Location's downside

23:43, Nov 15 2012

This week's appearance of another significant public sculpture will inevitably spark debate - and that's great.

Terry Stringer's Dance to the Music of Time, at 5.5 metres including its plinth, has been made, and sited, to be noticed. That it is at the city's northern gateway, alongside the Haven and visible from some distance along the main street, adds enormously to its appeal. Location is not just a key determinant of value in real estate. For aesthetic reasons, the work is perfectly placed.

However, two aspects of its location might reasonably be questioned. For one, it certainly draws the eye - and it is interesting that it is placed just off a two-lane roundabout on a main intersection with a State Highway, just outside of a 100kmh zone. Second, only a few blocks from the CBD and bound to be well-promoted, it will also be a tourist magnet. Those who choose to walk to it will have to cross busy roads. The temptation will be to cut across the roundabout itself, which could be disastrous.

There is more to the work than will be obvious to rubber-necking motorists, no matter how slowly they might attempt to crawl past. The location then, is perfect for a sculpture, but has its downsides for those who will want to view it up close.

Of course there are the usual complaints about cost, and in locating two $200,000-plus sculptures near each other within a few months the city council is not shying from controversy over its spending priorities as well as from those who would question its art appreciation credentials. The council has in place policies that aim to add substance to Nelson's reputation as a centre of art and creativity, and to enhance the physical links between central city and the sea. The Stringer piece fits both aspirations nicely.

Further significant projects are to come, especially along the Maitai walkway. As important as fiscal prudence is in tight times, ongoing efforts to enhance the cityscape are to be applauded.

Swansong for Aragorn We've all heard of the Ugly Duckling which grows into a beautiful swan - a gentle tale about transformation and the dangers of judging on appearance. Another swan story which has captivated readers is that of Aragorn, recently departed: both from his previous haunt in the Maitai River, and now from this mortal coil.

Some mourned the big bird's departure from the Maitai. He would swan about with typical grace: chasing the odd duck which came too close, otherwise gliding among the drooping willows like the inspiration for an English romantic painting.

Three weeks ago the Conservation Department stepped in, concerned for Aragorn's safety after reports of him attacking a whitebaiter - who might or might not have been baiting him - and also having been bitten by a dog. He was dispatched to the Kaikoura Adventure Park in Marlborough, and apparently was settling in well before he was found dead on a pond on Tuesday night. Though his time in more peaceful new surroundings was brief, it was still the right decision to move him and no blame should be apportioned following his demise. Perhaps it is simply that his time was up.


The Nelson Mail