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More than a bit of a laugh

Monday 23rd December 2013

Making a home away from home is a step for many students embarking on tertiary study away from their home town. For some, it’s not just about having a roof over your head, but about creating a home with a personality and a real sense of place.

Dunedin local Sarah Gallagher has been exploring the tradition of naming student flats through her Dunedin Student Flat Names project. The project led to a public exhibition in August 2009 at OUSA Art Week, and continues to evolve with new additions coming from public submissions on the project’s website and Facebook page.

Sarah describes the project in the text from the exhibition My Flat Your Flat Our Place:

I’ve been taking photos of these flats for ten years. I’ve selected a small number here to 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.

View photos from the exhibition