Lighting up the world

Simon Holden’s Trilogy work, which will be part of the Luma Southern Light Project in Queenstown. Photo: Supplied
Simon Holden’s Trilogy work, which will be part of the Luma Southern Light Project in Queenstown. Photo: Supplied
With a fascination for electronics and figuring out how things work since he was a child, it is no wonder Simon Holden is chuffed his latest project has come to life. He tells Rebecca Fox what it took to create Trilogy.

Sparks fly from your fingertips as you touch Simon Holden's latest work.

Trilogy is a three-sided, 4m-tall, interactive light work by SILO (South Island Light Orchestra), the creative force behind Luma Southern Light Project and is the culmination of five years of development led by Holden.

Holden's goal was to create something that was fully interactive and enabled more than one person at a time to have a go.

''It's my first foray into multi-point touch.''

Last year, he came up with Phonogram, an interactive light display, but it could only be accessed by one person at a time.

''I didn't like the idea that it could only interface with one person. I can't stand long queues.''

This year he came up with the concept of having three pillars which extend out on a 15-degree angle which people can touch.

''Then instantly it turns into this sound and light display. Another person can reach in and start touching it while you are.

''I just needed a much larger surface.''

Each side has its own concept - on one side sparks fly out of people's fingertips; on another water drops from their hands as sound radiates out.

''People don't have to use their hands; they can use their heads or turn round and use their backsides if they want to. The idea is that is accessible to everybody.''

That concept was put to the test when Trilogy had its first showing at Auckland's Bright Lights festival - it survived a lashing by wind and rain.

''There was never a big line. People were milling about it like bees, popping in and out to touch it.''

He watched as a pair in wheelchairs rolled up to have a go and a couple held their baby up to touch the screen.

''To see his little face light up even when they can't comprehend what is happening is pretty cool.''

For Luma, the piece will be on the petanque court in Queenstown Gardens.

To see the work accomplish what he hoped was huge for Holden, as the fabrication of the piece had taken about two months' work with help from an architectural designer and Angus Muir Design.

''It's been an ambitious beast and the people involved have pulled together to enable it to happen.''

Then he worked long hours over seven days to assemble the components.

It is a passion project for Holden, who has been interested in light and electronics since he was child.

''I was the kid who would find something, unscrew it and then when I couldn't put it back together worked out a new way to do it.

''My brain works in this structured way. Electronics and building things can be artistic. I like to push boundaries.'

His day job is fitting automation into high-end homes but he finds his work with Luma gives him a creative outlet for his skills.

''Luma is my personal drive to be involved so I can do cool stuff.''

He is hoping Trilogy will have a longer shelf life than many of the light works created for Luma.

''Many of them disappear after the four days, are broken down into components in our garages waiting for the next project.

''Trilogy as a piece of art has the capacity to go places and be seen for more than four days.''

There has been interest from other light festivals in New Zealand and he is hoping to get it accepted in festivals overseas.

''It's pretty exciting that all the blood, sweat and tears everyone has put into it is starting to get recognised.''

To see
Luma Southern Light Project, Queenstown, May 31 to June 3.

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