Areas A & B by Dieneke Jansen responds to the major transformation of Tamaki, Glen Innes from a dedicated State Housing zone to being a private development of mid-rise apartment buildings with a mix of privately owned and socially assisted tenancy. In total, 156 classic 1950s and 60s weatherboard homes are to be removed. These will in time be replaced by 260 intensified dwellings, 78 of which are reported to be purchased by Housing New Zealand and 39 by other social agencies. Jansen is one of a number of artists who have responded to this urban change since the first houses were removed in 2012. These responses have covered a wide range, from documentary photography to activism that engages directly with the controversy surrounding the eviction of tenants and subsequent protests. Jansen’s approach has been one of long-term open-ended dialogue, by developing projects that aim to encourage slow contemplation, facilitate social engagement and build an awareness of temporality. Her project consists of three parts: a series of election campaign-style street hoardings, a video work, and a progressive luncheon event. The three parts, sited both in Glen Innes and in the CBD, are intended to traverse urban geography and bring past, present and future conceptions of Auckland into collision.
The installed cluster of hoardings located on Beach Road complicates the practice of election campaigning and building development advertising, by presenting images of absence and presence. The photographs document the now empty lots where state houses once stood, but also temporary sculptural interventions that respond to these sites. These subtle ephemeral inclusions stand as humble occupations that suggest the fragility of resistance against the state, city and corporate mechanisms that are ultimately the instigators of urban change. Located in close proximity to downtown high-rise apartments, Jansen’s hoardings also connect with the broader issues of the city’s planned intensification, in expectation of a significant population rise of approximately 30% over the next 20 years − a plan for the city that will expand the perimeter of "central Auckland" to subsume the old small townships and outlying suburbs.
Showing at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is a video work that documents a community evening event organised for the local residents of East View Road in Glen Innes, at which Jansen projected the 1946 film Housing in New Zealand onto the wall of an old state house soon to be removed. Created by the New Zealand National Film Unit and the Public Works Department Film Unit, the film embodies the social dream of post-war New Zealand, of improving the living standards of the lower working class, accommodating returning servicemen, and stimulating the national economy. The goal, as promoted through the film, was to use local materials to build "good commonsense houses" that were to the New Zealand climate, but were also planned with stable city infrastructure and design that encouraged the development of community. Uncannily, the film’s description of the nation’s housing problem in many ways mirrors the current situation in Auckland, with poor families forced into overcrowded dwellings, a real-estate market that is financially out of reach for young professionals, and rental properties that are overpriced and hard to come by. The development of the so-called Areas A & B also shares some of the aims promoted by this archive film, of achieving a modern standard of living for lower- to middle-income groups − the difference now being that the motivation has less to do with utopian notions of the social good than with accommodating the city’s need for intensification, together with the government’s agenda of asset sales and encouraging private enterprise in a post-GFC economy. By screening this film, Jansen created a social occasion for local residents though which they could consider the current transitional phase of Glenn Innes within a historical context. The documentation of this event adds to this experience by sharing it with gallery visitors who might be able to gain yet another perspective, being one step removed from the immediacy of the issue.
Through another free public event, Jansen attempts to draw focus back to the Glen Innes community and the vacant spaces that have now come to define the neighbourhood. This time she is hosting a "progressive luncheon" that will invite the public to mingle with the local community and to learn about the rapid change that has occurred and continues to take place in the area. Progressive meals are a 1970s American phenomenon in which neighbours walk from home to home, serving different types of food, in the spirit of social bonding in an otherwise detached suburban situation. For Jansen’s event, it will be the absent homes that people will be invited to visit, to share not just food but also the individual memories and collective social histories bound to each vacant lot. Through the three components of the show, Jansen creates a constellation of interventions that seek to contribute opportunities for comparison, contemplation and conversation, through which the ever-shifting political and economic forces that shape the physical urban environment are brought into direct discussion with their impacts on established communities.
- Bruce E. Phillips