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The Lighthouse

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, January 14th, 2017 - 19 comments
Categories: housing, socialism - Tags:

Sculptor Michael Parekowhai has revealed his sculpture The Lighthouse to the public eye. It cost $1.5 million, funded primarily by Barfoot and Thompson.

Natural questions always get asked about whether this amount of money should be used for, well, homes for the homeless. I mean, it’s a house!

Let’s look again.

It’s a functioning lighthouse. Or was until a budget cut. So instead it’s full of chandeliers. Meaning: it should have been able to radiate its pure idealism of protection and shelter as a state house, built by public money for New Zealanders who needed it. But instead the old idea of the state house is filled with chandeliers, as many of them now are. And $1.5m is only slightly above average for just one Auckland house.

It now rests within some of the most expensive residential real estate in New Zealand: the Auckland waterfront. For over a decade this same waterfront has been planned and developed by Auckland’s councils. Can we still remember when local councils built, owned and operated quality affordable housing, for the good of the public who needed it? Some can. Now this state house replica stands in front of the largest luxury condo development ever devised by a council in this country, built by taxed rates out of citizens’ pockets, for the 1%. A tombstone to social housing.

It’s funded, mostly, by real estate multimillionaires, those who poured petrol on the housing boom and warmed their hands, taking commissions selling off state houses by the thousand. This artwork is the funders’ announcement to Aucklanders of their own wealth and power through the privatization of the state house. The chandeliers are fitting, in all their gauche class-climbing glory.

This sculpture of a state house is everything the state house has been, has become, and will be.

Whole suburbs, whole towns, whole generations were shaped by these structures here. Turning them into an artwork simply underlines their status as icon in this country. The ‘state’ in state house is rapidly fading, and is making the housing crisis worse and worse – that story is told here too.

But art should not be mere didactic lesson. Not even one this obvious. After all, the state house – with the old State Advances programme – has been a vital accelerant in intergenerational wealth. This thing will be a thing well made. The Lighthouse, like those thousands of made from Matai and Rimu, will last in the public mind for a long time.

It will shine as a memorial, as contradiction, as icon, for all to see.

19 comments on “The Lighthouse ”

  1. Andre 1

    I’ve tried really hard to put some other interpretation on it, but the only way I can see this “art” is the “haves” taunting the “have nots” about what used to be.

    • Same here. A great big, expensive “Fuck you, losers” to everyone in the country who can’t afford a house, with an extra special “and especially fuck you, losingest of the losers” to everyone currently being put up in a motel because there are no state houses available.

      • bwaghorn 1.1.1

        Imagine how long it would take the cops to turn up to the lighthouse if on a cold winter’s night a couple of homeless people kick the door in for shelter.

  2. Pat 2

    I suspect the irony will be lost….I wonder if the real estate company that funded it realised themselves….or perhaps they have a warped sense of humour?

    • Graeme 2.1

      Or they got had, and some art dealer is having a quiet chuckle.

    • Fustercluck 2.2

      I can do better irony for half that amount. Let me know if you want me to place a bid.

      • Pat 2.2.1

        you can do two 3 bedroom units in central Auckland for 750K?…..I think you may have solved the housing affordability problem

  3. Whispering Kate 3

    To me it is just a smack in the face to all those homeless through eviction or misfortune. To have this “piece of art” constructed at a time when homelessness is at its worst for many many years just exposes the true lack of sensitivity by our city fathers to these people in their plight. Irony is a soft word for it, lack of compassion and absolute ignorance is more accurate.

  4. saveNZ 4

    Beautiful artwork. Yes it is a smack in the face, it is a comment on ‘state housing’, a contradiction of wealthy housing vs state housing and it is a comment on the history of NZ and the housing that shaped it.

    All of this means it is provocative and great Art.

    Even the idea that a leading billionaire real estate firm commissioned it, is a statement in itself.

    • Tautoko Mangō Mata 4.1

      +1 saveNZ My view too. This artwork will provide an excellent focus for protests on the state of housing and homelessness. It will remind the wealthy every time they look at it of the importance of State Housing to the nation.
      It is NOT a slap in the face to those cruelly ejected from their state house and communities. The fact that a state house is elevated to a work of art by Michael Parekowhai shows, in fact, his reverence for it. He is trying to show to others the importance and significance of the State House in the past and hopefully in the future. This screams to me “SAVE OUR STATE HOUSES!” and ” BUILD MORE STATE HOUSES!”

      Michael Parekowhai grew up in Northcote which has a large State Housing area. He went to Northcote College alongside students from State House families. As ADVANTAGE has said It will shine as a memorial, as contradiction, as icon, for all to see.

      • Andre 4.1.1

        I’m trying really hard to see it that way, and I’d love to think it will prick the conscience of those contributing to the housing miseries so many people now have to endure.

        But I’m just not getting there.

        • Tautoko Mangō Mata

          Barfoots’ money would not have been given to provide state housing. It was tagged for an art project. It was not an either/or situation.
          However, the lIGHTHOUSE will act better than any protest poster could in highlighting and provoking discussion on
          1. How important the State House was in our past history
          2. How the state house could provide a solution to our current housing/homelessness situation.

          Art patrons are being confronted and conflicted and we hope enlightened.

          • Anne

            +100 TMM.

            I hope it will be yet another step on the way to creating a better environment for the resumption of the state house (modernise the name if it is deemed appropriate) concept.

        • Whispering Kate

          I agree Andre, the money would have been better spent on housing the homeless, or a start up fund like crowd funding. When I see money thrown about when people are begging on the streets – I just cannot justify the waste. Art has its place in a society where everybody at least has a fair and safe life – it ain’t so in the Land of the Long White Cloud any longer. We can protest in more practical ways like mass walks with large placards and show the Government how we feel – we don’t have enough of them. They should be a regular event, enough to irritate the Government. We need to organise as Joe Hill the labour activist said many years ago. We just don’t have the bottle for it.

          • Jenny Kirk

            The funds for the Lighthouse came from a real estate agent – specifically for a sculpture for the Auckland wharf. They wouldn’t have been spent on anything else. And art does have a place in society – even in an unequal society such as ours has become. It creates an avenue for people to reconsider their own ideas and perceptions.

            I think this a clever turnaround on the artist’s part – showing what was once an ideal concept which housed thousands of families, and which this govt (and the real estate world) has decimated. Its almost a memorial to the NZ state house, as far as I can see.

            • Whispering Kate

              Jenny I respect your opinion but do not agree with it. Art is a pleasure to look at and discuss and ponder about. We have far more urgent social issues which need to be addressed without money being wasted on art. I see where the artist is coming from using this state house as something which raises discussion but to many it will be just money wasted like so much is wasted on these days. Shame he doesn’t put his talent to work trying to raise funds to help the homeless instead.

              • Ad

                Soviet Russia’s government had the same view about art:
                anything, particularly such bourgeois fripperies such as art that detracts from supporting the proletariat, should be banned.

  5. Whispering Kate 6

    I wonder how long it will take for some desperate homeless people to occupy and squat in it or much more serious destroy it by arson – just my thoughts.

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