Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 2 - Orientalism
Log 2 - Orientalism

Christchurch Roundup
Sara Mitchell


The all pervasive busi-ness of the Christchurch arts community has provided an action packed line up through the winter months: lots on and lots to come including films, festivals, art . . . performance . . . performance art . . . films, festivals, and more art.

An unexpected drawcard of the Canterbury Film Festival was the opportunity to watch Passolini's controversial Salo: 120 Days of Sodom (minus its stolen ending), a seminal piece of film history rarely available here, even in the second decade since its making. Within its conspiratorial circles of perversion, shit, and blood Salo certainly lived up to its reputation proving to be both extreme and extremely worth watching.

Another international phenomenon which recently graced Christchurch was London based artist Simon Biggs. Working as the Artist in Residence at Canterbury University, Simon drew upon local talent to model as his naked angel-like-floating-forms which were the basis for his technohappy installation Magnet at the Robert McDougal Art Annex in June/July. Magnet had a kind of black-and-white ceremonial beauty somewhat reminiscent of Christine Webster's Black Carnival installed in the same space not so long ago. However, Simon's installation had added techno-features of projections and audience interaction: changes of movement within the dual projections of figures and parts of figures, triggered by somebody-anybody stepping into a spot of light.

Simon also teamed-up with Fiona Gunn for a successful collaboration at the new High Street Project as part of the currently running Lots series. Simon and Fiona's separate and combined contributions culminated in an untitled installation involving an up-side-down see-saw contraption and two books. Thinking into an Empty Chamber by Fiona and The Reading Room by Simon, were a collection of images and sometimes highly personalised texts sourced from email correspondence between the artists. The books were mediated by a see-saw framework which also negotiated the space, and in turn was negotiated by the reader: invited to do so by chairs-for-sitting-and-reading placed next to the books at either end of the installation.

The Lots series, which was kicked off with Codename:Frieda by Violet Faigan and Duane Zarakov, aims to encourage a variety of artists to collaborate with other more-or-less established, more-or-less artists. Other shows in the series have included Space by Sean Kerr and Mike Dunn, combining an actual and a virtual gallery experience; Mute by Paul Sutherland and Brian McMillan (a somewhat rushed rehash of past work but still with a nice feel); and Disgusting Dioramas by Ronnie Van Hout and Jemma Upritchard with a touch of indoor/outdoor taxidermy, model landscapes, model men, plastic farm animals, and real-life sand hoppers.

The Fiat Lux films Shadows and Smog, based on the Auckland line-up Shadows and Fog outlined in last issue of LOG, were screened to an appreciative audience at the University Free Theatre. There was a lot of low budget, low tech work from the Auckland region, the highlight for me being the dancing crocodile in David Townsend's Danse Classique and Graham McFellin's untitled work featuring a stuffed dog with a waggly tail. Unfortunately the majority of work did not have the edge over the best of the similarly made, fast, fun, experimental, mainly low budget work prevalent at the 10th Wellington Fringe Short Film Festival in July (which I was lucky enough to attend in a brief sortie north of Christchurch). Most excellent was Jon Baxter's very funny splatter comedy movie Frigid and also enjoyable was Paul Swadel's `pretentious art film' number Protection (His). Cameron Ross' animated Monster 3D Robots was well received, along with Simon Howden's more experimental contribution of filmic working drawings in On the Way Home.

Both Ann Shelton and Joyce Campbell have separately returned to Christchurch for their first shows here since their collaboration Pink Bits at High Street last year. Ann coincided her Red Eye show at the Robert McDougal Art Annex with the launch of her beautiful Red Eye book: the images from the book forming the basis of enlarged laser copies which constituted the exhibition. Meanwhile, across the way at The Physics Room, Joyce Campbell and Michael Harrison presented Hosting, featuring lovely photographic growths by Joyce and bad painting/subtle voyeurism by Michael.

For those with a bent for tech-no mediums, Saskia Leek's Pink Furniture was a notably sleek painting show at the Jonathan Smart Gallery. Similarly refreshing was some of the work in the Canterbury School of Fine Arts Student drawing exhibition at the S.F.A. Gallery, Between a Process and a Work; revealing some new and old faces, their drawings and writings.

Sara Mitchell
August 1997



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room