FIELDWORKING | Christchurch: SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial

Posted on 08/10/2013

0


PROLOGUE: Straight, Forward
ASPLEY, AU: Along Little Cabbage Tree Creek
CHRISTCHURCH, NZ: SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial
EPILOGUE

—oOo—

christchurch_from_physics_room
View from the Physics Room, Cnr Tuam and High Streets. Photo: JM John Armstrong

Walking around a city that has endured a major disaster is an especially strange and unsettling experience. With 70% of the buildings having been demolished, things are clearly not as they should be. Empty spaces – voids, ruins, remnants – mark a fragmented urban fabric and history. Christchurch is not ‘post-earthquake’. While in transition or transitional, it is still very much in the grip of the ‘earthquake’ that reshaped and unmade the city.

Here I am presenting panoramic photographs shot using my mobile phone as part of my visit to SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial in September 2013, curated astutely and sensitively by Sydney-based curator Blair French. The intention of creating the panoramas is to underpin a contextual, relational and topographical approach to public art – to consider a stretched field of meaning, spatial organisation and experience in the urban twist rather than the art object as focal point. The panoramas, even though they can tend towards distortion and low resolution, are intended as informational or documentary objects or records. At times, the peculiar inaccuracy of the photographic representations makes for further estrangement from the landscape.

map
Map of SCAPE 7 artwork locations

The map (above) indicates the locations of the artworks, though not the line that I walked to navigate them. A blanket of grey cloud shrouded my walking during much of the week of my visit, resulting in subdued light in many of the photographs. The photographs have not been modified or enhanced. Like my other walk, this is comprised of several forays into the city.

google_maps_devastated
Cnr Cashel and Manchester Streets, Google Maps

Google Maps (above) shows the extent of devastation across the city, vacant sites and debris, broken buildings, hints of small interventions and heavy machinery. I am tempted to do a figure-ground drawing of what remains, although more buildings have been demolished and more ground cleared since the satellite image was produced.

streetview_cashel
Cnr Cashel and Manchester Streets, view along Cashel Street, Google Streetview

Google Streetview (above) puts you in the midst of this picturesque city, prior to the earthquake, with its mix of heritage and contemporary architecture, its fair share of banalities that should never have been built, and its neat grid of streets as the scene for urban living and public life.

Good bones, I tell myself, as if the city was flesh.

THE FIELD: WORKS & WALKS

When I was visiting Christchurch for SCAPE 7 Public Art Christchurch Biennial, my purpose was twofold. First, I was invited to participate in the opening events and contribute an essay to a catalogue. Second, I had arranged with friends to run a small and informal iteration of Long Time, No See?, an interactive and multiplatform project I had been working on with an interdisciplinary team of artists, designers, scientists, programmers and other practitioners.

Long Time, No See? critically and creatively engages with ‘design futuring’, and is influenced by the ideas of Tony Fry, a theorist who proposes that many of the social and environmental problems and disasters are caused by design, and that the future, not so much as a measure of time but as a medium, is created by design. The concepts of futuring and defuturing are explored in the project, recognising that the future is in part already with us and will be populated by what we cast into it. With these ideas in mind, Long Time, No See? has sought to consider the premise of futuring, as ‘making time’, through a generative and reflective walking and mapping process: a future with a future. Here, in Christchurch, I am confronted by a ruined city and the need to address this in terms of a city with a future with a future. The project involves different levels and approaches to participation including a workshop and use of a Field Book. The book has been translated into an app for use in capturing experiences and reflections in the field. Given the engagement with design thinking and methodology, the Field Book also acts like a cultural probe in that it is intended to capture information based on experience. It is developed, much like the Fieldworking project, as an artistic interpretation of geographic fieldwork by asking questions and offering a platform for elaborating personal values of commitment and care – it is investigating aspects of meaning-making and walkscaping. It involves being with the field, being for the field.

Prior to the development of the app, participants worked with a paper version of the Field Book. While the app, in some ways, supplanted the printed book, it remains as one of the tools for the project and supplements the use of the app, for which the content was changed. Participants are encouraged to use it as a notebook, to make images and use it in ways to support their walking, writing, imaging and thinking. For some, the book just reads like a set of instructions; though it does relate to a diverse body of ‘instructional’ artworks. It is intended as a literary work, and as an artist book, addressing a set of ideas that relate to de/futuring and care. It is intended as a platform for open inquiry into these ideas of making time or making a future with a future. It’s important to note that this walk seeks to somehow replicate the experience of just walking – of ruminating, walking, noticing, sensing and curiosity. However, it is designed as an itinerary (see below), referring loosely to Joseph Campbell’s trajectory of The Hero’s Journey, because, while situated, it is not intended as derive.

ltns_itinerary

As a framework, the Long Time, No See? project offers a kind of space to orient and reorient, to consider our own actions in and readings of embodiment, place, time and space, and to experience ourselves enmeshed in the mediums of space and time. The influence of Ingold and Morton resonates: it is here in Christchurch at this time that Ingold’s schema of earth, ground and sky has become more meaningful, more compelling. Fieldworking and Long Time, No See?, as different kinds of creative engagements with walking and writing, developed in tandem. They are snared in a strange iterative or dialogic loop in their differentiated engagements with space and place. So I visited Christchurch with the intention of running a number of experiments. The initial question was to consider whether Long Time, No See? could contribute to a disaster recovery context, and this was carried out with the engagement of new friends in a field-based process. An ancillary consideration was whether the Long Time, No See? framework could be used to map the experience of SCAPE 7 and to consider whether tensions arise from the project’s emphasis of path and SCAPE’s emphasis of point. What does this tension mean for field? Perhaps the points are more like tangles in a meshwork.

I had commenced a walk in Christchurch intending to read SCAPE 7 through the lens of the Field Book, but connectivity issues thwarted my attempts. However, I did use my printed Field Book and, in keeping with my earlier process, EverNote to make notes. In finalising the text as part of Fieldworking, I hope others will also work with Long Time, No See? in this way. As an initiative for ‘making time’, Long Time, No See? encourages participants to take their time in walking and engaging with their surroundings. It is disruptive in that the work seeks to slow things down given that acceleration is often regarded as a virtue and time is regarded as a luxury; slow down our use of technology and our thinking in order to capture and map a cultural geography and community for change, renewal and discovery. That is, the question for Long Time, No See? is not ‘what is it?’ but ‘what does it do?’ or ‘how does it become?’. In designing this process, as one of redirective practice, the intention has been to perform rather than represent, activate rather than contain, open rather than close, instil rather than distil, guide rather than instruct. With reference to phenomenology, Ingold stresses the sentience of the world and the wayfaring of the perceiver-producer:

To be sentient … is to open up to a world, to yield to its embrace, and to resonate in one’s inner being to its illuminations and reverberations. Bathed in light, submerged in sound and rapt in feeling, the sentient body, at once both perceiver and producer, traces the paths of the world’s becoming in the very course of contributing to its ongoing renewal (12).

