Artist stringing people together

How long is a piece of string?

Barry Thomas is the very person to  answer that  question.

"Today, it’s about 13km long," the Wellington string artist and film-maker said as he ran a lengthy piece of twine from South Dunedin, past the Otago Polytechnic Dunedin School of Art, up to Highgate and back again.

Mr Thomas will speak at the Art and Revolution Symposium in Dunedin today.

As part of the symposium and exhibition, he encircled the city in the piece of string in a bid to bring its residents closer together.

"It’s basically a reprise of several artworks I’ve done over the years.

"A hero of mine, [French-American artist] Marcel Duchamp used string a lot in his art making, but he tended to use it as a barrier.

"So, for me, I found this other way where string can be a connector.

Wellington artist Barry Thomas (front) runs a piece of string around Dunedin with the help of...
Wellington artist Barry Thomas (front) runs a piece of string around Dunedin with the help of Nina Braye and Bruce McKinney, to bring the city’s residents together. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
"I literally join up oppositions or differences in the world, particularly in communities."

In 1979, Mr Thomas said he became aware the people living in his Wellington street knew nothing about each other.

So he created a street directory of all the people living in each house, and to launch it he had a party that involved running a piece of string through each house on the street and connecting them.

"We’re really doing that same thing on a big scale in Dunedin with more than 13km of string.

"It will encircle [the central city], Highgate and South Dunedin.

"Hopefully it will make a connection between the highlands and the flood issues of the lowlands, plus the whole wealth and equity thing."

The annual symposium will bring together artists and art scholars from around the country, to discuss how revolutions in history brought about changes in the role of art and artists, in the direction and momentum of art’s agency, as well as discussions about the part art plays in the affairs of societies.

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