June 27, 2012

New messages

Christchurch, June 27. This morning I noticed that Michael Parekowhai's bronze bulls and pianos, so carefully shifted by cranes yesterday, were now in place. By afternoon, word was getting around. The one-way early evening traffic slowed to a crawl as Madras Street narrowed: a drive-by art preview before the show opens on the weekend. On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer was in Venice, then Paris, now Christchurch. Yesterday, I was told that a security guard would be stationed near the work full time. He was there this morning with a dog. They could have just got one of these.  

But as more official art appears, the informal, unofficial, unlicensed art of the post-earthquake city seems to be disappearing. The earthquake's folk art. Yarnbombing was a big thing after the more benign September 2010 quake: knitted words like LOVE, HOPE and KIA KAHA appeared on fences. Lampposts and trees wore knitwear. There was a manifesto online that suggested the yarnbombing had a Christian angle. A yarnbombed tree still survives in Latimer Square. For more than a year, it was inside the red zone, cordoned off from the public.

On the corner of Madras Street and Cashel Street, behind two wire fences, there is a white plastic chair with various scattered offerings (cans, bottles, and so on). It's close to the site of the CTV building, where 115 died, so you assume it's a memorial, or maybe there's a connection to the 185 white chairs that appeared at the cleared site of the Oxford Tce Baptist Church exactly a year after the February 22, 2011 quake, set up as though they had only just been vacated by the 185 victims of the quake, or are waiting for the general resurrection of the dead. Below, flowers opposite the CTV site, hung through a wire fence, with a date of 22.2.2012 -- again, a year on.

Across Madras Street, on the cleared site of St Paul's Trinity Presbyterian Church, there is ... again, what is it? It acts as a frame for words that are yarnbombed and also signposted on the wire fence in the distance: FAITH, HOPE. Maybe the garlands of plastic flowers nod to the Pasifika congregations of St Paul's. Maybe it was once something more, or maybe it's on its way to becoming something else.