And so my task is a mindful and purposeful wayfaring, a recognition of “wayfaring is the fundamental mode by which living beings inhabit the earth”, a statement I suspect I will repeat often.

There are more artworks in SCAPE 7 than there are stopping points in the Long Time, No See? guide. Rather than let them fall by the wayside, they are folded into my paths as part of the lines. Referring to Careri’s idea of the path creating a field, it is vital that the path, the points, the writing and the field stretch to encompass all of these works as they appear in the disaster-struck environment of this city. Stretching and twisting are integral elements of this project for topological writing and walking.

1.    Leaving Behind
Departure

It is an arrival rather than a departure: my being here. Cashel Street is a main commercial and retail street in Christchurch: a lifeline. While much of it remains bare, a small strip has been revived with retail hub constructed of shipping containers, market stalls, performances, art interventions and reopened stores. Apparently, this reopening and activation is quite recent. It entreats people to return after a such long period of exclusion. The language of emergency permeates the place: terms like ‘exclusion zone’ and ‘red zone’ have become common. The boundary has been lifted. The faultline is dormant for now. Even having experienced a major flood disaster in my own city, I had not understood the commentaries about red zones and public exclusion. I had not understood the implications and scale of works underway throughout the city. My lack of understanding – my assumptions – embarrasses me. Even with so much of the city already levelled, demolition was still the principle activity. Having already walked passed the severely damaged church, centrally located in Christchurch, the reality of the broken and fragmented city gripped me. The red zone boundary and the ruptured faultline mark and remake this time and space.

In drawing a line for my beginning point, I walk along several blocks of Cashel Street reflecting on the thresholds of past, present and future, as re-emergence, repair and reinvention. It is a path rather than a threshold that retraces others’ footsteps with an intent to stir new life. It is here that the city itself is facing its future, inviting citizens to rejoin the seams of the torn urban fabric, to step into the void. Many steps forward and backward. Progress is optimistic and strained. At times, with the scurrying, swarming and scampering of humanity and capitalism, the earth seems deadened. A new story could be told but stories, as Ingold says, “are … discovered retrospectively, often long after the telling, when listeners – faced with circumstances similar to those recounted in a particular story – find in its unfolding guidance on how to proceed”.

In this walk, the field – comprised of the works included in SCAPE 7 – determine my path, rather than the path generating a field. Perhaps it is my itinerary, my purpose that gives this field a different shape. Significantly, as Ingold explains, here the dimensions of earth, ground and sky unfurl. In the flattening of the city, a kind of ungrounding, the sky seems that much bigger. Vast cloud hangs overhead nearly every day during my visit, with only short bursts of sunshine.

2013-10-04 09.03.02
Fielder

Miranda Parkes

2013-10-04 09.06.16
Fielder

Miranda Parkes
(incomplete installation as at 4 October 2013)

A short walk from my hotel, Miranda Parkes’ works are positioned along Cashel Street, on now vacant and destitute sites where the fractured foundations of buildings remain. At times, depending on the dangers, the sites are fortified with temporary fencing and hoarding.  The works present a kind of thresholding of architecture, sculpture and painting. Like this or that, but not. There is another iteration of this work further down the street, in a park where I intend to sit and reflect.

2013-10-03 11.33.51
Flour Power

Regan Gentry, 2008

As I scan the surrounds, I note Regan Gentry’s Flour Power located nearby at the end (or beginning) or a pedestrian mall. I am still finding my bearings in the city, looking for points to anchor me in place and guide my way. This work was commissioned in 2008 by Christchurch City Council. It refers to the transition of land use since colonisation: once agricultural land yielding food for a new settlement, it has become urbanised. Such transitions are more like impositions and the colonial narrative is one of claiming power. Yet, the sculpture seems apt, even life affirming, in this place. The streetscape seems almost normal and at ease, even if quiet, with some neat facades along the paved street which offers a view to the cluster of trees in which Flour Power is positioned. Beyond them, though, heavy machinery digs into and piles up rubble. This work remained standing when the earthquakes struck and, in the post-earthquake context, it has become a symbol for resilience, renewal and rebirth – in keeping with the long held symbolism of wheat and grain, for remembrance and mourning.

2013-10-02 12.42.46
Inflected Forms

Shaun Gladwell

One of two installations by Shaun Gladwell, this work is also located on Cashel Street, near Parkes’ installations. They share a modern and sombre industrial and architectural aesthetic. They also address the prohibition and exclusion that has marked the city so profoundly while in response and recovery mode. While Parkes’ screens are porous, they offer a partial view. Gladwell’s sculptural pieces – suggestive of skateboarding or parkour – invite actions and agency that is often frowned on or outlawed in genteel urban environments. The cracks were showing, and like the fissures in the earth, presented new obstacles for citizenship and the right to the city. Even Gladwell’s still steel objects have cracks in them as an acknowledgement of the surrounding landscape and recovery effort. However, the works also recognise that the skateboarders were already boundary riding and launching into deserted spaces and danger zones (see Quaked at http://youtu.be/i2bvozq-KK8).

2013-10-02 13.09.40
t-Own Planning

Rosilisham Ismail, aka Ise

Re:Start is a small retail complex constructed from shipping containers that opened in October 2011. t-Own Planning is placed on the wall of a now empty car park behind the complex. An idea of town planning is juxtaposed against its reality in the disaster recovery zone; in the titling of the work, Ise poses an obvious question about ownership and inclusion. He asserts the difference in vision between community and government, highlighting the need for a more collaborative and creative form of governance. Community and culture, it seems, are useful for filling in the gaps, but not so for deliberation and decision making about the future of the city. It is one of my first encounters with the topological dimensions of inclusion-exclusion that Secor and Blum describe using the mobius strip as exemplar and metaphor.

