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Waste not, want not. Vacant Wellington office gets a creative touch

Vacant office space in Wellington has been on the rise and a report by commercial and industrial property service provider Darroch doesn’t lighten the mood. According to its 2010 market overview, vacancy numbers are predicted to rise from 12.5 percent in December 2010 to 16.9 percent to December 2011. Not the best news, but a project by Kiwi filmmaker Colin Hodson is set to bring a bit of light back into a currently empty office building on Wellington City’s The Terrace. 

Part of Public art programme Letting Space, Hodson has created a project called The Market Treatment, which will see all but one of the floors of 139 The Terrace taken over and controlled via a data feed from the stock market. 

He calls his project The Market Testament, designed to highlight “the degree to which our lives are highly determined by a complex of economic systems that, to a large part, are running beyond our comprehension and control”. 

The Letting Space website goes onto describe the project:  

Surrounded by office buildings suffering similar large vacancies in the central Wellington CBD, Hodson's work suggests that what drives our economy has been abstracted to the point that local needs and concerns play little part in determining the flow of capital keeping our city alive.  
In highlighting a building's relationship to the corporate matrix, Colin Hodson’s The Market Testament asks us to reconsider our romance with the downtown lights, and the role we might play in ensuring they continue to shine. 

In describing the project for himself, Hodson says: 

“Many of us look from the outside at these buildings—monuments to the banking and finance industries—and feel excluded from the capitalist project that we were told heralded growth. Within their architecture we still see the echo of that optimism, carrying on without us, regardless. There may be no physical agencies on the unoccupied floors of these buildings, but in the flickering sequence of lights that mark occupation and utilities there’s a code still generating itself.” 

Hodson’s project will run form 11 to 25 April. 

Funded by Creative New Zealand, Letting Space commissions leading artists to work in vacant commercial properties, interacting with a wider community, and with the intention of transforming relationships between artists, property owners/managers—in Colin’s case, Prime Property— and their city. 

Projects last year included Tao Wells’ controversial project The Beneficiary’s Office, in which Wells’ set up a PR company to promote the benefits of unemployment, and Kim Paton’s Free Store, in which Paton set up an independent grocery store giving away food for free to explore systems of food distribution (see our interview with Kim here). Versions of the Free Store as community projects have opened since in Waitakere and Wellington.

* Images from Letting Space