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Arts Festival Review: The Earth from Above

The Earth from Above

Reviewed by Alison Little


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The Earth from Above, with Les Arts Sauts' dome in the background (Photo: Alison Little)

The Earth from above
Photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
24 Feb, 24 hours
Duration: allow at least half an hour, but can spend much longer
Venue: Waitangi Park
Cost: Free


The photographs in the Earth from Above exhibition may seem faintly familiar from various coffee-table collections, but on this scale they are much more impressive. There is also something enormously appealing about walking through an outdoor gallery.

The photographs explore aspects of both the natural and non-natural environment. Many expose the impact of humans upon the environment, from twisted hulks in a dry Aaral seabed to delicately drawn lines of terraced rice paddies. A smaller number look at the impact of the environment on humans; floods and earthquakes shattering the orderly lines of cities.

Many have a twist that becomes apparent when you look closely. There are several photos of dye works and markets with skeins of white and bright red fabric spread out in the sun. In one image you think you are looking at another such, until you realise that the red and white twists of fabric are actually the flayed carcasses of cattle in a slaughterhouse. Some are laid out in amusing contrast, a photograph depicting a crowd of humans stands opposite one showing a crowd of seals.

Each double-sided display stand has a plinth below describing the background of the images above, although there are no New Zealand-based photographs, factiods about the environment here are also included on the base of many of the plinths. There is also a walk-on map of the earth, which places each of the photographs in its geographical context.

Details that are scarcely noticeable at book-scale draw you in; not only can you see the red dot that is an insignificant human on an icefloe, you can see the expression on his startled face.

It’s worth taking a break to look at The Earth From Above some lunchtime, or before another Festival show. You may or may not be convinced by the sustainability message that underlies the collection, but you will still see some beautiful and intriguing images. Especially if you lean a little closer.

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NZ Festival: The Earth From Above
Yann Arthus-Bertrand website
Scoop Full Coverage: Festival 06

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