House of Economy, Auckland 2010

The House of Economy is sited in the entrance hall of the Auckland Art gallery in between an up escalator and a staircase running down.

The title, The House of Economy, refers to the ever present possibility of collapse within all economic systems, but particularly those of contemporary financial capitalism. The walls of the structure are made from local clay excavated form an area north of Auckland and waste straw, paper pulp and wood shavings from nearby industries. Despite the seemingly solid exterior architecture, The House of Economy is, in fact, an eco-system that is simultaneously in the process of production, collapse and disintegration. Mushrooms and mycelium cover the interior walls. Throughout the period of the exhibition, as nature takes its course, the house produces food as a by-product of its collapsing architecture. The House of Economy is, in part, inspired by termitaries, and in part by the decayed architecture of deregulated financial markets, it forms an allegory of the entropy of architectural and economical systems. It is accompanied by images and a text written by writer Anthony Iles in conversation with the Rikke Luther, safely placed in a vitrine next to the collapsing dwelling.

The process of collapse.

Graeme North is an architect with a long involvement with earthen architecture and other natural building materials. Graeme has brought to bear his knowledge of local earth bricks, clay and straw to help create a building that, for once, is intended to grow fungi, rot and collapse - the very opposite of what he usually tries to achieve. A special form for construction was developed.

The light earth bricks for the dwelling are made by mud brick maker Tim Hicks from a mixture of clay, recycled paper pulp and wood shavings, and have been laid up in a clay/straw mortar. The exterior plaster is made from clay slip and wood shavings, with an outer coat of a plaster of Paris and clay, designed to set fairly hard and take a lime based paint, which breathes well. Wood is used for the door and window frames, and naturally coloured gelatin forms the windows. On the inside wall mycelium has been added to help with the composting process. Over time edible mushrooms will pop up as part of the composting process.

The clay is from land 90 minutes drive north of Auckland. The straw, paper pulp and wood shavings are surplus material from local industries.

A vitrine is placed next to The House of Economy containing historical images and the text Crisis, Ruin, Allegory by Anthony Iles.

A high humidity supports mushroom growth and facilitates the process of collapse.

Unfortunately, due to certain communication problems, the compost was not cared for properly. As a result of the lack of maintenance, the House of Economy began to rot rather than compost - giving the work a new set of critical associations. This led the museum to argue that spores created by the rotting process were a risk to public health and to the demand that the work was removed before the end of the biennial. It was also argued that the sudden collapse of an art work commissioned to collapse might be a danger to museum visitors. Given that a lack of regulation was a central feature of the financial collapse of 2008, Learning Site regarded sudden intervention to prevent collapse as another interesting addition to the work and agreed to its premature removal on condition that the process was carefully documented and the sign below was displayed for the remainder of the biennial.





- and a sign was placed:

Thank you to the following people who made everything possible:
Anthony Iles for writing, ideas and discussion; Laura Marsh and Anthony Cribb for helping with the construction; Graeme North FNZIA (NZ registered architect) for sharing his knowledge about earth building and helping with the construction; Tim Hicks for the earth bricks and helping with the construction; Anna Parlane, Natasha Conland and staff at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o T?maki; AUT University for their support through the artist residency programme; Lars Bang Larsen; and Jaime Stapleton for proofreading and editing.

Crisis, Ruin, Allegory by Anthony Iles

Catalogue text by Lars Bang Larsen

Publication: House of Economy, download as PDF