Sunday, 11 October 2009


Mapplethorpe introduced me to the sexuality of flowers (all those erotically photographed lilies and tulips). Of course the orchid is the most licentious of the lot; a recent visit to the Wonderland Exhibition at the Auckland Museum proved this.

Wonderland has certainly been hyped in the local media as a kind of multimedia extravaganza. I wouldn't say that. It does have some quirky touches that make it an amusing distraction on a wet day.

For a start they persuaded Mika, a local drag queen, to be filmed in various costumes reciting poetry and telling stories about orchids. The short clips were then made accessible to the public via touch screens, situated in a small gallery that is interspersed with orchid related art.

They also have some smelling tubes for people to guess scents, some 3D orchid picture viewing posts, and a large selection of real orchids for you to view (and in some cases buy).

On the more disturbing end of the scale, a large screen shows a film clip of a bee furiously humping an orchid. The poor deluded insect has been persuaded by the flower that it is its mate, and while it is trying to mate with the flower it is stuck with extremely large globs of pollen for its trouble. (There is moral for all of us in this sad tale!)

My favourite aspect of the experience was the hybridizing machine. This was a software programme (again on a touch screen) that allows you to manipulate and create orchids. When you are done you can email the finished specimens to yourself. The purple flower at the beginning (left) of this post is my creation, and another one can be seen here.

While the exhibition isn't state of the art, it is innovative in NZ museum circles. I certainly give the creators points for upscale merchandising to go with it (think posh tea-towels and handbags). Worth a look if you are in Auckland (exhibition closes November 8th).

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