Artist’s Diary

Te Haa o te Ao - Chris Booth, artist's diary, small image

Te Haa o te Ao “The Breath of the World”

Te Haa o Te Ao (The Breath of the World) is a proposed entranceway sculpture into Kerikeri, Waipapa and surrounding Bay of Islands which Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia have invited me to design. The aim of the sculpture is to raise awareness in locals and visitors about the greatest threat humanity is facing today: climate change.

Te Haa o te Ao - Chris Booth, aritst's diary

Te Haa o Te Ao will be 10m tall with 55 locally sourced boulders simulating Poi* that are suspended from a central Pou by stainless steel cables.  The cables will reflect the light of the sun and make music with the wind.

The Pou will be topped by a sculpture by Tuauahiroa Hei Hei made of cast metal in the form of the heads of three native birds, the kāhu (hawk) facing southwards towards oncoming traffic, the tūī facing west into the bush and the kāwau (shag) facing seawards.

Te Haa o te Ao - Tuaauhiroa Hei Hei

With a winch, the collar over the wires can be moved up and down, causing the Poi (boulders) to rise “like a bird’s wing”. The sculpture being under high tension means that we are in a state of conflict with the environment.

Te Haa o te Ao - tension, Chris Booth, artist's diary

This is not a scientific instrument – it is a work of art.  It is just like music – by playing certain notes, one can vary the mood from peaceful to high tension.  So by moving the Poi the viewer’s visual response changes from peaceful to high tension.  It therefore reflects the efforts we are making in combating climate change.”

The sculpture will be

  • a meaningful and powerful greeting to everyone passing through this gateway
  • an artistic, responsive warning signal to humanity about the state of the environment vis-à-vis climate change
  • an opportunity for a local school’s social and scientific involvement to monitor the well-being of the local environment
  • a challenge to tackle human effects on the climate and on the environment and people’s engagement with it  – a collaborative project by Māori and Pākehā, young and old, individuals and businesses
  • an environmentally inspired thought provoking icon to be visited, contemplated and talked about.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia, Transit NZ, FNDC, Oxford Trust, Rotary and Lions (Waipapa and Kerikeri), Probus, Vision Kerikeri, Aroha Island Charitable Trust, Living Waters and numerous individuals have expressed their support for the project.  Fund raising is still ongoing to enable the completion of the project and to add nightly illumination by solar power.

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RBG Ontario

Earth Art 2014 Royal Botanic Gardens, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

RBG Ontario Chris Booth sculpture photo1 artist's diary

 earth reeds sticks string fungi

Within the RBG Arboratum, at the fringe of the Dogwood and Redbud Collection, beside the Lilac Dell on a relatively steep slope, beautifully shaded from the sun by the embracing canopy of a fully flowering Dogwood tree, I built my earth art. An ideal site for growing fungi – nature’s greatest recycler.

Directly on the earth, a new dimension to my kinetic ‘living’ sculpture series was to evolve. All my previous kinetic works incorporated stone with recycled wood – this one was to use only reeds, sticks and string – to be returned to earth over time by fungi.

Consequently, in comparison to my other kinetic works, it will be a fast mover. The full sequence of its artistic evolution will perhaps be only seven years instead of twenty or thirty.

Sympodial growth (putting it simply, this is a zig zag pattern of growth) of the nearby (and somewhat threatened) Sassafras tree inspired the structure and life/evolution of the piece.

During the last severe winter the weight of snow on trees, exacerbated by a hoarfrost, caused many pine branches to collapse in the Arboratum. These proved perfect to be recycled for the curved sticks. And the invasive Common Reed Grass, Phragmites australis, was harvested from a wetland and delivered daily to my site by RBG staff. Untreated Manila string and Sisal cord was used for the binding.

