Janet McAllister on the arts

Janet McAllister looks at the world of the arts and literature.

Janet McAllister: A scattering of cultural constellations

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Space Invaders would love to get their hands on Britomart carpark.
Space Invaders would love to get their hands on Britomart carpark.

If you think of Auckland as a time-lapse map with little stars marking "cultural points of interest", then you see the city's cultural geography isn't static. It twinkles, as artistic spaces are continually opened and closed in different places. Stars cluster in towards the inner city, and then spin off centrifugally.

Sadly, in the K Rd precinct, local music stalwarts Khuja Lounge and the Dog's Bollix both recently closed, while (less sadly) art gallery Hopkinson Cundy is moving out, towards the 'burbs, pushing the Arch Hill/Grey Lynn gallery numbers towards critical mass.

In a city as supersize as Auckland, scattering cultural constellations far and wide arguably makes access easier. One advantage owned by the suburbs is plentiful, free carparking. You don't have to pay to park your car to visit the malls across Auckland, but you do to attend, say, Auckland Art Gallery (save on Sundays). Clearly, access to leisure activities is not a level parking field.

Tapac, for example, must be the most accessible professional-platform theatre in Auckland: opposite the zoo, it's close to the north-western motorway with free parking. Then again, in any enlightened, resident-liveable city, evening public transport into the inner city would easily compete with taking the car elsewhere. (Ha.)

Auckland Transport is hoping to shift the cultural - and shopping - focus back towards the inner city again, by changing our thinking and usage of carparks. From mid-next month, it will be cheaper to use Auckland Transport's CBD carparking buildings, and you can stay as long as you like in on-street parking (although the price per hour will go up after two hours). On the other hand, in some city streets - although, thankfully, not those closest to the theatres - you'll have to pay for parking until 10pm, rather than the current 6pm (still, it's only $2 an hour after 6pm).

The hope is that we'll head immediately for the carparking buildings and stop clogging the traffic by trawling for parks, making life more pleasant for all city visitors. More frequent public transport and that dreamed-of rail loop station in Aotea Square are far better ideas, but this seems a reasonable if hesitant stop-gap measure.

The first project of the "Space Invaders" is another, more radical and interesting, attempt to change our carpark culture. Today, the new group will be feeding the meters on K Rd, not for cars but for temporary art installations. They might have done a deal to section off some carparks for the day but "we're interested in using processes that are already there - we're a car that's not a car," explains organiser Sean Taylor.

Another day, Space Invaders would dearly love to create art in carpark buildings. "Look at Britomart carpark," says Taylor. "It has the best view in town." Perhaps one day such buildings will no longer be carparks, but instead cultural stars on their own.

- NZ Herald

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