2013-10-04 10.45.03
Fielder

Miranda Parkes
(incomplete installation as at 4 October)

Having walked a couple of blocks along Cashel Street, I am feeling uplifted. The street was lively offering the usual fare of high streets, albeit in different forms. Importantly, though, as I slip into step with the moving crowds, scanning and sensing, the small commercial strip offers some reprieve from the ruined cityscape. Everything and everyone is closer, more intimate, in streets that are generally deserted. They are a crowd. In merging with, copying and negotiating milling groups, there an inherent sociability of just being in public spaces, in step with and eye contact others. Walking also reveals surprises – not just the shock of destruction, but the surprise of renewal and invention. As things are built, as they rise from the ground, they gain significance. The ground itself, however, is cast as a difficulty, a problem. This seems to pose a challenge – here in this city stripped bare, questions of meaning and meaningfulness surface. In the making of things and objects, as the manifestations of meaning, the ground is obfuscated or, at least, overwritten. We engage not with the ground but with the things and objects that occupy it, not tracing paths but surfaces in the world. It is in keeping with Ingold’s description of ‘landscape surface’ as “supposed to present itself as a palimpsest for the inscription of cultural form” (p. 47). In my walking this path, I am endeavouring to explore Ingold’s proposition to the contrary:

that the forms of the landscape – like the identities and capacities of its human inhabitants – are not imposed upon a material substrate but rather emerge as condensations or crystallisations of activity within a relational field. As people, in the course of their everyday lives, make their way by foot around a familiar terrain, so its paths, textures and contours, variable through the seasons, are incorporated into their own embodied capacities of movement, awareness and response … But conversely, these pedestrian movements thread a tangled mesh of personalised trails through the landscape itself. Through walking, in short, landscapes are woven into life, and lives are woven into the landscape, in a process that is continuous and never-ending (p. 47).

For some time, I sat in the park at the top of Cashel Street, by the river, watching the installation of the green screens of Parkes’ third installation. I had noted earlier that they change in the light, at times they are illuminous. In this broken place, where demolition continues, it feels reassuring to watch something being constructed, assembled and made in the small park. The order and normalcy of the city warrants questioning, even in the gesture of a temporary artwork. In its installation, it is easy to appreciate the pre-fabricated aspects of the work and its references to the industrial and machinic production. There is mechanical precision in the way its parts fit together. Parkes’ work stands as an allegory for the rebuilding that is yet to come. It is, itself, a threshold or a screen, through which fragmented glimpses of ‘beyond’ are offered. While the landscape is transformed, the screen is neither obliteration nor transparent. It splits the view ahead, perhaps presenting a choice.

2.    Planting Ideas
Find a tree or plant

2013-10-02 13.15.16
Kaleidoscopic Nights

Rachael Dewhurst, 2012

There are, of course, trees and plants all around. The city is lush and green against its backdrop of distant mountains. Using the SCAPE 7 works as the anchors for this walk, I consult the guide and orient myself towards Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers. I am a visitor here and so finding my way means consulting the SCAPE 7 guides until I adjust to this street grid. I am weighed down by a catalogue, a magazine, maps (multiple copies in case I lose one), the Long Time, No See? Field Book and my network enabled tablet. Navigation – as in getting from one point to the next – is an intertextual endeavour, increasingly reliant on varying degrees of representation and augmented reality. Wayfaring, as in making sense of it all, means I am making a path that folds me into place through walking, writing, photographing and reading. There is both capture and release.

Unseen from Cashel Street, Rachel Dewhurst’s Kaleidscopic Nights spans a wall that borders a demolition and construction site. It is one of two murals by students from University of Canterbury and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology as part of the Resene Art in the Streets SCAPE Christchurch Mural project. Its abstract and dynamic forms seek to mirror the reviving high street. It can’t be seen from Cashel Street because the view is obstructed by hoarding. It is visible from other points around the fenced site which is vacant except for a tiny, two storey, timber 19th century shopfront, a tiny relic. The mesh fencing, which in other parts of the city has been decorated with banners, weaving and other interventions, offers a view that will gradually disappear as a new mixed use development emerges. Tragically, though, the haphazard forms look as if they have fallen, as if they are a formless heap or field of strewn fragments and shards, suggesting that perhaps there is something taking shape. Or perhaps, more optimistically, it is a settling sedimentary geology, of the earth at rest and into which roots will burrow. With so much damage in the city, this small act of rehabilitation of the wall, a solid wall, makes a bold statement. The earthquake imaginary (or memory) is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, even mine. I might also celebrate a wall in a city in which so many others cracked and fell.

I walked around the corner to look at the tiny old building, bearing the signage of its former occupant, a vintage watch seller and watchmaker. The flower boxes on the second storey window sills are full of artificial flowers. There is quaintness and poignancy in the scene of the lone building, damaged but still standing, having lost a wall and windows. Like one of the fragments in the mural it remains in a field of disparate objects where time takes, even seizes, place. But time is a medium, bound to context. Time is less about measurement, than it is about the events in this geographic context: “time is nothing but the events that occur within it” (Heidegger).

2013-10-02 13.32.23

2013-10-03 20.12.50
Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers

Julie Morison

I make my way to SCAPE 7 Headquarters, a temporary space in which Julia Morison’s Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers is the centrepiece. Inside the perimeter, cloaked in white tarpaulins, there are also some temporary buildings for information, sales and workshops, as well as a small stage, coffee van and Wayne Youle’s Flauntatiousness. Bike hire is also available so that visitors can tour SCAPE 7 across the city. Over the fencing, the crumbling facades of other buildings are visible, some supported by scaffolds. The white tarpaulins, which remind me of the makeshift hospitals seen in news reports, give a sense of inner sanctuary. At times when there are events, such as artist talks, in the venue, rows of chairs are positioned in front of the stage. Nearby there are other urban interventions including projects by Greening the Rubble, Gap Filler and similar groups. There is also a display for engaging community in recovery and future planning located in a repurposed shipping container.

In my earlier note about time, I was considering Tony Fry’s commentaries about issues of futuring and defuturing, as these inform the development of Long Time, No See?. In theorising and narrating the global crises facing ‘human being’ as defuturing, Fry talks about immediacy and urgency, and the need to ‘make time’. In this context, I see an image of how crises, entropy, aporia, unsettlement and response unfold. There are multiple speeds, multiple lines and multiple times; for all the engineering and the construction, there seems to be an absence of futuring. Rather, the gloss of urban management rhetoric sweeps away the past and merges with the flows of globalised capital in the unrelentingly drive for accelerating growth. Futuring and redirection, as I read it, are seeded in the small interventions, improvised actions, material understanding, meaningful exchanges and collaborative ventures by citizens. It requires a different kind of planning, a kind of planning that is responsive to how things might be otherwise, as explored in the work of Roslisham Ismail (aka Ise).

While there are some reports to the contrary, earthquakes are generally not regarded as climate change events, and so there is some reprieve from that pressing reality, even though we can never be outside of it. It is a different kind of disaster that is generated from the force and time of the earth’s crust. Yet, as a natural disaster in an unnatural world, it evokes our embeddedness in the world, our dwelling in time and our making as response. Without the earthquake, SCAPE 7 would have happened in another way, perhaps not significantly different to its previous iterations. It has found its footing rather than staked its claim. The earthquake has, to some extent, given it a different sense of purpose and relationship to the city grounded in care and directed at change. In this compound-like space, I am more at ease, less overwhelmed by the destruction of the city. These questions and issues come to mind in rapid succession. In seeking out this work in response to the instruction to ‘find a tree’, I am charting other ways of thinking about crisis, redirection, interconnectedness and sustainability. These structures are not actually trees. In writing topologically, alternative and emergent relationships – ‘being another way’ – can be traced. More importantly, however, it brings joy and intimacy as people occupy it and children run through its network of inner sheltered spaces.

