Monday, February 24, 2014

See change

How ever many times you visit, it takes time to weather the shock of being back in Christchurch. Justin Paton nailed it - our architectural memory plays us for fools. Who can remember where anything used to be? And what grand irony that one of the great memory aids used to be the architectural metaphor of a memory palace.

But you can’t say the art world hasn’t responded boldly to the challenge of a misery of shakes. Something that Christchurch is on its way to shaping in its own particular fashion is an intriguing confluence of art and context. Well-organised white cube spaces can be found but they have lost their dominance and it's onto visual shock and awe. The raked seats of a theatre exposed to the elements via a collapsed wall, a large pitched roof resting on the ground, a dome waiting on the river bank.

There are countless sculptural gestures around the city that may or may not be art and it really doesn’t seem to matter that much one way or the other. A set of three brick circles, an empty shop window with a single sheet of polystyrene leaning against the back wall, a line-up of chairs painted white in the Merit Groing tradition each one standing in for those who lost their lives. These and countless other small structures, murals, interventions and rearrangements have made Christchurch something that is totally of the moment - a visual laboratory. In this city the turn to research in the visual arts has found what could become its most relevant expression.

Images: top, the Odeon theatre laid bare, second row left brick circles and right Neil Dawson's Spires. Third row a memorial to those lost in the CTV collapse and bottom a shop window in Woolston