This exhibition of DIY puppetry and animation features a survey of work by a handful of New Zealand artists, including Dr Lisa Perrott, lecturer from the department of Screen and Media studies at Waikato University, with her unique animation "Highly Strung"; Wellington/Raglan based artist Stuart Shepherd's kinetic tableau of marionette puppets; post-punk sci-fi stop-motion animations by Wellington artist Mike Heynes, featuring his own brand of budget special effects and pyro technics; Rose Beauchamp's beautifully hand crafted shadow puppets melding Asian and European storytelling traditions; Wellington based artist Carlos Wedde's eclectic animation questioning power structures; film stills from Deborah Puerto Rico, formally of Red Mole Theatre, showing masks as well as large and small scale hand puppets; animation by renowned Wellington composer Robyn Nathan, and more.
Puppets, in various forms, have always been a medium for storytelling and are evident in all cultures around the world. The lineage of puppetry goes beyond medieval times, and trickles down through the courts and jesters and travelling players of early Europe right through to the avant garde experimentation of the Dada movement. Artists and designers throughout history have applied their skills to the creation of characters and alter egos. Often the puppet assumed the role of the socially subversive and was given license to ridicule authority and social orders in a way that no human critic ever could.
In western culture, puppetry has often been associated with children and has always occupied the lower rungs on the cultural ladder. Puppetry and mask work existed in play and ritualized performance in India and Africa. In ancient China and Japan and South-East Asia puppetry developed into highly stylized story-telling performances and evolved alongside dance and theatre forms.
In the 1960s New Zealander Len Lye experimented with puppetry, kinetic art, abstraction and animation and in the 70s the traveling N.Z. troupe, Red Mole Theatre, adopted the techniques of puppetry and shadow play to create their cabaret of political satire and surrealism. Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor in early stages of their film making careers worked with puppets on their budget B-schlock horror movie Meet the Feebles. Today puppetry has morphed into all kinds of media from the Vegas styled Cirque de Soleil to Kermit and Miss Piggy on the Muppets.