Acts Of The Apostles | Erskine College 1905-2012 | A Retrospective
Welcome to the complete video document of Gunner’s adventures with Urbex Central at Erskine College in Island Bay, Wellington, New Zealand, in the years after its closure in 2012.
Part One: Rage Against The Dying Of The Light [0:00]
Several years ago now, we visited Erskine College at night. We found our way into its pristine Gothic chapel, which was added to the college in 1929-30. It had at that time recently been operating as a wedding venue before being declared earthquake prone. We lit up the chapel once more, first with candlelight and then with halogen flood lights powered by a petrol generator. Over the course of the next three years we revisited the college and documented it as best we could, while the destruction from vandalism seemed to be advancing mercilessly towards the chapel. Today most of the college has been demolished to make way for a housing development, while the chapel remains, albeit emptied out and boarded up. We’re happy to bring you the chapel as we first found it.
Part Two: Ascension Day [5:59]
In the year following our first visit to Erskine College, tagging had visibly advanced to the choir loft at the back of the chapel. Hung high out of reach of taggers’ sharpies are the stations of the cross, the closest of which to us depict scenes where Jesus is “aided by Simon” and “stripped of his garments”. By this time Urbex Central had evolved into a highly active and — more importantly — a warm collective, as evident in moments of playful cooperation captured on video. Thankfully one of the organs was foot-powered.
Part Three: Walk Towards The Falling Water, I Will Meet You There [10:36]
In 2009, a poetic arts student wrote in chalk on top of a set of wooden shelves: “Walk towards the falling water / I will meet you there”. Construction began on Erskine College, a former Catholic girls’ school, in 1905, with a chapel added in 1929-30. In 1985 it ceased operating as a college, and in 1992 a trust was formed and given responsibility for its heritage protection. Between 1997 and 2009 it was tenanted by a tertiary art school. The chapel then reopened as a wedding venue until being declared earthquake prone in 2012.
Part Four: Acts of The Apostle [17:47]
Another year has passed, and once more the chapel is inviting exploration. We know the space well enough now to relax in the moment and capture details hitherto unseen. With explorers almost entirely absent from the frame, the gentle zooming in and out of the camera seems to capture an aspect of human experience deeper than adventure: our cyclical approaching and withdrawing from faith and/or artistry of many kinds as we navigate our lives.
Elvis was the tender age of 19 when he recorded “That’s Alright Mama” in “a new, distinctive style” on the Sun label. Many of the arrivals at this commune founded in 1973 were of a similar age, seeking to live in a new, distinctive style under the sun. A painter’s easel stands overlooking the hillside on which the communal meeting house was built, and the nearby house still contains once-cherished paintings and art books.
Photography and Surrealism
We found this broken time capsule of creativity temporarily parked on the edge of a highway awaiting its inevitable and imminent collapse. A book on surrealist photography set the tone for the video edit.