Exhausted is Occupation: Artist’s contribution to the 2018 Park(ing) Day in Wellington. The group squeezed a few thousand die-cast matchbox cars into a single 6m x 2m standard-size parking space. The installation, located between the congested Cuba Street road and the Wilson Parking Lot (park your real car here for a whopping $19.00 NZD daily rate!), underscores our complicated relationship with cars.
This work is about being Exhausted by everything to do with cars: the congestion they generate; the traffic jams; the time we spend in them; the loneliness and isolation we experience in them; the pollution they spread; the tonnes of asphalt they require; the road rage they cause; the exorbitant parking rates they demand; the space they steal from parks; the dangers they pose to pedestrians and bicyclists. So many facets to our exhaustion. I’m exhausted trying to list them all – but, you get the gist.
Thankfully, the installation didn’t wallow in this depressing emotional state. Instead, the swathe of brightly coloured cars, gleaming in the sunshine, invited you on a trip down memory lane, to a time when cars were not so exhausting – when they were a source of inspiration, a prop in imaginary play, the centerpiece of a story taking place outside of the real world.
Adults paused to find the cars they had as children. Collectors told us which cars were worth the most. Car fanatics picked out their favourite luxury models. School children who had loaned their cars for the cause (thanks, Ridgway School!) came down to identify their own cars, which were temporarily transformed from toy into art, just for one magical day.
Exhausted highlights the slippery slope we’re sliding down, from the innocent joy we experience as children playing with toy cars, to the exhaustion we experience as adults with our grown-up cars. How did this happen? Who is to blame? Did the toy industry trick us into a false happiness with cars, or is the car industry itself to blame for selling us an exhausting product that will soon exhaust our natural resources? Behind the playful nature of Exhaustion, Occupation: Artist raises a serious question: how should we respond to the increasingly pervasive and harmful invasion of cars in our world?
As we delight in the toy cars on Cuba Street, Wellington is in the process of dismantling its electric trolley bus system, almost a century after the so-called “Great American Streetcar scandal”, when major motor companies conspired to destroy public transport in major cities in the US. Is this where Wellington is headed?
Park(ing) Day is a worldwide movement inviting community discussion about roads, cars and parking. Exhausted is both an artwork within the Park(ing) Day movement, and also a meta-commentary on this worldwide movement: the ideas expressed in the installation remind us of the urgency and importance of this movement, both at home and abroad.
Thank you, Ridgway School!
We are hugely grateful to the children and supportive staff at Ridgway School for the loan of so many vehicles. These children illustrate how people can come together to make a big impact on our community – although many children only brought a few cars, the school’s contribution was huge. There is strength in numbers, even for small children with small cars.
When these children grow up, they will be burdened with the problems arising from real cars. Park(ing) Day helps all of us, young and old, think about what we can do as a community for our environment.