Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 7 - Science Fact and Fiction
Log 7 - Science Fact and Fiction

Christchurch Roundup
Emma Bugden


As a newcomer to the Christchurch scene I have been treading my way with caution, not entirely au fait with opening etiquette yet, but wearing a lot of grey and making the best of it. Have just discovered to my chagrin after five years of visiting Christchurch on a fairly regular basis, that COCA Gallery has an entire extra floor, hitherto undiscovered by myself. Which explains a lot of shows I never really came to grips with...

Anyway, the year for me kicked off at Oblique, the multimedia arts project sited at the township of Otira Gorge. Mostly what I remember of Otira wasn't all the resulting naughty knickers scandal a-la Paul Holmes, or even the artworks, varied and interesting as most of them were, but rather swimming in the cold river on baking hot days, drinking those big bottles of beer straight from the crate, and staying up all night talking and eating scrambled eggs at 4am. There was a definite flavour of sixth form camp about the whole adventure, only this time the bottles of rum weren't illicit, and nobody ended up in hospital. I think the importance of such events cannot be overestimated as a forum for meeting other artists and having the time to just hang out, discuss ones practice and the potential for new working relationships to develop accordingly.

The next big excitement here was the reopening of The Physics Room in new premises above Alice in Videoland. Deep in the cultural heartland of High St, the new space is voluptuously large, white and airy, with that public gallery flow-through-feel about it. As I overheard someone say at the opening "a baby Artspace" indeed.

To kick-start the 1999 program was Kirsty Gregg in This time it's personal tackling New Zealand's favourite pastime with a playful investigation of those larger than life idols the All Blacks. Rugby jerseys are reduced to Walters-esque minimal paintings, all slick black and white. Exposed backs reveal hessian scrawled with personal messages straight from the boys to the fans. Also up for it was Grunt Machine, a collection of rock `n' roll-themed videos selected by Gwyn Porter and Simon Cuming. This old-style-grunge package ranges from the historical to the hysterical. Personal favourites for me would have to include 80s Dunedin rock legends The Axemen appearing on the TV3 classic Yahoo wearing dresses and singing coyly as presenter (and pre-Moahunters) Moana cheers them on bemusedly. As Moana herself puts it "they're from Dunedin so we don't know what to expect"(!?).

Not long after the reopening of The Physics Room, the High Street Project revealed its reinvention for the season too, with not only a new corporate image via their i-mac computer (I'm gonna miss that courier font though), but also a reshuffle of rooms providing a breathtaking new space down the end where previously the office had resided. Brendan Lees' work here is subtle not in a can't-quite-think-of-enough-work-to-fill-the-space style minimalism but in a carefully pared down absolutely monitored way. Tiny clicks of sound fill the space, and an occasional drop of water falls with immaculate precision from the ceiling into a drainage hole set into the floor. Something about this show makes you want to be very quiet.

Drop Brendan Lee
High Street Project, 1999

As the art school year cranks into action a new student based gallery has opened, on High St (recurring theme here) above the OD junk shop. Missed the big opening entirely as I went to a movie at Hoyts instead, but by all accounts it was a reasonably cranking affair. The show itself received a bit of a thrashing in the Press for apparently committing that most terrible of sins-work attached to walls via blu tak-god knows we've all been down that track before. However I managed to scope the space itself before the opening and it's all pretty and pastel, with pale blue walls and carpet, and a crazy tiled ceiling. Perfect for those site specific installation pieces Christchurch loves so well, and a nice contrast to the white cubes of other gallery spaces here. Apparently the place is about to close down already, so I guess it's a case of `if you weren't quick you weren't in' with this one.

So it's all change and regeneration here for the new year, and with the new public gallery construction about to begin there is a sense of Christchurch reinventing and remarketing itself as bigger, better, and brighter, and that can't be a bad thing. Some things never change however and I'm pleased to note that the Christchurch Museum is one of them, with all the old classics such as Centennial Street (mannequins dressed in antique suits hanging out in ye olde shoppes) still there after all these years, undisturbed by any of this postmodern irony that seems to have permeated collection management today. Long live the true school...

Emma Bugden
Winter 1999



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room