John Hurrell – 15 October, 2016
The only other example of global intercity cooperation in this country I can think of in such intercultural terms is based in the Hamilton Gardens, where several embassies have organised modest samples of national architecture and designed garden styles. These elements are not promoted as artworks, but instead seen as ambassadorial contributions to the Gardens to whet the public's curiosity about the cultural origins of the work.
Installed gradually over 2013-2015
Without a doubt, the most inspiring piece of public art currently on display in Christchurch (perhaps the whole country) is Solidarity Grid, the wonderful SCAPE 7 riverbank installation by the German light artist, Mischa Kuball, completed last year. This is where 21 cities have contributed assorted streetlamps to line the green parkside verge of Park Terrace. Certainly it has no competition from the current SCAPE Public Art Season, which is (to put it bluntly) more about using public sites for selling older works of traditional sculpture than exploring adventurous and innovative varieties of immersive installation.
The grid of Kuball’s title can be seen here, 21 cities offering solidarity and sympathy with the calamitous consequences of the 2011 earthquake, the electric lights radiating optimism for the future as they guide road users and pedestrians from the Armagh St / Hagley Park bridge towards the Carton Mill Rd / Harper Ave intersection.
Of course there is more to it than just helping road users or extending condolences over a natural catastrophe. Mayoral delegations and municipal business interests accompany the goodwill, so the project is densely layered as a gridded cube of interactive cross-cultural economic opportunities.
The only other example of global intercity cooperation in this country I can think of in such intercultural terms is based in the Hamilton Gardens, where several embassies have organised modest samples of national architecture and designed garden styles. These elements are not promoted as artworks, but instead seen as ambassadorial contributions to the Gardens to whet the public’s curiosity about the cultural origins of the work.
With Solidarity Grid, the online promotion is inconsistent. The photographic grid of works from Australia, England, the U.S A, China, Japan, South Korea, Serbia, Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Canada, France, Belgium, Austria, Singapore and Switzerland is fabulous, showing the respective visiting mayoral delegations and gifted installed lampposts with detail and clarity. However the video above it of a ride alongside the illuminated route in the evening is dreadful. Blurry and too fast, shot out a car window with no naming of the works it rushes past, it seems like an experimental test run by the artist that will end up infuriating viewers.
There really needs to be a proper online map provided of Park Terrace and the river and park, with each contributing pole’s position carefully noted. (There is a Google Map series of 360 degree ‘satellite’ photographs that are woefully uninformative by themselves, with no labels or explanatory ground plan.) At the moment this fantastic contribution to Christchurch culture is under promoted and under elucidated. In my view, it is the best public artwork (SCAPE or otherwise) in the city.