Weta Workshop exhibition arrives in Christchurch

19:57, Jan 24 2014
GUN TOTING: Dr Grordbort's Exceptional Exhibition displayed at The Colombo.
WILD WEAPON: Retro rayguns and curious portraits populate the satirical sci-fi world.
GRAFTER: Brad Cunningham from Weta setting up the project.
ALL HANDS ON DECK: Weta staff get busy setting up the exhibition in its new Christchurch home.
HEAD'S UP: Fantastical portraits on the wall at The Colombo.
THROUGH THE KEYHOLE: A miniature scene on display at Dr Grordbort's Exceptional Exhibition.
BLAST-OFF: Elaine Folau is stunned at the array of firepower at the exhibition.

Weta Workshop have brought the retro-science fiction world of Dr Grordbort's Exceptional Exhibition to Christchurch. Vicki Anderson reports.

Fantastical creatures, tanks, curious arcane weapons, buffoons, moon mistresses and bizarre alien trophies come together to form the satirical sci-fi world found in Dr Grordbort's Exceptional Exhibition.

Artist and designer Greg Broadmore is the creator of Dr Grordbort's - a retro-science fiction universe of rayguns, rocketships and "raw male idiocy" - brought to life by Weta Workshop.

Sir Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Greg Broadmore of Weta Workshop have brought the world-renowned exhibition to Christchurch.

Taylor says he is hoping its marvellous madness will bring a bit of a smile - possibly a smirk - to Cantabrians, too.

"The Grordbort's collection has returned to these fair shores, where this amazing array of artefacts, antiques and antiquities can now adorn halls in New Zealand for the enjoyment of our own art enthusiasts," he says. "In Canterbury, we hope that it will be a tonic for beleaguered eyes and minds."


It is on show at The Colombo until February 28.

As The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies have put New Zealand on the global map in a way no-one could have predicted, the hope is that this exhibition will raise the profile and appeal of Canterbury as an exciting and cutting-edge region, while also enriching our community spirit.

Broadmore, lead conceptual designer on the film District 9, has also worked on King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia and Black Sheep amongst many others in his 10-year career at New Zealand's Academy Award winning Weta Workshop.

His three best-selling Dr Grordbort's books have gained a cult following in Europe and the exhibition has been shown in China, Switzerland, France and Germany. Later this year it will travel off-shore for five years. There are also rumours of Weta developing a game around Dr Grordbort's.

"We've been mates with Wil McLellan from local game company Stickmen for years, and now, through Epic, he's been really supportive of our endeavours for Dr Grordbort's, so bringing the Dr Grordbort's exhibition to Christchurch was something we always wanted to do," Broadmore says.

"Next the exhibition will be going international again and will head to the United States."

Inspired by classic science fiction and tongue firmly in cheek, Dr Grordbort's Exceptional Exhibition reveals a world of unique imagination and glorious characters.

The book Triumph, for example, is billed as "unnecessarily violent tales of science adventure for the simple and unfortunate". It stars Lord Cockswain who journeys into The Lair of the Space Wankers: "They say nature abhors a vacuum. Well, they cocked that up. Nature is just about all bloody vacuum. Empty space most of it, and sodding boring for miles". Another entry depicts Lord Cockswain encountering alien life forms: "Something's odd here . . . but I'm not sure that I can put my finger on it . . . yes, yes, I think I've got it . . . These people are all dicks."

Wendy Kennedy has partnered with Weta to bring the exhibition to Christchurch and a wide team of volunteers including friends and family have helped assemble the exhibition.

"It's so clever," she says. "And funny, it's a bit of a pisstake."

As we walk around the exhibition space, Broadmore's intricate, elaborate gilt-framed illustrations populate every available inch not already occupied by steampunk-style ray guns.

Kennedy's mother, Elaine Folau, does her bit to help out by dusting a life-size replica of the character Moon Mistress.

Kenney says she was chatting to someone at Epic when she discovered that the $250,000 exhibition had been offered to Christchurch but as there was trouble sourcing a suitable venue post-quake, it looked likely the offer would have to be rejected.

"It seemed such a shame to me and so I thought I would try to find a venue for it," she says.

"Up until that point I didn't realise what a struggle it really is to find indoor venues in Christchurch."

Eventually she found a suitable space at The Colombo and says it was a "relief".

"I wanted Christchurch people and our children to see New Zealand's creative genius at work and be inspired".

In addition to the exhibition, next month Taylor and the Weta team will run a one day classroom style lab hosted by Yoobee School of Design, and a one day digital content forum "Our World Without Boundaries" - a Ted- style event featuring New Zealand's innovation entrepreneurs for school children or anyone looking to be inspired.

"We have a commitment to stimulate our young people's imagination and demonstrate what is possible when we use our imagination, talents and think beyond the status quo," Kennedy says.


Dr Grordbort's Exceptional Exhibition is at The Colombo (next to Academy Cinema), cnr Elgin and Colombo Street, Sydenham until February 28. It is open daily from 10.30am-6.30pm. $10 donation for adults, $5 donation for students, children under 10 free.

The Press