In September 2013 a structure appeared on Nelson’s Boulder Bank. Over the coming months it became the axis of social and political drama as its status as a home was debated through social media, traditional media and eventually the courts.
Hawke’s Bay-based artist Ben Pearce was pulled into the fray when a friend commented on an article on Facebook, tagging Pearce and questioning his involvement. His art practice is based in an exploration of psychological and physical unease, so it was natural that a connection was drawn between Pearce and a hut that was created as a rebellion, albeit a temporary one, against society and the constrictions of capitalism. Pearce went on to claim the structure as an artwork, in part to draw attention away from the building’s true maker (later revealed to be Paul Jepson).
Life Will Go On Long After Money is a reconstruction of the shack, and the imagined life lived within it. The phrase was painted across the side of Jepson’s hut in its final months, after it had transformed into a ‘houseboat’ in an attempt to defy council rules on the erection of permanent structures. There is an explicit tension in the actions of Jepson and the resulting artwork by Pearce. There is the romance of the ‘man alone’ and ‘rebel’ that is contrasted with the precariousness of a life lived on the margins.
In the intimacy of the space and the fractured view we attain through the accompanying video work Pearce casts the viewer as a voyeur. For many raised within the western cultural mind-set, understanding and empathy can only be gained through lived experience and by inviting us into the hut Pearce is giving us the tools to imagine ourselves as its inhabitants – what does life look like outside of society? The experience is at once sad, freeing, uncomfortable and enlightening.