Morison’s work is one of the legacy works from SCAPE 7. While most of the others are temporary, this is permanent. In this perverse context, permanent is unfathomable. Consequently, it speaks to the unsettlement in and of the city.

2013-10-02 13.34.19
Flauntatiousness
Wayne Youle

It was about midnight when my flight from Brisbane landed in Christchurch. It was dark and cold. My partner and I found the cab rank and slipped into the back seat asking the driver to take us to our hotel in the CBD. The driver was apologetic as we entered the CBD as she was uncertain about which roads were open. She drove cautiously in what seemed like circles until we eventually arrived. During that drive, we caught our first glimpses of the destroyed city. In the dark, it was empty and quiet. There were few cars around. It had recently rained and the road shimmered under the beaming headlights. The driver explained that the exclusion zone had only recently been lifted and that access changed daily. The roads were heavily signed, partitioned with traffic cones and enclosed by temporary fences. Even in its devastation, the city was better without cars or with restricted vehicular access.

Parked in the SCAPE 7 Headquarters, Flauntatiousness is an impressive black car covered in corporate logos. At times, it was driven – raced – through the streets, revved up and rumbling at traffic lights, and demanding attention in a perplexing show of machinic power and speed. The logos include those of sponsors, funding bodies and specially created logos for SCAPE 7 participating artists as well as fake ones that punned the post-earthquake context. The mobility of the project and its movement, sparked curiosity; it created scenes. Like the skateboarders who found a new kind of freedom in the deserted city, Flauntatiousness reclaims the streets, using them as a wide open field. With its focus on the ‘eventness’ of SCAPE 7, the work cast itself into its environment; it dragged the streets as the promotional machinery of an art event that endeavoured to engage an audience in a misadventure of message and media. There is ‘eventness’ in the recovery too as the logos of cranes, construction companies, government departments and consultancies adorn the city as if to say “this recovery is proudly brought to you by us”. The logo not only assert identity, it also claims ownership.

There was also a series of performance works, Can anybody hear me?, by Zina Swanson that I missed, having misread the program and the terrain. Perhaps I should have photographed the sites of each performance. In the catalogue, Barbara Garrie describes the work as “six encounters with plants in Christchurch’s central city”. Six volunteers were hypnotised and acted as mediums for communication with trees. Each volunteer was seated in a small space fenced by rope. The attempt to communicate with plants was a metaphor highlighting the difficulties of communication during the rebuild. It’s not just that some voices have not been heard, it’s also that they have not been elicited. But then, why communicate if there is no intention of listening? There is much pretense in the dynamics of urban planning and development, much subterfuge. Much is done for show. In this inquiring speaking with and listening to the plants there is an allusion to more empathic and imaginative relations and ecologies in lifeworlds that might otherwise be overlooked.

I am beginning now to get more of a feel for the cleverness of the curatorial ethos, and the approach taken by French. Many of the works might at first seem like benign forms of distraction, but there are deeper, even telling, political and cultural relations at play. With the red zone only recently lifted, many people are returning to the city for the first time since the earthquakes. While SCAPE 7 provides an event as something to focus on, it addresses the public in thoughtful and careful ways; not only drawing them into and through the built environment, but offering a meaningful and reflective engagement and articulation of diverse cultural, social and political experiences and alternatives. Curating is about care, and it can be a kind of care or caring that can change cities, change curating and change us.

3.    Getting Closer
Walk then stop

Christchurch’s streets are mostly empty and so I orient myself for the next point in the walk. Between there and here, I am instructed to alter the pace and rhythm of my walking, to let my mind drift between memory and possibility, to engage senses and sense. It’s another unsettling play of time and impermanence – memory and future in the time of now. In conversation with others I note that despite the emptiness of the city and the absence of traffic, I used the footpaths, waited patiently at traffic lights and generally adhered to an habituated order of the city. Forms like paths and streets remained largely in tact and in place. Gradually, during my stay, my walking became less constrained by deterministic urban forms. As I walked, I claimed more space and my gait became longer and more assertive, as if walking in an open field. There is a slight shift into smooth space, the space of the nomad, blurring the disciplinary striations of control and order.

In an exhibition about the earthquake, I viewed CCTV video footage of people’s reactions when the earthquake struck. As the earth shook violently, people were disoriented as they ran into open spaces or sought shelter. The footage showed a building shatter into a pile of debris and dust. As the dust dissipated, a man stepped out from the doorway offering assistance to others, then rushing away. There’s an ominous oddness in walking on this now still earth, leaping over cracks and following the lines of barricades.

2013-10-02 12.26.58
Nucleus

Phil Price, 2006

It seems that I am writing and walking from point to point rather than inscribing a line, so perhaps I have not yet articulated a “meshwork of entangled lines of life, growth and movement”. The line is continuous, intersecting other lines and comprised of many movements, even though it is an instruction to move from one point to the next, encountering other points along the way. ‘Along the way’ is a pleasant roll of phrase as it alludes to a sense of becoming and process, a line. The way is not necessarily given, but made, as Ingold describes;

In a world of becoming, however, even the ordinary, the mundane or the intuitive gives cause for astonishment – the kind of astonishment that comes from treasuring every moment, as if, in that moment, we were encountering the world for the first time, sensing its pulse, marvelling at its beauty, and wondering how such a world is possible (64).

For Ingold, the meshwork is comprised of interwoven lines, rather than connected points: “Every such line describes a flow of material substance in a space that is topologically fluid” (64). Even though so much of Christchurch is bounded, inaccessible and fenced, the space seems fluid, even smooth. Lifelines are traced and entangled.

As Phil Price’s kinetic sculpture Nucleus rolls and spins through its wind powered movements, the red central disk opens and closes; flowing interplay of the elemental and machinic. Nearby there is a rehabilitated garden featuring palms with rustling fronds located on a traffic island, a sign that urban order is being restored. Its moving quadrants make reference to the planned and laid out built environment, suggesting harmony and balance that bely complexity. Having been installed and gifted to the city in 2006, the sculpture has prevailed as a reminder of the importance of those urban values and history. It takes on new significance as the surrounding environment is demolished and rebuilt. Not so much a reminder, but perhaps a remnant that will assert a presence in a different field as new urban forms emerge. As I pass, I pause to watch its slow and geometric dance with curling air currents. It also looks like semaphore as if signalling – a welcome or warning? It is both architectural and industrial, like Parkes’ nearby Fielder installations. Both works share a heavy industrial aesthetic, anchored into the ground yet subsiding to lightness. They embrace both sky and earth enlivened in a field of relationships and flows.

