Artwork celebrating Gallipoli dead 'torn out, ripped apart' by vandals
It took years to plan and cost $20,000 to build, but an art installation for Wellington's Gallipoli dead lasted less than a fortnight before being "ripped apart" by vandals.
The Remembrance installation was launched on Armistice Day in Karori's Appleton Park, but will now be taken down on Tuesday.
Creator Chris Bennewith, an associate professor at Massey University, said he was almost in tears on Sunday when he discovered the "malicious attack" on his installation.
The installation needed more than a kilometre of trenching for cabling to power 860 individual LED posts – one for each of the city's Gallipoli dead.
"They pulled heads off the light poles, the pulled the poles out, poles had been taken, some had been snapped in two, they'd broken into the powerbox," Bennewith said.
The damage was irreparable, and the attack left the installation unfit to be viewed.
"It was exceptionally emotional for me last night, I have to admit I was close to tears as I was walking round, picking up the pieces."
He said it took about two years to plan and find the money for the exhibition, which was funded with $10,000 from Wellington City Council, with the remainder coming from Massey.
Before installing the piece he and others in his team had considered the risk of vandalism to the relatively delicate components, which ended up "torn out, ripped apart and smashed up".
"I thought given the nature of the work, what it was representing, particularly for Wellington, that people would have some respect. But obviously not."
Each of the sticks were topped with globes that glowed red in the evening, and were controlled by chips and technology similar to ones used by iphones that adjust light levels when tilted by the wind, or people walking in the field of 'poppies'.
The grid-like pattern of the installation was similar to the layout of graves in war cemeteries throughout Europe and in Turkey.
The attack on the installation so appalled RSA chief executive David Moger that he called out the vandals, saying he would meet them personally.
"I would be prepared to meet with them to help them understand what these memorials are for. To help them understand the deep sense of nationhood that resides in these memorials. And to help them find a way to help them repair some of the damage they've done."
Moger said he could "only hope" that it was a thoughtless, spur-of-the-moment act of vandalism.
"I can't believe that anybody would go out to do it deliberately, to dishonour and disrespect those who have given their lives."
Ward councillor Andy Foster said he was shocked by news of the vandalism, which he said was "disgraceful".
"Why people destroy things, I don't know, it doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. And those people obviously need some – in inverted commas – counselling."
The exhibition lasted 10 days after it was first lit up on Armistice Day, the commemoration that marked the end of World War I.
Returned Services Association national board member for Wellington Glover Anderson said he was totally devastated by news of the vandalism.
"Especially when it's recognising veterans: each one has given their life in Gallipoli to give them the life that they've got here."