This is a project in two parts. The first part was known as the 48 Hereford St project and involved the comprehensive recording of the demise of one building in a ‘quake-damaged city that was disappearing in front of its people. From mid-2014 to mid-2015 still and moving images and sound recordings were captured and artefacts were collected from Ōtautahi Christchurch's Brutalist-designed Central Police building as it was being pulled down.
The aim for this phase was to record, in detail, the strip out, demolition and removal of one building within the CBD. Significant in its own right due to its function and its architecture, the act of documenting the removal was also a homage to the hundreds of buildings that were disappearing in the city centre. Single images of the city ‘under the wrecking ball’ were abundant however there was not a complete record of the demolition process of one building, from the inside out, and for the duration of the deconstruction.
This was an opportunity not to be lost. If it passed without an effort to capture this moment in time then memory of structure, place, object, and space would be diminished, if not gone forever.
The site is steeped in history, from pre-human times to the first Māori who came and went from what was a historic seasonal food-gathering place, to Māori who established Puari pā in the area, then to the European settlers who arrived, acquired the land and built on it, and finally the return of te whenua to Ngāi Tahu as part of the settlement of its Tiriti o Waitangi claim.
This place has been one of continual movement, from the swampy habitat constantly undergoing seasonal change, to the people who have come and gone - Māori who travelled through to harvest food as the seasons dictated then Māori who settled in the area. Then Pākehā who arrived and drained and changed the landscape, establishing infrastructure to support a swelling coloniser population. Before the Police building was constructed on the site in 1967 the YMCA owned the land and had, first in 1887 then in 1905, built two structures to support their organisation.
The site has experienced the endless rhythms of life – it is a place of transience, coming and going, restlessness - always shifting people, and sometimes shifting land.
Part two of this project is CRUX★Te Punga, a multidisciplinary creative ‘scope of works’ exhibiting in the second half of 2018 and into early 2019.
At the time of capturing the material there was no specific goal as to a creative response to the images, audio, and artefacts. It was envisaged that the material would be used to start conversations with potential creative collaborators who would be invited to respond in their own way to the building, the land itself, the people who have come and gone from this place throughout time, this moment in the city, and the environment. Each of the artists involved brings their own ideas, experiences, and motivations to the project.
As project initiator and producer I see CRUX★Te Punga offering, in part, a time to reflect on where we are now, as ‘New’ Christchurch, and as the people of the city. Eight years on progress has definitely been made – for some it’s a case of “I’m all right Jack”; but for others the shine has dulled, the hopes have dwindled. The relationship between people and the city can be seen to be both rewarding and strained. What are the highlights, the positives? Have our visions become a reality? Can we see our shared ideas? Or are we in a darker place? Has the promise of ‘city of the future’ been sidelined? What’s to keep us here? And more broadly, beyond the 'quake story', CRUX★Te Punga raises questions about what are we doing to address some of the societal challenges that lie before us? Imprisonment conditions and rates of recidivism; and acknowledgement, understanding and representation of te ao Māori, of te ao Ngāi Tahu in Ōtautahi.
Ōtautahi is being rebuilt around us, physically and psychologically – it is important that we remain vocal and visible commentators on and participants in what will be, one day, our history. Our city should reflect the story of the time, acknowledging and connecting with the past through form and function, representing the present, and envisioning a future that sustains the people of the place, that sustains the natural and built environments. These art works are an essential component of the conversation, a necessary critique of and commentary on the important issues that shape us, that shape the place that stands for us today.