2013-10-02 12.23.22
Duck Soup

Rob Hood

My first encounter with one of Rob Hood’s Duck Soup installations. A bucket is mounted on a post in a humourous reference to the Marx Brothers’ film of the same name. It took me some time to identify this as the artwork. Having studied the map and the locality, my scanning eyes kept missing the slight installation. There was a doubletake, a moment when I pondered ‘why is that bucket on that post?’, and then the realisation with which my eyes opened wide and I laughed heartily out loud. The laughter was a relief, perhaps the first time I had laughed since being here as I was often on the verge of tears. Having fallen into listening seriously and speaking in hushed and empathic tones, the deep viscerality of this shocked place bubbled up into the open.

2013-10-03 08.31.10
t-Own Planning

Rosilisham Ismail, aka Ise

The tabula rasa is commonly evoked in critical works about urban planning as a modernist call to action to erase and construct the city anew. There was no certainty in the city except that which was authorised by planning. The historic construction of this type of authoritarian planning has been repeatedly challenged as citizens have demanded to be included in the decision making processes which shape cities. There is a rich stream, now, of planning theory and practice that is collaborative and participatory. Citizens not only expect it, they demand it. Having collaborated with residents, video shot in stop motion shows the assemblage of Ise’s collaged billboards hanging in the RE:start Mall. It is projected on to screens in the window of a vacant shop. Barely visible during the day, it is radiant at night time. Hands reach and move across the screen constantly placing and arranging images that capture the imagining and visioning of the rebuild. Here, the future of the city was open to negotiation; the plan itself was open.

Shortly before my visit, the government had released its blueprint for the city and this was a talking point. The city had been overwhelmed by the plan. Many reported their disillusionment and frustration that the consultations did not reflect resident aspiration. As a participatory work, t-Own Planning offers an alternative approach to engagement and futuring that offers more grounded and experiential perspectives on futuring and planning process. In general conversation many people refer to the poor quality of engagement, expressing their dismay at the governance and decision making that yields more erasure and striation. I’ve resisted, so far, referrring to neoliberalism and the overwriting, gentrification and incursion of cities that ensues. There is graffiti around the city that claims the city has been lost twice: first to the earthquakes and then to the planners. The participatory process had been usurped, perpetrated against people instead of offering a transformative platform for both participation and planning itself (Miessen):

By means of cyclical specialisation, the future spatial practitioner could arguably be understood as an outsider who – instead of trying to set up or sustain common denominators of consensus – enters existing situations or projects by deliberately instigating conflicts as a micro-political form of critical engagement with the environment that one is operating in (Meissen, see http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-08-01-miessen-en.html).

Conflict has a specific meaning for Miessen – as agonistic and intentional – directed towards change-making. As I continue to skip and jump, pause, turn and leap through the city streets, I feel like I am making slightly sculptural differentiations. It might not be out of place here, as such disrupted walking might just be the kind of footwork needed for this ruptured landscape. However, larger scale processes and events seem out of step with the pulse and people of the city. Zones of conflict have been perpetuated; the time of treading carefully is done. There’s a sense of contingency and provisionality where cultural, collaborative and collective ventures will make way for more aggressive forms of property development and disengagement, which ultimately entrench the experience of displacement and unsettlement. And what of the commons that projects like SCAPE seek to protect and preserve? Hardt describes the commons as “a form of organisation, a space, and the object of struggle”. Ise’s work highlights care as part of commoning and engenders critical spatial practice and minor social infrastructure as a challenge to and reinterpretation of space and public. As a participatory (co-produced) work in SCAPE, t-Own Planning creates an outside space that exposes, as Miessen describes it, ‘political politics’.

The infrastructural aspects of public art is becoming a larger question that inflects against consideration of the ‘role’ of public art in placemaking, community building, architecture, urban design and the like. Offering an infrastructural position suggests a different set of questions and evokes a different topological space. One rarely asks about the role of infrastructure – and so this idea of the infrastructural, even as a process that creates or revives the commons, seems worthy.

4.    Taking Care
Find a place to sit

The influence of Ingold’s work in my writing of the Long Time, No See? project and my development of Fieldworking is becoming more apparent. It’s as if my two texts are written as interpretations of – minor homages to – Ingold’s important work. There are lines in Ingold’s text where he makes reference to Mauss’ ideas of body techniques, as habits and productions that reveal habitats. Mauss refers to the chair as an inhibitant of other bodily techniques – the chair being unnecessary except to train us in particular ways of sitting. He also found that, despite the sense of second nature in our walking, there is no ‘natural’ way of walking and that ways of walking are dependent on the circumstances in which people live and are socialised. And so in asking for a place to sit, having just othered the rhythms of my walking and orienting myself along the lines of the SCAPE 7 projects, I hasten towards Dan Arps Common Coop Co-op and Fiona Connor’s Common Co-op Coop.

2013-10-02 12.11.33
Common Coop Co-op / Common Co-op Coop

Dan Arps / Fiona Connor

I’ve visited these works daily since my arrival in Christchurch. The nearby building, which houses the Physics Room, a cafe and a cinema, remained intact and then reopened after the earthquake. It is a cultural and social hub surrounded by temporarily rehabilitated landscapes including an edible garden. There is interplay of the two works that offers a critique of the current urban condition and which I read as levelled at practices of urban design. Arps has installed a series of black sculptural objects across the levelled site together with a chicken coop, while Connor’s work is comprised of more familiar elements such as a picnic bench and gate. The site is shared and the elements play against and with each other. While Connor’s vernacular street and park furniture refer to more traditional spatial practices, Arps’ might herald things to come suggesting more contemporary styles of street furniture, alternative global city ontologies.

Questions abound here – about possibility and failure. Having heard so many stories from those disillusioned by the rebuilding and planning process, the failure of imagination is made explicit. While there is some attempt here to introduce new elements into the space, to provoke thought and conversation, there is an overwhelming sense of emptiness. I am alone, sitting, looking. The chicken coop, the seating and the noticeboard are all empty, all un-used. Certainly there are gestures to the social, acts of alternative social design and suggestions of a re-emergent commons, perhaps even an alternative infrastructure. Reflecting on the many disillusioned stories heard about the rebuild and planning, I wonder, then, if this work highlights a failure of imagination in normative planning.

2013-10-02 12.06.28
Inflected Forms

Shaun Gladwell

In what is now a carpark sits a sliced block of steel comprised of three pieces. Another of Gladwell’s works, although less like a skateable form to my unknowing eye than the works on Cashel Street. Like the other works, it has a sombre and silent presence, almost like memorial. The imprint of a former laneway is etched into the ground. I step onto the block, then down, then, for a moment, sit. I feel more exposed here than in the Arps/Connor installation. Cars pull into the space, the gravel crunches under their tyres. It’s such a familiar and careless sound. There is a heavy suggestion of what Ingold – referring to Bohm – describes as

a world of movement and becoming, in which any thing – caught at a particular place and moment – enfolds within its constitution the history of relations that have brought it there. In such a world, we can understand the nature of things only by attending to their relations, or in other words, by telling their stories (p. 160).

