The transit of Venus is one of the most significant events in New Zealand’s formative history. It was this in 1769 that bought Captain Cook to the South Pacific and then to charting New Zealand. Therefore the transit of Venus has had an extraordinary role and impact upon New Zealand’s social, cultural and political circumstance and history.
On June 8, 2004 Venus will pass across the face of the sun for about six hours. This once-in-120 year event will be visible in Europe and will happen while New Zealand is in darkness.
A three venue exhibition (Auckland, Dunedin, Queenstown) is being held both to commemorate this very important event in our history and to provide leading artists with the opportunity to examine and consider this from a variety of perspectives, points of view and time-lines.
There are many subjects and narratives to be examined. For example, it reminds us that Maori as the first explorers of the south crossed the Pacific to reach these shores as much by navigation with the stars as through the use of wind, currents and tides. So the transit is a much larger event and story than merely that of science to New Zealand.
There is also something of an irony in the coming event in that on this occasion one of the most pivotal events in New Zealand’s formative history will not be seen from these shores but from Britain and Europe. The world as we have come to know it will be upside down on June 8, 2004.