Heleyni Pratley with her new artwork, supported by Wellington City Council and Urban Dream Brokerage.
Artist and activist Heleyni Pratley grew up in the capital and seeing homelessness and emergency housing waiting lists swell “isn’t fair”, she says.
This is what prompted her to make her first immersive artwork, inviting people in the community to be part of her art by sharing their thoughts on the ongoing housing crisis.
‘Housing crisis work with an indoor and outdoor feed’, supported by Wellington City Council and Urban Dream Brokerage, invites people to be interviewed via video which is then projected onto a sculpture at night.
The Wellington-based Greek and Kiwi conceptual artist works in video, drawing, painting, sculpture and performance. She has also campaigned for social change, having worked as a union organizer for fast food and Zero Hour contract workers, currently active in grassroots housing and climate change movements.
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At the “Housing Crisis Community Reflection and Assessment Center” on Allen St, Pratley asked people open-ended questions about their experiences with the housing crisis, how it affected them, and how they viewed change.
More importantly, it was just asking what people thought about the situation.
“Maybe that question wasn’t asked,” Pratley said. “I feel like people want to have conversations right now.”
The artwork was meant to open up a space for conversation and Pratley hoped it would allow people to “get their chest off their chests” and help share ideas about what could be done to address the crisis.
“It brings it back to basics… Solving a problem starts with talking together.”
The work would be exhibited for a month and the structure, made of paper and covered in white house paint, would move around the city, projected with excerpts from video interviews on Friday and Saturday evenings.
With the closure of many community spaces, such as Wellington Central Library and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pratley said she felt a sense of isolation in the community.
She believed that as an artist she had a duty to question and reflect on the current environment and art could be a powerful tool to do this in a less passionate way.
On opening day, around 10 people visited the center and people are welcome to book an interview with Pratley by contacting the artist via social media or walking in.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know how long it will take,” Pratley said of the video interview reels and was open to finding ways to exhibit the final product.
Ultimately, his hope was for people to feel heard. “I want people to leave feeling uplifted and empowered.”