Strange Relations

Strange Relations. Exhibition view, St Paul St Gallery 3

The spaces we inhabit are organised by infrastructures that multiply our connections, mediate our lives, and amplify the range of our effects. Through them, we’re tangled up with places, people, stories, and things we don’t experience directly. The physical materials and things we interact with resonate through these extended situations. Carl Douglas’s PhD thesis, Strange Relations was a three-year inquiry into design strategies and concepts for producing public space through encounters with material.

Cycle 2: Deposit. Recycling centre and public workshops on Onehunga foreshore. Site Plan

Strange Relations focused on the Māngere Inlet, an arm of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland’s Manukau harbour that has been ringed, reshaped, and adversely affected by infrastructures: motorways, railway yards, landfills, factories, distribution hubs, waste and recycling centres, drainage systems, a fuel pipeline, high-voltage transmission lines, and bridges. These are layered over and interact in complex ways with mangroves, sediment, portages, cemeteries, football clubs, migratory birds, waka ama, heavy metal contaminants, freshwater springs, introduced oysters, and myriads of other things, materials, and events. Rather than clearing away this complicated clutter, Carl speculated on ways to use it as the working materials for new spaces.

Cycle 1: Circuit. Public pavement at Ann’s Creek, Otāhuhu. Plan and curve-offset projection

The practice was organised in a series of creative cycles and was concerned with patterns of repetition, return, and reflection. Time was imagined through layered cycles rather than as a straight line. Instead of a governing paradigm of novelty, innovation, progress, and linear history, Carl’s work prioritised wandering lines, routines and revisitations. He took long walks around, through, and across the inlet, familiarising himself with its rhythms: lazy (māngere), mundane, restless, and volatile. Cycles lead to accumulation: things pile up over time. Drawing, particularly in synoptic forms like diagrams and sketches, was exploited for its capacity to separate, isolate, and reconnect. Graphic figures accumulated and formed new constellations and associations. They were then woven into exchanges: provisional programmes unfolding over decades.

Cycle 3: Exchange. Matāi grove and remnants of theatre, Favona. Isometric

The work was exhibited in the form of three drawn speculations — Circuit, Deposit, and Exchange — at St Paul St Gallery 3 in February 2018.

Cycle 3: Exchange. Temporary theatre, Favona. Isometric

Cycle 2: Deposit. Exhibition view, St Paul St Gallery 3

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges
Mandy Smith

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© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021