Stories, as Ingold reveals, occur rather than exist. They unfold in a field and in relation; they meet and loop. My wayfaring has brought me here and I don’t know this place well enough to tell a story. I only have my own story and a traveller’s tale. My path has crossed that of others and I have, heard their stories. If, as my Long Time, No See? guide asks, I should consider the qualities of this place that make it possible for caring, then it must be these stories, this twine and tangle of stories that shape my wayfaring. Once I might have thought of these as contours, earthly and topographic, but here they are turning in topological twist.

5.    Giving More
Find a place where there are other people

2013-10-02 13.29.31
Level Playing Field / Powerslide

David Cross

I wondered if this Level Playing Field might have made a more appropriate, more playful, more meaningful encounter for the Long Time, No See? instruction to alter the pace of walking and movement. In this circumstance, the steps would be falling onto an uneven inflatable surface, risking the loss of my footing on the unpredictable field, possibly slipping and tripping. Small groups of people participate in the play of Level Playing Field. The more I look at this, the more poignant it becomes. Like an epiphany, my mind makes connections between the uncertainties of the game and place, of community and team. It offers a different approach to repair and to healing, encouraging participants to face their fears of a trembling ground. The large inflatable game has an interior and exterior. As players charge over the top, others inside are pulling ropes to create instability. There is exuberance as players lunge across the field, lose their footing and fall or dive into the soft oversized pillow, a soft architecture. Others call out and cheer in the spirit and safety of play. And for a short time, the shaking ground is not a threat or a trauma. This shared feeling of rising to the challenge is uplifting. There is lightness and levity.

2013-10-02 13.45.22
Duck Soup

Rob Hood

Meandering down Gloucester Street, beyond SCAPE HQ into the Regent Street precinct, a group of young people have discovered one of the iterations of Duck Soup. Purposefully not spectacular and not monumental, the Duck Soup installations offers humourous distractions. The group collects stones, rocks and other detritus from the ground, which is in plentiful supply, pegging them into the bucket, egging each other on as stones hit the steel with a clang. There’s plenty of rubble. In general, the city is surprisingly quiet. There is little traffic, only the sounds of construction and demolition reverberate around the city. Like the Level Playing Field, Duck Soup offers a playful distraction, equally a test of skill and humour in the face of adversity and precarity. Perhaps the topological is also misleading. Perhaps I, like others, have been misled and things are never what they seem. SCAPE 7 seems to play on this – there is an itinerary, there is art – but it’s not easy going. A political reality and rationality is exposed here, subtley although pointedly.

There’s something else here, perhaps related to the political themes of the film Duck Soup. Groups of youths throwing stones is not the stuff of comfortable and complacent democracies that slowly and unashamedly edge towards the right and neoliberalism. Democracy rarely fares well in this era of emergency and perpetual crisis and French’s curatorial approach seems to tangentially interrogate this as SCAPE 7 seems to steer through the crosscurrents of its context. As Elaine Scarry writes, the power to decide is excised from the body politic, while thinking and deliberation as the precursors to action are retained by those in power; actions are often deployed in militaristic fashion. The young people on the street throwing stones pose no threat or disturbance – they are merely looking at art.

6.    Breaking Silence
Listen and find a sound or sounds

2013-09-28 13.55.01
I was using six watts when you received me …

Maddie Leach & Jem Noble

My paths are rarely direct. I’ve made a few stops along the way. Working my way across town, I stumble on the orange tree, a tree wrapped in high-visibility tape. It’s another intervention where sorrow and humour resonate. There are other interventions and experiments that suggest both emergency and recovery. Generally my path follows the Avon River to the site of I was using six watts when you received me … in a northern corner Hagley Park. A caravan is parked on the large open green and a small crowd is gathering, waiting. I had noted earlier that Christchurch doesn’t sound much like a city, due mostly to the absence of traffic, buildings and, generally, people. Sound doesn’t bounce around buildings and spaces in a way I might anticipate. Just the constant sounds of heavy machinery involved in demolition and construction. Around retail areas, like Cashel Street, other more intimate sounds create bubbles of music and chatter. I have missed chatter and murmuring as people catch up, laugh and socialise.

The park is bounded by magestic trees, most of which are about a century old. It is one of the few sunny times during my visit; it’s warming as we sit on the grass awaiting to make contact with the space station which will soon pass overhead. And we find here old friends, long gone from our home of Brisbane. It says something about the geography of art and biennials as global or international events, as both beyond and beholden to locality, as sites of convergence. It says something about the meshwork of the lifeworld. The movements of travellers give these events their shape and flow, often intangible and gestural. For Ingold, the meshwork is a web of interwoven lines rather than connecting points. He shifts the idea of the network from the connections (points or nodes) to the lines, the flows: “Every such line describes a flow of material substance in a space that is topologically fluid”. It has a Deleuzian sensibility that is particularly resonant as the crowd converges – each human is “an unbounded entanglement of lines in fluid space” – and the transmission commences. There is, I think, a fault, perhaps a faultline, in this writing that tends towards focusing on the points rather than the lines and the entanglements. This walking, this writing as fieldworking aspires to “skilled practice [involving] developmentally embodied responsiveness”.

I was using six watts when you received me … has an experimental, hit and miss feel. They may or may not make contact with the space station. But we have made contact with each other.

2013-10-02 13.25.42
Duck Soup

Rob Hood

In considering Ingold’s commentary about habit and skill, I have become more self-conscious. Not self-aware, but self-conscious, even embarrassed or awkward. This week of being and living in Christchurch has required significant adjustments. Perhaps I have already noted that it took a couple of days before I shook off the constraints or disciplines of urbanism, like walking on footpaths and waiting for lights to change in a city with no traffic. And this, I suspect, may be in keeping with Ingold’s extrapolation of immanence; of the world in process, of its  “continual generation or coming-into-being”. This requires reflection of being in the world, or “of being alive to the world”. It’s an idea of such stunning potency: “a heightened sensitivity and responsiveness, in perception and action, to an environment that is always in flux, never the same from one moment to the next”. As I peg a small stone at one of Rob Hood’s Duck Soup installations set in a soft green lawn, I feel enlivened, though my aim of off and the rock hits the side of the bucket, falling to the soft grass below.

Animacy, then, is not a property of persons imaginatively projected onto the things with which they perceive themselves to be surrounded. Rather … it is the dynamic, transformative potential of the entire field of relations within which beings of all kinds, more or less person-like or thing-like, continually and reciprocally bring one another into existence. The animacy of the lifeworld, in short, is not the result of an infusion of spirit into substance, or of agency into materiality, but is rather ontologically prior to their differentiation.

