Posters and reprints of flat photos are here! The poster shows all the flats that featured in the recent exhibition, My Flat Your Flat Our Place. Check ‘em out.
The creation of identity and a sense of place was not at the forefront of my mind in 1991 when my flatmates and I named our flat Mouse House. It was because we wanted to name it something, and our flat was infested with mice.
Nine years later, an exploration into the history of print culture in New Zealand while studying through library school provided a lens through which to view the ephemeral nature of the student flat names, names that colourfully dotted my then community of North Dunedin. Some names endured but many instances of this print phenomenon were fleeting. I was intrigued, and continue to be, by the names, the materials used to build the signs, and the stories behind them.
I’ve been taking photos of flats for ten years. I’ve selected a small number here try and reflect the range of ways people have named their flats over the last decade. Some are beautiful, some are disgusting, some are witty, some are puerile – but all are creative, inventive and reflective of the individuals that made them, and those who came after; those who respected their efforts enough to keep these signs, or restore them, or rename them … or replace them with something of their own imagining.
The names themselves are generally reflective of contemporary political or pop culture, some are sexual in nature or are evocative of drinking behaviour. As to their physical nature, sometimes the signs are professionally crafted, sometimes they are hand painted, sometimes they are spray painted on the fence or written straight on the window in vivid. It varies.
Distance and nostalgia provided me with a different perspective on the experience of flatting, and in particular, flatting within the immediate campus environs. This is a unique environment – the highest rental area in the country, a suburb of “young ‘uns” all experiencing living away from home for the first time. It has struck me, on reflection, that there may be more to naming a flat than just having a bit of a laugh.
The naming of flats occurs for many reasons: inarguable because it’s fun, but latterly, because it is perceived by some of the residents of North Dunedin that this is a tradition, that it is part of the culture of being a Scarfie. Your perception has become a reality, it has become a tradition. It is one of those “colourful” aspects of student culture that is presented to the rest of Dunedin society, it’s a display of individuality, a mark of identity.
“We all come from some place, and we all live in some place. Our identity and our very sense of authenticity, it seems, are inextricably bound up with places we claim as ‘ours’.”
[Excerpt: Gentry, Kynan. “Place, Heritage and Identity” in Heartlands : New Zealand historians write about where history happened. 2006 Auckland pp13-26.]
Naming flats is about creating a home, an identity, a sense of place. This exhibition is about this place, North Dunedin. A home away from home. It’s about being here, and being part of something incredible. You’re part of it. You’re living it everyday … this is My Flat Your Flat Our Place.
Sarah Gallagher, ex-Scarfie, librarian, web junkie, flat names archivist.
[These photos were exhibited at OUSA Art Week 10-14 Aug 2009, at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.]
Be part of the project
A book is in production about the named student flats of North Dunedin in an effort to preserve and promote this ephemeral aspect of student culture in Dunedin.
If you have stories to tell about named flats you’ve created or lived in, I’d love to hear them.
●Flick me an email
●Check out the Facebook page called “Dunedin Flatnames Project” where people are sharing their stories.
My Flat Your Flat Our Place presents a selection of photographs of named student flats in the North Dunedin area, taken over the last ten years. The exhibition highlights this ephemeral and unique aspect of print culture in Dunedin. It also makes a connection between the naming of flats by students as an expression of identity, and the creation of a sense of place.
Visit the exhibtion: 10-14 August, The Link (between the Union building and Library on Cumberland St opp. the Museum), University of Otago.
Be part of the project:
I’m writing a book about the named flats – here’s how you can be involved:
- If you’re visiting the exhibition, a write a comment and your email address on one of the supplied postcards and pop it in the exhibition letterbox
- Join the Facebook group (below) and add your own photos and stories
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information check out:
- Facebook group: Dunedin (NZ) Student Flat Names
- A google map of all known named flats
- The online exhibition – My Flat Your Flat Our Place
- A slide show of all of the flats photographed since 2000
- Dunedin Student Flat Names Archive on The Community Archive (NRAM)
- Reprints and posters are available to purchase
Many grateful thanks to the following people for sponsoring this exhibition:
Cheers, Sarah Gallagher
The exhibition is up and I’m really really very chuffed with how it looks. The site is bang on and it is looking the business. Enormous gratitude to my dear friend Victoria McIntosh for her exhibition mounting expertise. Check her work out at Lure on Lower Stuart St, Dunedin. Big thanks to Gordon for helping install the letter box.
Exhibtion at OUSA art Week 2009
There was quite a lot of interest from passers by as we gradually put the exhibition up, it was fantastic to stop and have a chat with students to talk about the project.
The official opening is 5pm tomorrow night in The Link, University of Otago.
BTW : 754 members of the FB group today. It’ll be interesting to see if numbers increase at all over exhibition week.
One of several exhibitions that will be part of OUSA Art Week, “My Flat. Your Flat. Our Place” is all about named student flats in North Dunedin and the relationship between students, houses,identity and creating a sense of place.If you’ve lived in a named flat in Nth Dunedin, I’d love to hear about it!
If you visit the exhibition next week, keep an eye out for the exhibition letter box and postcards.
If you have stories about named flats to share, I’d love to hear them. Grab a postcard, jot something down and post it in the letter box!
Only one week to go until the exhibition officially opens! This exhibition is part of OUSA’s Art Week celebration.
Check it out in The Link at the University of Otago from the 10-14 August.
If you’ve ever lived in a named flat in Dunedin, I’d love to hear all about it.
… this time in two weeks the exhibition will be all ready to view – the opening of “My Flat Your Flat Our Place” is on the 10th August at 6pm, so if you’re in Dunedin town, pop along to The Link at the University of Otago (Cumberland St near Albany St corner).
I’m off to bed after a productive evening of getting all the print copy formatted and signed off for the exhibition. Big thanks to Steve for all your help 😀
I had an email from a Radio NZ reporter who wants to have a chat about flats sometime – sounds interesting. I’m up for it.
I also had a great chat with Mark from Auto Art in Dunedin who may be producing the exhibition titles – 4m of bright orange coolness. I can’t wait to see it!
We are so on schedule for the 10th August. Bring it on.
Thanks Frogprints for the photos and Lin Klenner for the materials for mounting the photos! We’re nearly all there for the exhibition. The postcard designs have been signed off and the poster is nearly there. Thanks Mel Opie for the design work.
Three weeks to go before the opening of My Flat Your Flat Our Place at OUSA Art Week on 10th August, 6pm in The Link at the University of Otago.