Sitting in a small room at the back of his Onehunga cottage with the blinds drawn, we've been carefully placing a series of artefacts - old newspaper clippings, DVDs with flickery footage from pirate television stations, coins stamped with the visages of overthrown monarchs, toy soldiers with hands hacked off, statements from the Committee for the Reconstruction of Space and Time on Pig Island
- inside magnetised airtight containers which will be hidden - under paving stones, or in the branches of trees, or on the undersides of foot bridges, or behind the counters of pliant retailers - up and down the Great South Road
Rejecting the term geocaching, which has been used to describe the practice of placing mysterious packages in public places, Paul calls our products 'conceptual bombs'. Our bombs are designed to provoke different ways of thinking about the places in which they are stashed.
Visitors to the Papakura Art Gallery's A Sense of Place
exhibition, which opens on Saturday the 10th of May, will find, alongside works by the likes of Laurence Aberhart and Robin Morrison, a table covered in maps, photographs, and descriptions of the Great South Road and a computer adorned with GPS readings that will guide them to our bombs. We want the finders of our caches to follow geocaching etiquette, and replace our items with treasures that others can discover.
Here's a description of one of the ten sites we will be targeting next week, and a list of the materials we are stashing there.
Southdown and the Ruins of the Future
In the twentieth century Great South Road communities like Papatoetoe and
Otahuhu became centres of a thriving, self-consciously proletarian culture, as workers at
railway workshops, factories, and slaughterhouses formed trade unions, joined
left-wing political parties, and created a range of sporting
clubs and arts associations. The area was sometimes called 'the working class university of New Zealand’,
because of the ferment of worker education and political debate.
In the 1940s the Workers Education Association's left-wing theatre club sold tickets to its shows at the Otahuhu Railway Workshops. At about the same time, Hone Tuwhare was writing his first poems on the sides of the workshop's railcars. In the 1960s and '70s radical political organisations like
the Communist Party and the Socialist Action League would sell hundreds of
copies of their newspapers outside the factories of Otahuhu, and hold
large street meetings in Papatoetoe on Friday evenings.
late eighties and the nineties, though, successive governments pursued free
market policies that globalised the New Zealand economy and deindustrialised
South Auckland. The railways were privatised, tariffs were cut on imported
goods, and many factories closed their doors.
The leaders of colonial and early twentieth century New Zealand had dreamed of creating a hypermodern 'better Britain' in the South Seas, by using industrial technology to reorder landscapes and add value to exports like milk and timber. Distinguished visitors to these shores, like British royals and American generals, were offered tours of the steel-bright interiors of new milking sheds and freezing works.
As New Zealand was deindustrialised, the needs of the finance and tourism sectors of the economy were prioritised, and a new national image was created. Today industrial heritage has become an oxymoron, and tour buses steer
resolutely for profitable wildernesses
like Fiordland and the Ureweras. New Zealand is promoted as a clean, green paradise, rather than an industrial paradise, and New Zealanders are presented as a gentle race of hobbits, rather than as muscular shearers and steel workers.
the factories and freezing works and railway workshops that grew up around the
Great South Road in the decades after World War Two have become ruins, and
memorials to an alternative vision of New Zealand society. The AFFCO freezing
works in Southdown was first closed down and then targeted by arsonists.
In 2011 a team came from Hollywood to New Zealand to scout locations for a movie set in Japan just after World War Two. The director of The Emperor decided that the burnt-out freezing works in Southdown perfectly simulated the bomb-ruined Tokyo of 1945, and shot a number of scenes there. In the space of a few decades, Southdown has turned from a vision of a utopian future into a post-apocalyptic cityscape.
Contents of the Southdown cache, hidden in the ruins of AFFCO freezing works:
A copy of Singing in the Slaughterhouse, a chapbook of poetry that Richard Taylor produced while working at Hellaby's Freezing Works, which is located close to AFFCO in Southdown. Richard was inspired by the working class autodidacts at Hellaby's and at the Otahuhu Railway Workshops, where he also worked for a time. He remembers being given literature against the Vietnam War and copies of the People's Voice, the paper of the Communist Party of New Zealand, while working in Southdown, and of being introduced to the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre by one of his co-workers.
Clippings from various socialist newspapers sold in Southdown, including the People's Voice, the Worker's Voice, and Redletter, describing industrial disputes at sites beside or close to the Great South Road, like the strikes at the Nissan auto factory in the 1980s and the occupation of the AFFCO freezing works in 1937 by employees demanding a shorter week.
A child's plastic hammer.
A still from Ian Powell's footage of the old site of the Otahuhu Railway Workshops.
A DVD with the much-banned video for 'AFFCO', an anti-meat industry anthem by the vegetarian post-punk band The Skeptics, along with footage shot by Paul Janman of the 2012 march in solidarity with Auckland's striking waterside workers.
A CD with various number codes transmitted from super-powerful radio stations deep in Russia during the Cold War.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]