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MOTAT Night Lights Q+A - Universal Language

By Makayla Wallace-Tidd, Communications Coordinator, Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). MOTAT chatted with the trio behind Night Lights installation Universal Language. We talk to Vaani, Samy, and Liam about all things art and creativity.

What is your medium and style of art?

Vaani – I’ve recently been exploring digital art, focusing on illustrations, and trying to experiment with  different art styles, themes, and ideas.

Samy – My main medium of design is digital/physical 3D-based art but I explore and have skills in various other forms such as digital art, and illustrations embodying a wide range of themes and stylised beliefs.

Liam – I’m a multidisciplinary kind of artist. I love using coding and technology to create beautiful things. I’m primarily a game designer.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Vaani– I’ve known I was an artist since I was a baby. I get my creative skills from my dad and Grandfather, so you could say it runs in my blood. We’re a family of artists and I’m so happy I could pursue it as more than a hobby.

Samy – I have known I was an artist since I first read the book written by Enid Blyton, inspiring me to write and illustrate my very own stories when I was around 10. I live in the world of fantasy which drives my passion for being an artist.

Liam – I think actually as I left high school, this was the time I really rejected academics and started taking a more creative route in life. This was a great decision as it turns out, because now I’m both doing this kind of thing as a career and as a hobby.

Who has inspired you and your art?

Vaani – My art is usually inspired by my family and culture. I try to stick to my roots, but I also like exploring different mediums and themes that I can integrate with my knowledge and skills as a Creative Technologist.

Samy – My art is inspired by the small things in life, from the eyes and perceptions of a kid, using different mediums, both digital and physical to bring a certain emotion to people and incite a certain  memory.

Liam – The people I met through university, both students and lecturers. Nothing’s more inspiring as an artist than being around other creative people and being around those people really helped me to develop and grow as an artist.

Where did you grow up and where are you now?

Vaani – I’ve spent half of my life in India, and the older half in New Zealand. Growing up in Whangarei was such a lively and different experience, but I do prefer the exciting and advanced lifestyle that Auckland offers.

Samy – I spent 40 percent of my life in Fiji and 60 percent in New Zealand. Growing up, I was surrounded by  performance art in Fiji, and in New Zealand, I learned to use other forms of art not to only express emotion but also to incite.

Liam – I’m an Aucklander born and raised. I lived overseas for a short period of time, but I got
very homesick.

What do you get up to on the day-to-day?

Vaani – I work from home, so my day-to-day is pretty ordinary – work, eat, sleep. But I love listening to music while working and going for walks in the evening. In my spare time, I watch Netflix and play board games with my friends.

Samy – To this date, work, exercise, play games, and getting to know and learn new means and ways the world has changed and how will it affect art and design.

Liam – I work full time as a tech consultant, and spend my spare time doing art pieces like this one, working on my digital games, playing video games, listening to music, and engaging in Auckland’s local creative scene.


Tell us a bit about the work you’ll have on display at Night Lights.

Universal Language is inspired by one of MOTAT’s collection pieces — traffic lights. It’s an interactive,  light-based installation that engages the audience and sparks interest through motion tracking and visual appeal, translated using Infinity Mirror Cubes displaying the three universal colours — red, yellow and green.

The user is encouraged to physically move in a designated space, in which a Kinect camera
will detect their actions and reciprocate them in the form of a visually appealing light display.

What motivated you to make this piece/work?

Vaani – I really wanted to put my creative technologies skills to use, and this was the perfect opportunity after graduation to work on a project that required the knowledge and experience that I gained at university. The idea for this specific work was inspired when I was on my evening walk.

Samy – This piece of work was majorly Vaani’s inspiration that I used to express my own emotions and skills, and to get people to understand even the most regular happening in one’s life such as the lighting of the traffic lights can hold a more deep and artistic value. Art is everywhere, we just need to look.   


Why are you proud of it?

Vaani – I’m proud of it because I got to work with my friends, and we came up with something amazing in the short amount of time we had. I am super excited to show this installation to my family and I know seeing their amazed faces will fill me up with joy! They’ve been so eager to see this idea come to life, and have been secretly watching me work on it, but it’ll be a nice surprise for them. 

Samy – I am proud of the piece as it allowed me once again to work with my friends and to get the feeling of comradery and passion that we sometimes seem to lack in the industry. Moreover, the piece represents the most crucial aspects of life that sometimes you must stop, think, and then take action, take your time and not always be in a rush.

Liam – I'm glad it works so well! I oversaw the interactive segment (lights, Arduino, Kinect etc.). It was a real challenge but I'm glad it came out the way we imagined it. This is also my first public installation piece and I’m overjoyed to have something on display.

Quick Fire:

Favourite condiment?

Vaani – Coriander

Samy – Mayo

Liam – Harissa


Pie or sausage roll?

Vaani – Pie

Samy – Pie

Liam – Pie

Aotearoa town you love the most?

Vaani – Whangarei

Samy – Auckland

Liam – Napier

Favourite word?

Vaani – Love

Samy – Hardwork

Liam – Defenestrate


First job?

Vaani – Librarian’s Assistant

Samy – Librarian

Liam – Paper round

Come see Universal Language this Friday 25 - Sunday 27 June at MOTAT's Night Lights. More info on the event here: https://www.motat.nz/events/night-lights-2021