Rapid Change features nine artists who have explored cities facing periods of major transformation. Focussing on Auckland, Detroit, Hong Kong, Liverpool and New York works in the exhibition consider the politics and societal impact of change in the urban environment.
While cities are continually in a state of flux there are often concentrated periods of rapid change that dramatically shape urban landscapes and greatly impact communities. Auckland is currently at the beginning of such a period. The rapid merger of eight regional councils into one ‘Super City’ government together with the electoral promise of rapid public transport has set Auckland on a course of major transformation. By looking at significant changes in cities around the world Rapid Change considers Auckland’s past and future urban landscape within a global context.
Looking back: Anu Pennanen
Te Tuhi invited Anu Pennanen to reflect on her work, A Day in the Office (2006), that was exhibited in Rapid Change.
‘Recently, A Day in the Office, my 2006 experimental documentary film, was screened in an independent cinema in Helsinki. This work was originally commissioned for the Liverpool Biennial International 06.
Back then, Liverpool was going through a radical facelift in the endeavour to become European Capital of Culture 2008. Shiny new offices were being built, while ‘Office For Rent’ signs appeared everywhere, hanging on perfectly functional yet somewhat neglected buildings.
Everyone had an opinion about the change that was about to happen. In the film, the subjective voices of local office workers follow each other, intertwining with the city construction sounds and forming a kind of chorus, the ‘talk of the town’ or a rumour on the wind.
The topicality of the ideas around urban change in this film has continued to resonate with interesting exhibitions internationally, such as in Le Grand Café, Saint-Nazaire Contemporary Art Centre in 2014.
But rewatching the film recently in Helsinki, seeing and hearing the streets of Liverpool once again, I became aware that what has remained with me since making that film is the desire to transgress the conventional rules of audiovisual narration. I still seek to experiment with dialogue and sound, whether I am describing a complex urban territory, or the slippery paths of the human psyche – or both, intertwined.’
– Anu Pennanen, September 2020
Looking back: Dieneke Jansen
In 2011 Tāmaki Makaurau artist Dieneke Jansen documented a site designated for state housing and private residential development. Her work, McLennan Development, Papakura Military Camp, prompted contemplation of the future of our urban landscape. Here, she updates us on what happened next, with a new text and a photograph of the site as it is in 2020.
‘In 2011, the McLennan development at Papakura was put on hold. Owned by the Crown, this land had been used as the Papakura Military camp since 1939. In comparison, the development at Hobsonville Point proceeded, on land also formerly owned by the Crown and used by the RNZAF from 1929. Whereas the McLennan development, which aimed to build ‘affordable housing’, languished in global financial insecurity (2007-2011), John Key’s government defaulted on an earlier commitment to 15% state housing at Hobsonville Point, to ensure this affluent suburb would not suffer ‘economic vandalism’ by including state housing.
These Crown building projects enabled more than 600 acres of publicly owned land to be handed over into private ownership. The Crown had ‘purchased’ the Papakura land from Te Akitai and Ngāi Tai in 1842, and the Hobsonville land from Ngāti Whātua in 1853. However, as Sir Hugh Kāwharu pointed out in his 2011 Hillary Lecture, concepts of land sale and title were foreign, and from the 1840s most of the Tāmaki isthmus passed out of Ngāti Whātua, Tainui and Ngāti Pāoa control.
The concept of private land ownership may remain foreign, not only as an economic reality but more importantly, as problematic thinking. And yet, more and more ‘public’ land slips into private ownership as our governments sell state housing land to fund replacement Kāinga Ora housing on a vastly reduced footprint – in most cased reduced by two-thirds. Once parcelled into expensive individual ownership, it will be difficult to return to its rightful custodians.
Yet, “To imagine the end of the housing crisis is to imagine a different way of living together” writes Vanessa Cole in an inspirational text in COUNTERFUTURES #9, A case for universal state housing in Aotearoa. She addresses ‘what is “public” on colonised land’ and offers ways forward for Mana Whenua and Pākehā. I urge you to read this clear, detailed and passionate argument for an alternative to our failed relationship with home ownership and our tragic relationship with whenua.’
 I.H. Kāwharu, Land and identity in Tāmaki: a Ngāti Whātua perspective, Hillary lecture, Auckland War Memorial Museum Māori Court, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, 2001: https://www.aucklandfoundation.org.nz/content/Hillary_Lecture.pdf.
 Vanessa Cole, ‘A case for universal state housing in Aotearoa’, COUNTERFUTURES #9, 2020: https://counterfutures.nz/.
– Dieneke Jansen, September 2020
→ Rapid Change – List of works
→ Ice House Detroit, 2011 – Radio New Zealand
→ Global Issues of Urban Planning, 2011 – EyeContact