The Physics Room Trust was formed in 1996 as a gallery space and office located in the Christchurch Arts Centre. A previous incarnation of the trust was South Island Art Projects (SIAP), a siteless organisation that presented temporary and public art projects since 1992. Among other activities, SIAP published a bi-monthly newsletter, developed film and video programmes for South Island main centres, hosted visiting artists and speakers, and presented several major projects, including The Body of the Land (1992), Public Practices (1993), and Tales Untold (1994).
A major focus for the SIAP was to coordinate events outside of gallery and museum spaces, working on a fast turn over of events, and engaging with a wide range of diverse communities and organisations. An important part of each SIAP project was to facilitate within each wider project a variety of artists' works, a seminar or public forum, and an accompanying catalogue to expand each project and give exhibiting works a critical context. With a brief of engaging with the South Island as a region, SIAP presented both inner city projects and rural events. Artists involved in SIAP events included, among others, Rob Garrett, Margaret Dawson, Pauline Rhodes, Denise Kum, Lisa Reihana, Andrew Drummond, Michael Morley, Grant Lingard, Nicola Jackson, Jacqueline Fraser, Vivian Lynn, Russell Moses and Di ffrench. The SIAP founding trust members were Christopher Appleby, Andrew Drummond, Stuart Griffiths, Amanda Jenkins, Carolyn Menzies, Jonathan Smart, Tom Taylor, Linda Tyler, Evan Webb, and John Wilson.
In 1996 SIAP developed into The Physics Room, with a gallery space based in the Arts Centre, running monthly exhibitions. This move came about as a result of a shift in funding focus, board members, and a re-evaluation of what were considered at that point the most useful tactics for arts presentation and arts infrastructure. The stability and profile gained through having permanent premises was an important step in consolidating and expanding the Trust's activities, and making best use of limited funding and resources.
In 1997 Tessa Laird, the former Editor of Monica Magazine, was employed as General Manager of the new gallery space, and set up an expanded version of The Physics Room Journal, LOG Illustrated. Shows from this period onwards are archived here on this site as a virtual gallery, archive, and forum for debate. The founding members of The Physics Room Trust were Marianne Hargreaves, Ronnie Van Hout, Rebecca Turrell, Jane Glentworth, Jane Gregg, Paul Sutherland, Sue Rout, Sean Kerr and David Hatcher.
In 1999, under then General Manager Jonathan Nicol, The Physics Room moved into a space on High Street, a larger premises which allowed us to expand our exhibition programme, and present screenings, artists talks, and performances. Although the gallery space has become the major focus of Physics Room activity, we continued to draw on SIAP’s heritage of public arts presentation, producing a number of projects each year that engage with wider audiences, and in environs outside of the physical gallery. A particular emphasis for these projects was the commercial area of High Street outside the gallery, a close-knit community of boutique shops, galleries, designers and cafes.
Under the management of Emma Bugden from 2000-2002, The Physics Room presented several successful public art projects in Ōtautahi Christchurch, including a six month series in The Kiosk and the Craft fashion art event. Emma also had major successes curating international exchange projects with the Experimental Arts Foundation in Adelaide and Southern Exposure, San Francisco.
In 2001 The Physics Room discontinued Log Illustrated magazine, which is archived on this site (www.physicsroom.org.nz/log). Edited by Tessa Laird and later Gwynneth Porter, Log was a vital part of the New Zealand art discourse for over five years and 15 issues.
A new series of publications was launched with a tighter focus on exhibition activities. With the aims of providing quality documentation plus further exposure and sparking debate around artist projects, The Physics Room published an Annual from 2001-2010 and several exhibition catalogues each year, complementing the strength of the exhibition programme.
Subsequent to the major earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, The Physics Room operated from a temporary space in Sydenham while the central city was inaccessible and returned to facilitating a number of offsite projects.
In February 2012, The Physics Room returned to the Old Post Office Building at 209 Tuam Street with expanded gallery and office space, and a new artist residency studio. Subsequently, we moved again to a temporary space at 49-59 Worcester Boulevard in January 2018. At the end of 2019, The Physics Room settled into our current groundfloor space in The Arts Centre Registry Additions Building (access from Market Square), 301 Montreal Street.