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April 6, 2009 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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One Day Sculpture – Roman Ondák

Sculpture can be your friend. Wellington is home to a diverse range of public sculptures, from the governmental types to the kitschy bucket fountain. If the phallic, yet mundane airport drive isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps there is something to be found in the One Day Sculpture series. One Day Sculpture presents an alternative to civic sculpture; something accessible and intriguing rather than a councilman towering above you.

Camouflaged Building took a more subtle approach to the project than many of the previous sculptures. Roman Ondák presented several mounds of sawdust positioned against The Old Government Building, much less of a spectacle than Javier Tellez’ lion in a movie theatre, or Heather and Ivan Morison’s barricade across Stout St. The building, currently home to the Victoria University School of Law and protected by the Department of Conservation, is an impostor—built from wood but dressed as a stone building of Classical Italian style. It is also the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere—second in the world.

I find, when confronted with a sculpture of this nature, that the simplicity of the object can often allow a larger mental space for ideas about the art to flow. And though the artist’s intentions may be as strong as any other, I at least feel that I’m given more room for interpretation. After several times wandering about the building, the mounds of sawdust, though relatively static and unchanging during my time there, came to contrast the longevity of the building. I also felt that the efforts to conserve the building were highlighted along with the relative impermanence of the sculpture—an almost perfect fit for the One Day Sculpture series. The scale and quality of the sculpture came to contrast civic sculpture in all its iron glory.

Although there was a significant amount of publicity surrounding the sculpture, the subtlety of the sculpture was heightened by the fact that there was no presentation involved. Unlike past sculptures there was no usher to guide the audience and no signs to lead the way. In the time I was there I did notice a handful of people viewing the piece but the area was mostly a walkway for law students who probably had very little idea what was going on—renovations? A practical joke? Perhaps a structural defect? Many probably wandered by the sculpture without taking much notice. At least one of the mounds required a particular vantage point.

A lack of spectacle set among New Zealand’s base of authority, the sculpture was positioned as a critique of the dominant paradigm of civic sculpture that colonises the surrounding area. Camouflaged Building whispered into the wind of Wellington’s faux-Italian-palace.

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