The Questionnaire: Gabby O'Connor

Gabby O'Connor
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Gabby O'Connor

Gabby O'Connor is a New Zealand-based installation artist who has literally taken on some huge projects. In 2014 she went to Antarctica and created a sculpture called Inland Ice, "the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf" made from recycled signage material, plastic housewrap and plastic.  Last year she worked for two months with oceanographers from NIWA. Her most recent series of projects involve working with scientists and local communities  to communicate the connections between art, science and climate, but also for everyone to participate in the making of a contemporary art work. By Mike Alexander.

What are you plugging?

I've been working on a large-scale rope drawing, to be installed in an acre of park, depicting a map of how the ocean works, and how water moves across the earth's surface. My work is a collaborative piece, and part of the first °TEMP — a climate change festival.  

What's your idea of perfect happiness?

Floating in the ocean listening to the sound of the water. Listening to Weddell seals communicating with each other in the water. I had some hydrophones in Antarctica and we were quite close to a breeding area. They sound like science fiction synthesiser music from outer space. It is hard to believe the noises that they make come from an animal. Being in Antarctica. Dancing with my eyes closed. Good food with good friends and family. Making art. 

Which living person do you most admire?

Singling one out is too hard. I want to acknowledge all the scientists out there collecting, interpreting and communicating data in a world that is becoming OK about ignoring facts, knowledge and expertise —  especially those working in the climate area. 

Which living person do you most despise and why?

I'd prefer not give oxygen or airtime to the top of my current list. 

What life lesson would you pass on to your children?

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It's OK to make mistakes. I think some of my best learning moments have occurred when something seemingly catastrophic has happened. Sometimes the fear of making a mistake can be paralysing and prevent starting or completing something. But it is also when some of the coolest discoveries and unexpected directions occur. This is easy to say now as an adult though, when I am more comfortable in my own skin. ,

What job would you do other than your own and why?

I have to say I am in a sweet spot where I am able to combine all of my interests between art, education, science and research into one "job".  I did want to be a chef [got talked out of it by a chef], an architect [missed my application deadline], a dancer [realised that I wasn't comfortable performing in lycra] when at high school or artist/photographer. 

What's your most embarrassing moment?

I was in a kids toy commercial when I was about 10 [in Australia] in the '80s. I copped a lot of flack from my peers and random strangers which embarrassed me at the time. For some reason, all of my embarrassing moments happened in the '80s and they are all linked with being teased by peers or feeling embarrassed about my dad, who was a rock musician but didn't quite fit the stereotype of a dad, or thinking about the clothes and hair that I had. The '80s has a lot to answer for! 

°TEMP runs until April 8 at Corban Estate Arts Centre and Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery in West Auckland.

 - Sunday Star Times

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