John Lee

Absent Presence: Manifestation of Rewound Time

Bachelor of Design Public Space Exhibition and event design Experience Design Material Imaginaries Public Film Performance Community

Discover, to uncover and recover.

Fort Lane, located in downtown, once consisted of fascinating natural environment, but masked by land reclamation and urbanization, painted over with concrete slabs. Absent Presence proposes a temporal installation which projects the concealed story behind the concrete ground.

Accumulated vertically with crystalized blocks of sand, dirt and water, Absent Presence form an intimate and immersive urban interior, a discrepant dimension , set within the everyday activity of Fort Lane. Gradually, the installation structure melts, the water evaporates, and the matter disperses. The installation reveals the metamorphic capacity of matter which has been held temporarily in urban form, as a manifestation of rewound time .

Absent Presence is a temporary pavilion which enacts a material transformation from a frozen to fluid state. The installation manifests an absent material narrative of Auckland Downtown’s land - an intertidal mudflat prior to becoming reclaimed land. Absent Presence, therefore, acts as an ‘introduction scene’ within the ‘urban plot’ that recalls the metamorphosis of the mudflat into a colonial commercial centre.

This proposed pavilion is a spatial site narrative experienced through the audience’s encounter with material form and formlessness. The narrative is reimagined through interplays of materials – water, sand, dirt, and their malleable state changes – from solidity to liquidity. With the employment of materials as a foundation in narrating the story, a scene transition occurs as the material composition changes from distinctive blocks of sand, water and dirt, to a merging of matter.

The form of the pavilion and entrance threshold alludes to the opening of a theatrical curtain, and initiates a scene change within the lane. Entering the pavilion, the viewer is transported into the core of the work, and dwell in the slowness of material transformation. As the materials are released from their frozen state and fall into the lane, ghostly barrier of wire mesh structure remains. The full escapement and merging of the materials overtime, scatter across the whole of Fort Lane, and in doing so, slow down the accelerated urban atmosphere for a short time.