LeviathanFebruary 13, 2017
A venture up to Auckland to see the sights – and there as this one sight that is on a reasonably nice site. It’s a state house Jim, but not as we know it. Nat Cheshire has written about it already, in his usually pained way, over here (God, he’s tedious – what a prat), but I was there early – an hour or two is too early it seems, and I was turned away by a big burly security guard, unable to gain access. So – what remains inside? You’ll have to see other’s pics for that. From what we hear and see (only peeking through the windows) there is a giant statute of James Cook made from stainless steel, and a whole lot of neon lights. In the shape of the constellations of the southern hemisphere. The “Lighthouse”.
I like Michael Parekowhai’s work – in fact, I really love his work, in general. I found myself talking to one of his security guards when he was last on display at the City Gallery in Wellington, as you do. The security guard, of course, on that occasion was not talking back – he remained stonily, plasticly silent. People made of plastic normally are. Fooled me! His work a few years back with pianos and bulls – the impossibility of being Homer (Chapman, not Simpson) – was moving, and brilliant. I suspect that this work will also be. People in Christchurch got him – and got his work – and the poor beleaguered public of Canterbury scrimped and saved up out of their own pockets and paid cold hard cash for Homer and his piano-playing bovine stud.
People in Auckland (so far) really don’t get it (for now) but they may do – give it time. The irony of the situation is not lost on me, that the cost of the State House project is being footed mainly by Barfoot and Thompson, the estate agents who have sold the most property in the Queen city, and have therefore backed Auckland and it’s devilish property prices into a corner. No one will win this fight in Auckland property – one day, as we all know, it will all come crashing down, and there will be tears before bedtime.
In the mean time, one more house in Auckland, simultaneously unbuyable and unliveable, is marooned out on the end of the pier – at last providing Aucklander’s some reason to saunter right out to the end past the giant white worm, and sit on the benches overlooking the concrete at the end of the wharf. It’s not part of the Auckland Viaduct Harbour wharf scene, nor part of the Wynyard Quarter booze cruise, but it’s a different part of the wharf region – at the edge of the big red fence that still obstinately cuts Auckland harbour off from its people. Of course, at least they still have a working wharf, instead of the earthquake-stricken train-crash of a disaster we have here in Wellington, where our wharfs are now buggered for the rest of time.
(photo credit to Auckland Council – thanks!)
But I digress. What’s the work like? Well, from the outside it honestly does look pretty much like a plain old state house. But the quality of the paint job, and the weatherboard soakers, the double-glazing to the windows, and the false looking top to the chimney – it all looked far more sturdy than a real state house would be. Coupled with the fact that you could not get inside – and that there was no inside – but instead a double height void, a space at the heart of the installation…. this is no ordinary house. Will cruise liners be able to look into the house windows as they tootle past? Will the neon lights flash both day and night? Will Barefoot still sell out Auckland’s housing to the nearest Chinese buyer? Putting it bluntly, this house is an artwork which says clearly: fuck the maori and the polynesian original inhabitants of Tamaki makau rau, this is not a house, this is art.
There are strong parallels to me with the recent Disney film Moana, which I went to see over the rotten summer, and in that film (no doubt made at a cost of many hundreds of millions of $$$$ – but no one is protesting that!) the beautiful disneyfied young princess Moana sails around the Pacific with the very same sets of constellations as does Cook, here, or as he did, some 250 years ago. Perhaps they should show screenings of Moana, back to back, projected on the back of the house. They could call it Out Back.