Place: A Geolocative and Augmented Reality Installation

A geo-locative augmented reality installation in on a sacred site

Place was a geolocative, augmented reality exhibition, and mobile-based installation at a local Papakura Park. Although technically pre-AwhiWorld, it is recorded here as it was a core PhD project and fed directly into the formation of AwhiWorld as a formal company.

‘Place’ allowed you to engage with digital material on a monitor in a traditional gallery space, and via the screens of your mobile device (via a website on the internet). Through these two ‘portals’ the audience accessed a multiplicity of images and sounds sampled from a suburban Papakura park.

‘Place’ told the story of Dr Buxton’s conversation with a location through collaboration across different disciplines, and work in different media. Collecting material involved conversations with local residents and descendants of settlers, working with scientists, hobbyists and consultation with different representatives of mana whenua. All have in some way supported through providing expertise, resources, and aroha. 
The exhibition was at once an artistic engagement with a location, an educational and an opportunity for local residents to appreciate the great taonga next to which they reside.


The exhibition was transdisciplinary in nature, blurring spiritual, scientific and artistic lines. The exhibition represented a strong connection with the location and deep respect for the spirit of the land.

It was based on an adapted integral research methodology and was one of three case studies used for Dr Buxton’s PhD. 


After a blessing by a representative of local iwi and permission from Auckland City Council Parks, Dr Buxton worked for six months intensively gathering, conversing, meditating, and investigating the location.  She was culturally supported by Papakura Marae and mana whenua iwi representatives during this process.

Over time, and with the assistance of key individuals, seven key points of interest were identified which form a trail around the park. These points then became the focus of intensive research activity. Microscopic, macro, timelapse, underwater and aerial images were collected with my mobile phone. (The aerial footage involved strapping my phone to a helicopter drone provided by an enthusiastic hobbyist). I also used different kinds of microphones (XLR H4N Zoom; hydrophones) and a homemade contact microphone) to take layers of sound samples.

Off-site, Dr Buxton gathered documents and archival material with the assistance of Papakura Museum, South Auckland Research Library, Auckland City Council Archives, Auckland Council Cultural Heritage Inventory (CHI),  Archives NZ. Nancy Hawks (nee Smith), a direct descendent of the original European farmers in the area, was very kind to provide me with family photos from her personal collection.  I also connected with a local Maori woman who grew up in the area and who shared a little of her childhood history with the location.

It is important to note that while Dr Buxton undertook research, and was told of some aspects of the earlier Maori history of the park, she felt it was important to be respectful of local iwi traditions and protocols and so did not relay stories that belonged to local iwi. She did however insert material that represented what she had been told about the interconnected history and linkages with other sites ( in that area) to ensure the site was seen in a larger context.

Later in the process, Nathan Scott and Professor Nikolas Kasabov from KEDRI assisted her to record brain activity at different points in the park using Emotiv – a headset that reads your brain waves.

Dr Buxton also approached Applied Sciences at AUT and asked Professor John Brooks and Dr John Robertson to assist with scientific sampling. Dr Robertson, together with his PhD student (Joshua Thoreson) helped me gather and analyse soil samples. Dr Brooks provided microscopic images of mould, pond life, mushrooms and other items collected from points across the park. This information was then animated using Aftereffects, Premiere Pro, and Audacity. All of these ‘clips’ were then mixed on-site using a VJ mixing programme called Resolume and a little portable table.

Exhibition | Installation

The final Gallery installation was a composition of the seven different videos mixed at each of the seven points. At the Gallery, you listened to the Park with headphones and view the mixes and layers of images on a monitor. Booklets available at the Gallery guided you to the park site where you accessed (with instructions) a website using Imersia Group Geo-Locative Software which utilises the GPS of mobile devices to locate and retrieve digital content at specific points. Once at that location, you then viewed the same material as in the Gallery, but could engage more fully with the site from which it was collected, or to which it is connected. Standing at each node on the site created activated portals which connected you as the audience to the land and spirits of that site. Mutual appreciation, love and kindness could then be moved between audience and land.

‘Place’ was supported by a number of individuals and organisations but Dr Buxton wishes to particularly acknowledge: Ted Ngataki; Tony Kake, Brian Joyce and Haare Williams for their support for her spirit during this process.

The exhibition occurred from 24-29 June 2013, at Papakura Art Gallery. There was an Artist Talk at the gallery Tuesday 25 June 6-7 pm, and a ‘Talk and Walk’ 29th June at Gallery – then on the Park site.

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