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When a house becomes more than the sum of its parts

3 Aug 2015

This content is tagged as Craft/object .

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Stephen Wainwright
Posted by Stephen Wainwright

Chief Executive - Pou Whakahaere

Image: Dining table and chairs from  Whole House Reuse Exhibition, Canterbury Museum. 
 

Whole House Reuse is the name of an exhibition now on at the Canterbury Museum.

The exhibition should come with not exactly a health warning, but certainly some kind of flag, such as “disruptive thinking at work, big ideas at play”.

You can get a sense of the exhibition at the Canterbury Museum website but this doesn’t really do justice to the live experience. You can see the ideas behind the exhibition from the social enterprise Rekindle.

A bit of context. Post Christchurch earthquakes more than 10,000 damaged houses have been demolished and in most cases sent to the landfill. This has its own predictable logic, right? We send rubbish and broken stuff to the dump and replace it.

What if we were to re-imagine the possibilities and arrive at a conclusion that all those materials are not only re-usable, but that in the right hands, that is artists’ imaginative hands, astonishing things might happen? What if we go further, and think about a house not only as a composite of materials and spaces but as a vessel, rich with memories and experiences of the different whanau who have made it their home?

Whole House Reuse is the remarkable story of a 1920s bungalow at 19 Admirals Way, New Brighton, Christchurch that was red stickered and demolished. This house did not go to the landfill. Rather it was carefully deconstructed, distributed, re-used almost entirely, and returned back to Canterbury Museum as 400 objects. The short film in the exhibition beautifully tracks the van dropping off materials to some of the 100 artists around New Zealand who received them.  The exhibition runs to 23 August.

Ideally you would see the exhibition, but of course this won’t be possible for many people and fortunately there are other ways to engage. If you would like to support this work yourself you can participate in the Whole House Reuse: Charitable Auction. Some of the works are for sale, they are terrific, have a look.

I am delighted that Creative New Zealand was one of the contributors to the project. Thank you especially to Juliet Arnott project founder and co-director and to all those who made it happen. Thanks also to Canterbury Museum who have found space for another topical and provocative exhibition. The legacy of Whole House Reuse will be not only the fine objects that live on in many houses, but the powerful idea that has been seeded and is being talked about.

Not heard so much today, but I recall my elder relatives using the phrase ‘waste not, want not’. Even more holistically, Whanganui Iwi take this idea of the co-dependence and harmony with the natural world further:

 Ko au te awa ko te awa ko au: I am the river the river is me.