RBG Ontario Chris Booth Sculpture photo2 artist's diary

The following extract from his review titled ‘In Search of the Earth!’, by curator, John Grande (16th July 2014), succinctly sums up his understanding of earth reeds sticks string fungi:

New Zealand’s Chris Booth whose magnificent stone sculpture assemblages and stone blankets develop an inter-cultural dialogue, for the Royal Botanical Gardens has created a ten metre by three metre long kinetic sympodial growth earth art piece. Recycled curving branches are woven together to form an off the ground structure that undulates its way up along the hill. It could be a container or a vessel, a nature container, itself part of nature. Using local reeds within the structure, Booth proposes an outdoor site-specific installation where fungi spores actively transform the sculpture, changing it rather. Slowly, the network of mycorrhizae and mycelia and fungal spores throw up fruiting bodies, invade the reed mass, and the sculptures devolves, returning to the earth. As the installation begins to fall onto the ground, a feather-like pattern that celebrates sympodial growth and the work of fungus – the greatest recycler on the planet remains. Less about art with a capital A and more cutting edge cross-disciplinary intervention, Chris Booth’s an artist/innovator and visionary in his own right.

Curator and writer: John Grande.

Posted in the Fifth Season Magazine on Earth Art 2014



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Storm King Art Center

Storm King Art Center, New York, US

July 2013 was spent in residence at Storm King Arts Center. We (my family accompanied me) were thoroughly spoilt by the hospitality extended to us. Here, through introductions and recommendations by the President, Director and staff, research was conducted into the geomorphology, social history, flora and fauna and relevant matters in the area. A relationship was developed between representatives of the descendants of the Indigenous People of the area, the Lenape (len-NAH-pay) Delaware – first making contact with representatives prior to our arrival in USA.

At the time of European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries the Lenape Delaware had inhabited the area around and between the Delaware and lower Hudson Rivers including Manhattan Island. Over the next centuries they suffered serious population loss and disempowerment from the impacts of European colonisation. Finally most were forcibly removed to reside in the state of Oklahoma. Another example of many terrible legacies exacted against Indian Tribes by the colonists which are yet to be seriously addressed.

I flew to Oklahoma, finding it hard to believe that these people had been relocated so far away – half way across the continent! It was profoundly rewarding to meet, learn from and discuss my ideas with Tribal Representatives, including Chief Paula Pechonick, at the Lenape Delaware Community Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma <>.

Chris Booth meets Chief Paula Pechonick, Lenape Delaware Tribe of Indians

It was my hope that I would gain support for proposing a project for Storm King and they would consider engaging with me on this journey. Their subsequent agreement to engage in principle plus assisting me with advice and information has been empowering – to the extent that inspiration has blossomed!


While in residence at Storm King it was my privilege to meet the acclaimed archaeologist, Edward Lenik, who introduced me to the archaeology of the Lower Hudson/ Manhatten area. Edward encouraged my family and I to meet Chief Dwaine Perry  of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation <> still living on their traditional lands in New Jersey.

At the conclusion of this meeting, Chief Perry voiced his support in principle for my endeavor to create a project at Storm King.

Chris Booth meets Chief Dwaine Perry, Ramapough Lunaape Nation

My family and I left this meeting feeling humbled and empowered, though sad too. We learnt from him something of the ongoing battle they are fighting to rid their lands of toxic waste dumped by the Ford Motor Company in the past, how their lands have been dumped on, stolen and otherwise abused. How a number of their families bare a life of poor physical and mental health and poor standards of living and education due to the effects of the toxins, disempowerment and the struggle of a long running expensive legal battle.

Some Lenape Delaware were dispersed to Canada, I hope to meet with the Canadian Munsee-Delaware Nation <> in June this year while undertaking a commission for the RBG Ontario.

One day in the last weeks of my residency at Storm King, when visiting a site within a small wooded area, a very localised violent thunder storm struck. In describing this dramatic event to a member of the tribe in Oklahoma, I was advised ‘rain and storms, storms especially, are controlled by entities they call the Pethakhuweyok or thunder beings.  The belief is that these beings or to use the Lenape term, a manëtu or spirit, take the form of giant birds with human heads’.

Chris Booth site Storm King

So it is thunder beings that have been behind my inspiration ever since. A scale model was completed here at my home in New Zealand and has been 3D scanned. A computer specialist friend of mine has created a ‘walk past’ animation using the three sculptural elements within the landscape of my chosen site – the location of the violent thunder storm. To be continued…..

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