Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 15 - the X issue
Log 15 - the X issue

Christchurch - Andrew Paul Wood


Christchurch is more British than the British, more English than Kate Bush wearing a Union Jack, singing a medley of ‘O England, My Lionheart’, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ in St. Paul’s on the Queen’s birthday and then nipping away for a luke-warm cup of milky tea, a chip buttie and a mince pie. In short, it is the final bastion of Albion’s imperial diaspora at the edge of the Pacific. It is also highly conservative when it comes to anything new. It was then not unsurprising that the reaction to Neil Dawson’s ‘Chalice’ (a giant metal cone balanced on its tip that looks like a huge metal mary-jane representing the eddies of leaves caused by the Nor’wester, Canterbury’s equivalent of the Sirocco or Mistral) in the middle of Cathedral Square. However, immediately after the horrific events in the US (and we all felt a little bit American), Cantabrians began piling flowers and candles around it in a scene reminiscent of the apotheosis of Princess Di. ‘Chalice’ has now been colonised by the community and will be forever part of the city. Why? Perhaps because it’s a completely neutral totem, free of any political or religious signifiers. One sane soul even affixed the following ironic, but heartfelt and accurate addendum: "For ALL the victims of American foreign policy". I concur. Alas O Babylon.

There have only been three shows all year worth speaking of in Christchurch, and the really scary thing is that two of them were put on by CoCA gallery (a.k.a. abominations in the house of Feeney). Firstly there was Dark Plains, an attempt to breathe life into that cliched old chestnut about the supposed dark, sinister, brooding qualities of Christchurch art. Julia Morrison made giant trippy flowers - hardly spooky, a little Alice in Wonderland maybe. Margaret Dawson contributed photographs of children in the wilderness of the suburb of Bryndwr (cute, with a hint of the nastiness of the Brothers Grimm). Andrew Drummond was Andrew Drummond. Bill Hammond and Tony DeLatour were excellent and are a testament to NZ/ Canterbury painting (and the only genuine revellers in the horrors of the Id at the show). Later in the year, CoCA tried to cast off its dowdy, matronly image by putting on a show called Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Yawn. Rather tame with the occasional flash of titty - all a little ‘nudge,nudge - wink, wink’, naughty schoolboy for me. The Dunedin Flying Nunn exhibition was infinitely better.

The Physics Room put on a champion show, truly epic, called Phonic that combined the most interesting interactive technology with some nice phat beats. Vast numbers of menus on a host of computers let you pick any one of a screed of game-like formats. These amusing diversions let you tweak and mix a whole bunch of sound. Groovy.

Special mention goes to the High Street Project show Li Lo. Hannah Beehre made this big circular raised conversation pit. You climbed a swimming pool ladder into it and when you sat down, the white vinyl sighed contentedly. The other side of that show was Eddie Clemens’ ‘Pink and White Terraces’ - the art historical cliché of the landscape retold in piles of those little pink and white loose-leaf note piles that come in the little plastic boxes. He chose the theme because he was born in Rotorua (where the Terraces were) and I think it may well be his first truly important mature work. For those of you who don’t know, the Pink and White Terraces were a world famous NZ volcanic geological formation of unsurpassable beauty that got buried forever in a massive volcanic eruption. And that was art in Christchurch.

ANDREW PAUL WOOD is an art historian/cultural critic/writer living in Christchurch: 26yo, GSWM, blnd/hzl, 6’5"... Likes ’80s nostalgia and long moonlight walks on the beach.


Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room