Museum and Heritage Studies, 2017
Set before a striking backdrop of Wellington city, Phil Price’s kinetic sculpture, Organism, has stood proudly at the heart of Te Puni Village in Kelburn since its unveiling in 2009. The work has become synonymous with student life at the hall-of-residence, and is frequently featured in Te Puni accommodation brochures, as well as students’ Instagram feeds and social media posts which, however, can’t do justice to its fluid, wind-driven motions.
Organism is an original work that was commissioned by Transfield Holdings, the company responsible for Victoria’s student accommodation facility, Te Puni Village, to honour the company’s relationship with the University and give something to students that would capture the energy of youth and the drama of Wellington’s weather. Sculptor Phil Price is well-known for his kinetic art works, and two more feature in Wellington City’s collection of public art.
Te Puni Village was built to meet the growing need of student accommodation, housing 398 students across three buildings, and the art work was unveiled at the grand opening in February 2009.
The Director of the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, Christina Barton, who attended the opening of Te Puni, noted in a press release that Organism was well received by attendees.
Watching Organism move is an intriguing experience. How does it actually work?
Organism is a wind-activated kinetic sculpture, made from high temperature epoxy resin and glass and carbon fibres, steel, and precision bearings. The mechanical junctions and lubricated-for-life bearing assemblies mean the form is constantly changing through a direct reaction to the changes in weather conditions—suitable for Wellington’s notorious climate.
Price notes, “We are going into an age where it is possible to control every dimension of the made object, and beyond this make every facet unique”. This sentiment is reflected in the differing shapes and forms that Organism creates.
Nelson-born Phil Price studied in Christchurch at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts and graduated in 1990.
He has worked in a variety of different roles in the art world, including technical assistant, educator and composite engineer. Notably, he spent time working with Neil Dawson, Christchurch’s famous sculptor known for his practice of suspending sculptures in the spaces between buildings.
Since 2005, Price has worked fulltime as a sculptor, working principally on large-scale works for outdoors. With a natural fascination and intuitive feel for materials, combined with a process that incorporates engineering methods, he creates extraordinary moving objects.
Phil Price’s name is synonymous with this type of sculpture, and his work has been exhibited throughout Australasia, as well as in the United Kingdom and the United States. Price’s Zephyrometer is at Evans Bay, and Protoplasm is at the intersection of Lambton Quay and Featherston and Hunter Streets.