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The creation of sound

Once bustling and full of life, stuffed with secret documents and mysteries, the Public Trust building now stands silent.

Until NOise Vacancy has its way.

NOise Vacancy is bringing together local artists from different backgrounds to take over a vacant building with audio art inspired by the space.

Fitting with the kaupapa behind Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival, NOise Vacancy provides an opportunity for strangers to mingle and make, build networks and encourage creative resiliency in Tairawhiti.

The Public Trust building fits the group’s Goldilocks requirements. It’s not too far away from the city, not too big, not too small, evocative and — most importantly — empty.

The Public Trust was an independent Crown Entity offering financial services such as wills and trust management, which occupied the building up until 2005.

Since 2005, Family Planning has spent some time on the ground floor. Artists have holed up in rooms as studio spaces and the ephemeral vintage clothing store, Unfinished Business, has appeared twice in the building. But now 40 Childers Road is quiet, bar once a week when tutus fill the building as young dancers point their toes.

Designed and constructed by local firm Burr and Mirfield in 1922, the building features decorative pilasters, aka fake columns, topped with formal detailing on its facade.

“There’s an eclecticness with this building. It’s got a real grandeur about it with classical features that follow inside with beautiful detailing around the ceiling and doors,” says Katy Wallace, one of the organisers.

“In the middle of the mainspace downstairs is this crazy ‘70s infill with a glass ceiling, a diamond window, and horizontal timber walls. It’s a real mash-up.”

This year the event is organised by Nikki O’Connor (Ngati Porou, Te Ati Awa), who is a tertiary educator with a professional background in art therapy, Katy Wallace, who has 25 years of exhibiting in public institutions under her belt, and Lina Marsh, of Niuean Maori descent, who is a seasoned, multi-disciplined artist whose work explores contemporary Pacific stories and themes of identity.

Another special part of the building are the vaults that hark back to another era, says Lina.

“I think it’s the space where they held all the deeds. There are these beautiful little shelves from floor to ceiling. It’s just gorgeous.”

The Public Trust building has more variety of space than last year’s installation, says Lina.

In 2020, NOise Vacancy took over 64 Lowe Street which oozed a Mad Men energy. It was as if you had stepped into a 1950s advertising agency.

The Public Trust building owner and city councillor, Tony Robinson, has been really accommodating, says Lina.

“He told us, ‘if you want it, it’s yours’.”

Which can be a big ask for a building owner, basically asking, “Can I let punters, musicians, artists and whoever else take over your building in the name of art?”

Artists who want to join the project and fill the vacant space can take a digital walkthrough and see the floorplan via gizzylocal.com/noise-vacancy-2021, as well as the launch video and proposal form.

Over the next few weeks, the team will release interviews online with some of last year’s participants for an insight into how others have used audio to make art.

They are calling for artists to take the space and make it their own.

“The same as last year, the work will be a response to space.”

NOise Vacancy is a site-specific sound art project.

“First and foremost it’s an audio and sound response, where the visual comes second,” Lina says.

Strong proposals will use sound as the key concept from which performance, visual art and installation should be considered to enhance and strengthen the presentation of each project.

“In saying that, we want to encourage people that aren’t sound creators,” says Katy.

Katy says she is not a sound artist herself, but found it inspiring to use noise as a means for creativity.

Sound can be pre-recorded, performed live, activated remotely, be created by movement or require audience participation.

“Last year we had all sorts of people who weren’t what you call sound artists.”

“I found it an interesting way to grow a creative response through the medium of sound first. It’s a really good stretch for your practice if that’s not your initial way of working”.

NOise Vacancy 2021 premieres as part of Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival on October 14, from 6pm to 9.45, for one night only.

Visit gizzylocal.com/noise-vacancy-2021 for more info or contact the team at noisevacancy@gmail.com. Proposals should be in by September 13, 5pm.

BUILDING MADE SOUND: NOise Vacancy is a site-specific sound art project where artists create audio art based on the building they take over. Picture by Thomas Teutenberg with graphics by Wayne Crosby