UOA Art A hunt for aesthetic pleasure on drab campus
The University of Auckland isn’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing place in the world. With the incessant busyness of Symonds St and the endless construction sites around campus, it’s obvious that you might find your eyes straining for a more pleasant sight. You can look to other universities around Aotearoa to see what we’re missing. Dunners has a bloody river flowing past their clocktower, while ours is surrounded by those awful stinky trees.
Towards the end of semester, while we’re spending a ridiculous amount of hours on campus to prepare for final projects, exams and thesis deadlines, this lack of visual enjoyment becomes a real problem. There’s not really anything on campus that can refresh the eyeballs after a long binge at the library. Recent studies, by Craccum, have deduced that 96% of the reason for your tiredness is the gross dirt that coats the library windows. However, there are some attempts around campus to bring in some artistic pieces. Which works of art are the most centred? Do they enrich the experience on campus and drown out the very unpleasant buzz of, you know, every other part of the City Campus?
These are maybe the easiest bits of colour to miss on campus. If you’re sitting in the Quad, eating lunch or skipping class, cast your eyes up to the external walls of the Student Union Building. You might notice, first, that the whole building shakes with every movement from the construction site next door. Then, you’ll see that the white brick hosts multiple pieces with some really vibrant and eye-catching paintings. The Quad gets quite a bit of shit for being a bit of a miserable seating area, and it’s clear that the University has given up on actually looking after the spot, but it’s actually quite nice to see some broad strokes of colour in a student space. Honestly though, the walls need a good clean, as there are spider webs dusting each illustration (and unless I’m missing something, I’m pretty sure that’s not some avant-garde, intentional decision by the artist).
The pink light emitted from the neon light arrangement should be a familiar sight to most students at the University. Named Colony, it was first installed in 2004. The piece by Paul Hartigan, an Elam-graduate, is drawn from the artist’s memory of drifting in a long boat through Waitomo’s glowworm caves. When you actually take a step back to examine it, it’s a pretty clever piece. The stark, cold concrete of the Engineering building isn’t exactly the easiest space to design for, and the bright, warm light brings some much needed warmth to the space. However, the piece also triggers a somewhat Pavlovian response from students, as the corresponding lecture theatre is a very popular one for exams. If you couldn’t pin down that nagging nervousness surfacing with each trudge past the Engineering building, then maybe this one is to blame.
Okay, I lied, THIS is the easiest piece to miss on campus. On Princes St, about 100 metres from Alfred St, there is a small commemorative plate placed in the concrete. It sits at the roots of one of the Ginkgo biloba trees, and details the potential qualities that the tree holds for enhancing memory. It looks like any other commemorative plate but the words are printed in handwritten letters. This gives it a kind of organic feeling, and it’s kind of cool to have a focus on memory in a place of learning. However, at this point in semester, when remembering is very much a temporary technique to get through exams, the piece becomes a little bittersweet. After viewing, I’m mourning the damage the University has done to my memory, rather than celebrating it. Sniffing in the tree’s scent might be a good technique though, if you’re struggling to memorise your cheat sheet.
There’s a big question mark assigned to this one. You might never have actually realised this, but that big pole thing in front of Munchy Mart is actually a sculpture. You might be thinking, “isn’t it strange to install a massive, light up sculpture in the middle of campus, that students could only admire with their necks strained upwards at night time?” That’s an excellent question, reader! I’ve been wondering the same thing. This massive stainless steel piece, by Neil Dawson, is called Chevron. Supposedly, it stretches into the sky and dissolves into the clouds with an impressive lightness. If you’re hanging around and working late at night (sorry, bummed to hear that b), then maybe take a stroll and stare at this unique, confusing piece.
So, if you’re lacking some aesthetic pleasure, it might just be best to stand outside the Craccum office. There are some real works of art wandering around there 😉