Speaking Surfaces: stories and spaces

05 Mar, 2020

A new project at St Paul St Gallery explores how people relate to spaces and with each other. The project asks: How do surfaces speak? How are stories and experiences inscribed in the surfaces that surround us? How might surfaces speak with, to and through people?

Speaking Surfaces is the collaborative work of St Paul St Gallery and AUT Spatial Design staff and students.

Speaking Surfaces began as a design project for the Spatial Design Year 3 Studio Paper. Students were invited to consider the colonial histories of galleries and museums and how existing institutions can create spaces that do not reinforce dominant power structures and narratives. Students were then tasked to imagine what non-colonial and non-patriarchal spaces might feel like.

Silvia Kostandini and Sapati Mossiah

Silvia Kostandini and Sapati Mossiah Avei Fina’i

Over Summer, Spatial Design students Sapati Mossiah Avei Fina’i and Silvia Kostandini worked with the gallery to bring Fina’i’s concept of VĀWĀ to life.

Fina’i says he was inspired by indigenous perspectives of time and space. He says, “The name of this concept is VĀWĀ. Vā in Samoan culture, is known as the in-betweenness which is a crucial part of fa’asamoa (the Samoan way of life), and Wā is the Māori term for both space and time.”

Fina’i’s work is a response to the interdependent relationship between vā and wā. His concept features a 2 plane platform. Both platforms feature lines that mimic the topography of St Paul St. The upper platform represents time (Wā) and the space in between the platforms is Vā.

VAWA - initial model

Initial model of VĀWĀ concept

A Maramataka also sits in the street front window to mark the passing of days and months according to the Māori lunar calendar. This public and different measure of time is a call to notice rhythms of life other than the Gregorian calendar’s dictation of a working day, week, month, year.

Working on this exhibition has been an invaluable experience for both Fina’i and Kostandini.

Kostandini says she is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the St Paul St Gallery. She says, “I have gained so much through this project by working with a variety of people that have influenced my growth as a designer, as well as a better understanding of the different parts of the design process.”

Fina’i’s favourite part of this experience is seeing his concept come to life. He says, “I want people to feel a sense of belonging when they engage and interact within the space, and I want audiences to interpret what vā might mean for them.”

St Paul St Gallery Director Charlotte Huddleston says Speaking Surfaces is the gallery’s most ambitious collaboration yet. She says, “Collaborating with staff and students to develop and realise projects in the Gallery is always an exciting and rewarding process.”

“One of the roles of the Gallery is to support and enhance the teaching and learning experience for students, and as a public gallery with experienced staff, we can offer opportunities for students to engage with real-world projects.”

Speaking Surfaces will run year-long with multiple phases that will feature different artworks and exhibitions, performances, screenings, gatherings, conversations and teaching.

Useful links:

Study Spatial Design at AUT

Learn more about Art & Design at AUT

Speaking Surfaces at St Paul St Gallery

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