There is openness to the world, always moving and tremulous, a world becoming world (Merleau-Ponty). And walking and writing in a world becoming world makes for a reverberating sense of living and leaving. Like in the first point in this walk, there is a leaving behind and movement into another kind of world, a step into a world becoming world. This is my concern about public art, and the crux of this project. In experiencing a work of public art (urban design or other urban intervention), we become aware to our environment but closed to the world. Awareness closes. And here, I am concerned for the topological dimensions of openness for formation of the world. I am writing this writing as texture, and this walking this walking as path. And this distinction should provide some insight into the intentionality of the Long Time, No See? project.

7.    Talking Point
Walk to a spot you haven’t been before or rarely go

2013-10-02 11.59.44
Artbox, venue for Bodytok Quintet: The Human Instrument Archive
Phil Dadson

Ingold cleverly inverts the relational perspective, arguing that a being/thing is the relation, a tangle: a human can be “knots in a tissue of knots, whose constituent strands, as they become tied up with other strands, in other knots, comprise the meshwork”. These are lines of growth and movement. As I move, I become a line, not on the world but in the world, in relation to the world, woven into it. Ingold’s analysis of Heidegger, Gibson, Agamben and others negotiates the language of enclosure and disclosure as it applies to things, animals and humans; what this means for their relation in the world. He then takes flight with Deleuze into more joyful and exuberant revelations of life and living.

In an arrangement of shipping containers, repurposed as an exhibition space, a series of video works that document sounds made with  human bodies are screening. There are tremors and reverberations of lines. The videos are intimate – usually head and shoulders – featuring an individual who demonstrates how they can make sounds with their body. Such body sounds are usually humourous and abject, not for polite company with their tendency for squelch, belch, slap and slurp. Movement in the gallery triggers the videos and the viewer can mix the audio; when all five videos are playing, as a quintet, the audio both competes and complements. It takes me a while to realise that my movements can alter rhythm and experience. The notion of body techniques (Mauss, Elias) as craft and practice. I can engage in a kind of play or playing in a pre-lingual soundscape involving bodily distortion and contortion, in the making of sounds not intended to communicate. The ‘bodiliness’ (or bodyness) makes us laugh: yet, it is dissolute. And so each being is not only an entanglement but also entangled in relations. I feel this as a kind of joining with.

2013-10-02 11.57.25
Passing Time

Anton Parsons, 2011

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) is located directly over the road. On the corner, Passing Time stands at its entrance, a twisted loop of metal with numerals etched into its surfaces. It is described elsewhere as a ‘twisted ribbon’, and initially it suggests a mobius strip but not quite. Infinity, but not quite.

I have reached what feels like an edge of the city, which gives me pause to reflect and rest before I fold back on my path. I am vaguely aware that the next part of the walk will involve walking back through the light industrial area to the opposite edge of the city. There are secret lives in this area, which suffers fewer scars from the earthquake, and I have made many discoveries: a vegetarian cafe where I have breakfasted, the record shop with a zine library in its foyer, the delicatessen where I purchased freeze dried berries and more. While it is simple and easy stuff, like the mobius strip, it also seems somehow miraculous. There is a strange kind of localisation in this place. In my mind, the mobius strip becomes more meaningful as an object lesson or metaphor of the topological imaginary. I am unsure which. Topological accounts, according to Wylie and Rose (2006) tend to “the scrambling of conventional categories, distinctions, and geographies … [that] implies not a stable set of connections but rather a burgeoning, proliferating, even wondrous topology in which uncanny and hybrid foldings of near and far and past and present become crucial”.

Counting the years, as Parsons has done in Passing Time, is not the same as counting the spaces or sensing the movements in and of space like the twist of the mobius strip. A twist which refuses an inside and outside, hence an allusion to localisation. As Martin and Secor explain:

Topology does not merely direct us to the (well worn) idea that space emerges from the relations between things; it directs us to understand the spatial operation of continuity and change, repetition and difference. In other words, topology directs us to consider relationality itself and to question how relations are formed and then endure despite conditions of continual change. (Towards a post-mathematical topology, Martin, Lauren; Secor, Anna J. Progress in Human Geography 38.3 (Jun 2014): 420-438)

With reference to Lacan, there is an algorithmic relationship between space and psyche, as well as crossings from one state to another, stretching the symbolic, subjective and discursive. My own walking has looped and crossed. The ground itself has folded and flexed. It is my understanding that in or out of this shifting and instability, meaning itself has shifted. Some work, even if remaining in the same place or site, has become otherwise symbolic, otherwise meaningful, otherwise displaced (possibly as remnant, ruin or memorial). This alterity provokes a thinking that enlivens the spatial and sensory experience of this city and calls on us, as Ingold has, to abandon “the fixities of genes, images, recordings and landscapes for the generative movements, respectively, of life, light, sound and weather” (97). By necessity, or default, a multiplicity emerges from or as the multiplication of space, subjectivity and language. Topological figures like the mobius strip are, as Secor explains after Lacan, “produced by the voids they encircle as the origin and limit of their own structures” (Lacan, 2006a, 2006b). My own spatial imaginary is gradually reorienting and disorienting as I walk around these streets inscribing a textural path.

And my word for the future, as prompted by the Long Time, No See? Field Book, is drawn from Ingold. It is a word I have come to love and with which I have come to understanding my walking and fieldworking in the place. The word is ‘wayfaring’.

8.    Enduring Legacy
Find a place that you think is wasted or empty

During my visit and walking, I have heard many stories from the people I have met about the failure of the political and planning system is as great a loss as the earthquake. Secor explains geographers analyse all kinds of topologies, not literally how or if the city folds or bends, but “the workings of power, the traces of memory, or the Möbius circuits of inclusion and exclusion”. She describes topological figures as immanent structures that can help us understand spatial relations and express spatial relations. As immanent structure, the topological figure offers “a nontotalized, open dialectic between interior and exterior, between the past and the future, and between the city and the subject”.

2013-10-02 14.12.03
Duck Soup
Rob Hood

2013-10-02 14.18.20
Duck Soup

Rob Hood

And then to two iterations of Rob Hood’s Duck Soup, sited in what we might understand as lost spaces (Roger Trancik), an idea that relates to notions of placelessness and non-place. Rosen might describe this as a ‘radical divergence’ that is disruptive of object, spatial and subject relations and unities. In this zone of lostness, there is a reverberant becoming and a shaking of subjectivism. As Shields argues, “[t]opological approaches can take apart the static poles of ontology” (p. 156). And Duck Soup might be like the wormholes of discontinous space and embodiment; the tracing of those topological edges which defy the boundedness of inside and outside. At times, as I walk around Christchurch, I am overcome by a sense of alienation – this sense of lostness is pervasive and overpowering. The city lies wasted and ruined: this is equally a response to what remains and a response to an image of what might be. With plans complete, the potent possibilities rising from grassroots and ephemeral initiatives may be displaced. New productions of space and public are at play, and the global and local make competing claims. Maarten Hajer and Arnold Reijndorp argue that “In the network society everyone puts together their own city. Naturally this touches on the essence of the concept of public domain. Public domain experiences occur at the boundary between friction and freedom.” Duck Soup might just occupy that boundary – it doesn’t attempt to offer a mask for a new or emergent city rising from the rubble; it is situational and open, gestural and sculptural.

