Massive floating sculpture ‘The silverings’ lifts off at Te Papa

A new installation by Australian artist Mikala Dwyer has opened in Te Papa’s two-storey threshold gallery.

More than 400 zero-shaped balloons, attached to large sheets of silver Mylar foil, float above visitors’ heads.

Visitors can see the sculpture from below and get up close to it from the bridge across the gallery space.

The silverings is a site-specific installation, first displayed in Berlin in 2010 and since re-presented in a number of exhibitions across Europe and Australia.

The silverings opens at Te Papa’s Toi Art gallery on Saturday 21 May and is on display until Sunday 18 September. Entry is free.

Curator Hanahiva Rose says it is thrilling to have an artist of Dwyer’s calibre create an installation for Te Papa’s Toi Art gallery.

Rose worked with Dwyer to develop this iteration of the work, which is specific to the space at Te Papa and incorporates new elements in its design. Te Papa has acquired the artwork for its permanent art collection.

The silverings is huge yet almost weightless, it fills this space in such a surprising and magical way. I can’t wait for our visitors to see these familiar objects utterly transformed,” Ms Rose says.

“The sculpture separates the gallery into earth and sky, and draws our attention to the relationship between the two,” says Ms Rose.

“By giving presence to the invisible forces which shape our human engagement with the world, The silverings explores themes of creation, transformation, and the potential which exists in absence,” Ms Rose says.

“I was thinking about how to float a void,” says artist Mikala Dwyer.

Speaking about the work’s use of helium and Mylar, Dwyer explains: “Most helium is helium-4, which is believed to have been formed during the Big Bang. It’s ancient. Mylar is a high-tech, space-age material, which was used to insulate lunar modules. While many of my other works are earthbound, The silverings is trying to lift off. Nevertheless, the balloons leak and need to be pumped up. The work is constantly falling back to earth, confounding that idealism.”

The silver “0” forms which comprise The silverings connect with Dwyer’s use of circular forms since the 1990s. She is interested in the zero shape as a closed system: one that outlines an inside and outside, without a clear beginning or end, and which denotes an absence.

Dwyer’s mother was a Danish silversmith and jewellery designer; her father was an industrial chemist who worked with plastics. In The silverings’ use of form and materials, and smooth and reflective surfaces, Dwyer speaks to the influence of both her parents on her practice.

Dwyer has previously commented, “Whether you know it or not, you are often just riffing off your parents.”

The Mylar used in the artwork will be recycled by a specialist recycling facility when the installation closes.

Media contact:
Kate Camp
029 601 0180