“We are bored in the city, there is no longer any Temple of the Sun.”
Ivan Chtcheglov, Formulary for a New Urbanism
October 1953, printed in Internationale Situationniste #1
Not only this, but as buildings get taller, less and less sun ever reaches the ground. Developers pile storey upon storey, maximising floor space and high end inner city rents. Space on the ground costs so much money that the ground itself must be multiplied over and over, or it is not counted as having paid its way.
The Situationist International’s critiques of modern cities still feel relevant. Debord’s vision of the spectacle, the always-hungry machine of modern culture, only seems more entrenched now than sixty years ago. The Situationist International, a weird and angry boys club (and Michèle): artists, poets and provocateurs, they set out to understand and change the city for themselves.
Protections are in place. The Council makes rules about the ratios of building heights to boundaries, but regularly trades out these rules for higher fees, and if we the people are lucky, some public benefit: an artwork, a walkthrough, a lobby – these are the little-known privately owned public spaces of Auckland city. They are places where one might find a faster way through, out of the heat or the rain, or a place to sit without being obliged to eat only the food that has been purchased here, or a view of the harbour usually obscured by layers of reinforced concrete.
And so, a small group of artists, a weird and angry girls club (and Joe), has come together to situationise the situation, to scope the psychogeography of our town.
We have created for ourselves a heightened awareness of what it is to negotiate a city. Walking through as a track, a record of a time. We have met in fancy lobbies and left behind prelimary guides and seedlings for others to find. Bringing food from elsewhere, claiming public space for shared meals. Witnessing others in their negotiated relationships with the space of the city. A knitting club in Queens Arcade, bring and share teabags, packets of biscuits open on the table.
The Council has bought our rights to be there. They have traded these spaces for larger buildings, exceeding the restrictions of the district plan. Are we angry or are we grateful? At the Vero building we are pretty happy. At the ASB building, we are less than impressed.
I aim for an awareness of the sacred in the everyday, and this communion with a group of artists – people who by nature and practice think in connection and layers – is a sacred gathering. A small and occasional Temple of the Sun.