibly Great) Uncle, who had been an early settler in New Zealand. We had known that the tug once existed, but hardly expected to find it in pristine running order, lovingly cared for by a dedicated historical society.

Daldy with Daldy

(Andrew’s mother was a Daldy)
Furthermore, when a chap working on it saw us, he gave us an impromptu guided tour of the whole vessel – engine rooms, coal bunkers and all.

beautifully polished brasswork - is this a binnacle?

essential information

apologies to the mystery figure on the left - I just can't edit you out today

We heard about her coal consumption, her speed, her history – all from someone who was clearly very proud of the tug’s achievements. (She had won a tug race against much more modern ships not long before). It was altogether a great privilege and a big surprise.

you might have to enlarge this a bit to see what it says

Up on North Head, kite-flying was the order of the day, while scores of sailing boats flew across the water on the seaward side of the headland.

on top of the world with a two-handed kite

New Zealand’s daylight saving time puts it three hours ahead of Queensland, so we were inclined to sleep in shamefully: Sunday started late.  

This is HMS Pelorus - a brig-sloop very similar to HMS Britomart. There is a Pelorus River in Victoria (Australia) (where you can find advertising for the Perilous River Riding Stables) and a Pelorus Sound in NZ.

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