The Ministry of Kindness, Improvement & Public Situation (MKIPS) plays a positive fictional role in shaping and delivering a strong New Zealand cultural outlook.
We develop and deliver policy, services, advice and regulation to support the growth of kindness and the emotional prosperity and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
The following text is part of a proposal for a week long intervention in collaboration with Auckland Live, designed specifically for Aotea Square.
The Ministry of Kindness is a transformative fictional performance structure, playfully adapting the rhetoric of business & innovation to re-examine the many ways in which this city nurtures and encourages a sense of kindness. On the eve of being sworn in as Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Adern announced that she wanted this government “to bring kindness back” (RadioNZ 26 Oct). We therefore propose a new ministry called The Ministry of Kindness, Improvement & Public Situation, as a way to bring into public discussion the ways we currently view empathy and how a sense of ‘publicness’ can improve daily life.
Aotea Square is the arguably the most important public gathering place in New Zealand, second only to Parliament itself. This historic position, having seen protests, riots, culturally significant performances and installations, national celebrations, organised and spontaneous public gatherings, makes Aotea Square the perfect location for The Ministry of Kindness to proudly express its intentions to bring back kindness, re-aligning post-election divisions and highlighting the positive message that our government wishes to instigate.
The Ministry of Kindness is not created as a deception, rather its aim is to playfully bring a diverse public together under the unified vision of a clearly acknowledged fiction. This fun and inclusive atmosphere will have a clear positive message and bring into public discussion the value of public space in our city.
For five days The Ministry of Kindness will host a range of inclusive activities for all ages and ethnicities in a specially designed temporary building located in Aotea Square.
Sculpturally this temporary space signifies the principles and uses of public space; distribution of resources, accessibility, non-exclusionary access, aesthetic quality and environmental sustainability. As a critique on the visual rhetoric of business innovation, the structure will be pragmatic with high production values with corporate-style branding, but with a twist of humour. The centre will be open for 6 hours per day for a range of activities.
The 5 day event (10 am – 4pm daily) will comprise of different performance strategies to engage and involve the public with the department office acting as an informative HQ, offering literature, research materials, questionnaires and ‘water cooler’ moments of reflection and discussion. The five days of activities will be fun, engaging and thoughtful, these will be structured as follows;
Day 1 – information overload – using the language of statistics and data visualisation, the performance mode will attempt to inform and interrogate the public through familiar models of information communication.
Day 2 – Lessons of Kindness – rolling one-day workshop on kindness.
Day 3 – Bureaucratic infrastructure – performing bureaucratic mechanisms (such as queuing, ticketed meetings, codes and regulations).
Day 4 – Empathic Economic Exchange – giving new value to financial exchange, a one-dollar-booth will be installed at the Ministry HQ. The public are invited to exchange anything at all for $1.
Day 5 – The Future – The day will be officially set in the future and use symbolic objects in the public space to ‘attract, project and improve’ acts of empathy in the city.
Relationship with public engagement through performance
In the past ten years I have been working in the sphere of public performance in a number of situations and structures. These have included sound-based performances, sculptural interventions, choreographic actions and dramatic situations. Each seek to expand the possibility of what performance in public may be, and ultimately what it means to be ‘the public’.
My background as a theatre director and designer is primarily a discipline-grounding that allows me to approach public-space with rigor and dramaturgical understanding of how audience expectation is met.
Recently I have been working in a performance mode that expresses a state simply presented by myself rather than any sense of characterisation or story, these performances are clearly no longer defined by theatre.
The Ministry of kindness, improvement and public situation is an expansion on this approach, creating a highly engaged performance situation that references contemporary art forms alongside theatrical technique. A familiar sense of participation is created through acknowledging diverse social identities and focussing on an experiential interaction as opposed to consumable end-product. This hopes to provoke discussion and increase open-ended relationships to art making outside the formal structures of art institutions.