Topology offers an alternative storying of and for this world.

9.    Welcoming Embrace
Walk for three minutes or more

2013-10-03 10.57.32
Muegano

Héctor Zamora

Shortly before I arrived and before SCAPE 7 opened, Christchurch was hit by a severe storm which caused (more) damage to much of the city, including to Héctor Zamora’s Muegano work located in the Botanic Gardens. The relationship with this piece was tense – not only damaged, like so much of the city, but its crystalline tangle was reminiscent of the collapse of buildings and houses. Sensitivities were heightened when the work was realised at the time of the first earthquakes in 2010. Two years on, the damage resulted in removal of the work by October 2013. Muegano offers a reflection on the simple form and style of local housing, studied by the artist. While Christchurch is a tidy and orderly city, the work presents a more chaotic architectural vision. The artist assembles a composite steelwork to shape an impossible architecture that reflects in the still waters of the lake. Light bounces around the steel frame. Birds take shelter and rest in the structure. Despite its architectonic turbulence, I find that it has a cloud-like appearance. Perhaps it is the reflection, or its transparency, or its seeming lightness as it rests on water.

A local journalist, Chris Moore, offers a rousing and pleading commentary about the removal of the work; it becomes symbolic of the magnitude of losses endured by the city. It also reflects the weariness with which citizens experience the rolling demolitions and slow rebuild. I heard stories of people who are still living in damaged homes unable to move and awaiting insurance claims to be processed. Symbols of endurance, like Flour Power, and repair – not just the makeshift or transitional – hold residents in space and place. For Moore, “Christchurch stands at a point in its history where it must retain rather than remove … I’d prefer that we defy the concept of a disposable city and reinstall a sense of lasting permanence and beauty. Let’s do something different and retain Muegano in all its glory. Let’s reassemble rather than disassemble.” There is such deep loss here, such weighty mourning in this discursive topology. For sure, much of the city is destroyed but it not a clean slate; it is not empty. The topology of exception has forcefulness; the panoramic view is revealing of the movements of enfolding and unfolding, opening and enclosing. Even in its contradiction, the mobius strip does not wipe away all of history, all of time, all of us.

2013-10-02 14.49.46
Solidarity Grid

Mischa Kuball

Like other works in SCAPE 7, Mischa Kuball’s Solidarity Grid blurs an imagined divide between the infrastructural and the public artwork. It is an infrastructure project comprising a reassemblage of the elements of roads, lighting and energy, charting flows between cities and their governing bodies. Many cities develop a palette or a style for their public works in an effort to confer coherence, consistency and identity in place. The style marks and signifies place and, at times, heritage and progress. Kuball’s work will be comprised of a grid of 21 street lights gifted by other cities that will be installed along the walkway between North Hagley Park and Park Terrace. The project exemplifies the complexity of invisible flows and exchanges between cities in globalism. Commencing with a replica gaslight from Dusseldorf, the new grid will include street lamps donated by Belgrade, Sydney, Adelaide and Kurashiki.

In his essay ‘Counting (on) Change’, Roger Sherman notes that “[c]ities today develop at a rate that outpaces architects’ and planners’ efforts to shape them”. He stresses smaller scale development in “realizable chunks or increments, placing an emphasis more on augmentation than organization”.The artist, then, is well placed to augment and modify: to interject, intersperse and interfere. The curator, too, is well placed to practice and improvise approaches with and for the city – not design, not planning – as narrative and topology. In tracing flows of communication, transport and politics, Kuball changes this environment and engages the public in a different kind of placemaking and infrastructure. While the stories of many cities converge along this path, the gesture of solidarity and the gifting of street lamps are alive with a different kind of exchange, energy and economy. This is in keeping with a view of the SCAPE 7 initiative as a form of infrastructuring; as a way of engaging the present to enable future use or occupation of the city.

The final point in the Long Time, No See? walk asks for a hand print and a message for the future. It seems apt in some ways with those streetlights having changed hands as gifts. Having forgotten to bring some chalk with me, I was trying to figure out how to make a hand print in the immediate surrounds. There was a small patch of sand on the ground. As I pressed my hand into it, a man stopped on the footpath and asked, ‘are you doing a project?’ A conversation begins and we spend the next hour – maybe more – standing on the footpath and talking. I am keen to hear about his experiences and he tells me about the earthquake in Christchurch, the devastation, the failures of planning and consultation. He says the people have been disenfranchised. Then he tells me about having lost his business and, sadly, his spouse to cancer. So much has happened with one event after another – crisis after crisis, loss after loss. He is standing with me talking about his days spent in his community, where he participates in all kinds of activity, but he doesn’t believe in the rhetoric about resilience. I wonder if he has a point, with authorities promoting community resilience as a way of abrogating of responsibility. He has lost faith and trust in institutions which have treated so many people unkindly – insurers, government, banks. They give very little only to take so much. He is worried for the future – it’s a worry we share – smiling and nodding. During one of the speeches heard during my visit I was reminded of an old Maori saying:

He aha te mea nui?
He tangata.
He tangata.
He tangata.

It means “What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.”

In this crisis zone, this has all the more power and poignancy. Together on the footpath, sharing this story, we are worried for the future. Yet, having lost so much, this man tells me that he wants to spend his days protesting – he is now 65 and retired – making sure that the treasured ecology and landscapes of New Zealand are protected. He has a plan sketched out – it is generous and giving – though it is his plan and so I won’t tell you too much. However, he says that he can rearrange his life, participating in protests and sharing his modest resources as part of a movement to protect this place. He brought me grief and joy at once. I am so grateful, so touched, so moved in this moment. In reflecting on Kuball’s work, the metaphors of illumination – knowing – have something to offer this place, beyond the good intentions of urban planning. Likewise, those ideas of finding our way through and in the dark. I share this story because the future is both known and unknown, there will be days when you too are overwhelmed by ruin and a stranger will invite you in their dreams, their days and their life. And you will accept that invitation and be beautifully surprised by the life and possibility they share with you. You will thank them and wish them luck and hope to see them again. One day.

–oOo–

PROLOGUE: Straight, Forward
ASPLEY, AU: Along Little Cabbage Tree Creek
CHRISTCHURCH, NZ: SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial
EPILOGUE

–oOo–

Advertisements