New Zealand Science Teacher

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Bug Lab opens for school holidays

Te Papa’s hands-on insect experience, the Bug Lab, opened on 10 December, and will run until 17 April.

bugCosting more than $5 million dollars to put together, the Bug Lab is the product of a cooperative effort between New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, and world-famous special effects company Weta Workshop.

After it’s stay at Te Papa, the exhibition will tour the world.

The exhibition elements created by Weta Workshop took 40,000 hours to make, over a six-month period. Visitors enter four immersive chambers, including the ‘operating theatre’ of the iridescent female jewel wasp to watch her turn a cockroach into a zombie on which her larva feeds. She is the devoted mother, and killer brain surgeon of the bug world.

Some of humankind’s best bio-inspiration efforts feature in Bug Lab. Drones based on insect flight, life-saving medicine made from venom and new body parts printed from spider silk.

Fascinating stories of New Zealand insects feature in Bug Lab. Visitors will learn about Weta - son of Punga who is the God of Ugly Things, find out about Puriri moth larvae which inspired the whakairo (carving) of the Putorino (bugle flute).

Bug Lab features a debate space which promotes conversation on current topics such as edible bugs and eradicating mosquitos worldwide.

Creative leads for the exhibition are Weta Workshop’s Sir Richard Taylor and Te Papa Head of Design Ben Barraud – who worked together on Gallipoli: The scale of our war.

The science behind Bug Lab comes from Te Papa entomologist Dr Phil Sirvid, TV’s own “bug man” Ruud Kleinpaste, and University of Canterbury spider scientist Dr Simon Pollard. That science has been brought to life by Te Papa’s large team of creative exhibition developers.

The Bug Lab soundscape has been created by award winning New Zealand composer and sound designer Tane Upjohn-Beatson. The soundscape plays in the four bug chambers; resonating throughout the exhibition. The soundscape gives the sense of being in a bug orchestra as visitors hear elements of the bug world surrounding them.

Richard Taylor worked closely with Tane in developing a sensuous and alien world at the soundscape level.

Tane says there is a real element of discovery in the Bug Lab soundscape. “It’s like moving through a fully immersive sonic world,” he says.

From playing a pot plant with a paint brush to the music of the traditional Japanese Koto, Tane has employed a wide range of techniques to create this immersive soundscape.

Each chamber in Bug lab has a 40- minute soundscape on loop, totalling 160 minutes of composition.

“Although we hear and understand the musical cues in the Bug Lab soundscape, the overall tone is other worldly and detaches us from our own knowledge and understanding of music,” says Richard.

“This places us in a space of lyric sounds of the undergrowth of our planet, where the bugs have harmonised a completely different contextual landscape for their personal enjoyment- and we have the good fortune to eavesdrop in on that soundscape by entering the Te Papa exhibition.”

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