James is a Christchurch-born sonic artist, who now resides in Dunedin. Her large-scale sound and steel installations have been exhibited both nationally and internationally.


James’ practice examines the sonic ecology of architecture, using sound to explore the material and structural system of disused and abandoned buildings. She captures these buildings in states of limbo, moments of quiet, between total abandonment and rebuilding, where the interaction of occupants no longer sonically activates the interior spaces or vibrate the structures.


Using microphones and sensors that capture structural movement James is recording the structure and not the air within, as would normally happen. Therefore divesting the building of all its internal cavities, shearing space from the frame of the building. The ambient sounds gone, the reflections that create depth discarded, only the creaking of the dry bones remain, its structure condensed and collapsed through the recording process.


“I am eviscerating all the places where a human can fit. Stripping these buildings of their spatial servitude to the human form.”


A detachment and distance from the human register on which these buildings are predicated is opened up. Creating a sonic space where we can listen to, and understand, these structures as a passage, a process, and appreciate their fragile nature without projecting our own aspirations and requirements upon them.


What happens when a building falls amongst the thicket of buildings in the urban environment? What does it mean when that building is the seat of law and order?


James’ exhibition Through a cloud of smoke and dust is an exploration of the sonic poetics of the disassembling and implosion of the Christchurch Police building. A capturing of the moment when the police building is no longer just another building disappearing in the tumultuous concrete upheaval of the city in rebuild but becomes a collective witnessing of the disintegration of the old order to make way for the new.


The sounds are reactivated in the gallery space across huge planes of steel. The surface becomes the medium through which the sound amplifies as it resonates in sympathy, graunches and thrills to the vibrations of the building’s destruction. The work is a catalogue of the building in moments of quiet, or moments when only the affect of environmental forces are disrupting its calm, to the melodic interaction of workers singing as they remove asbestos, to diggers ripping into the dense concrete structure, tearing the building apart floor by floor, all grumbling and screaming, right up to the implosion. It is the story of one building that holds the place of a city’s story.



2015 (in a blessed parenthesis, in a vacuum of promise), 57 Crawford St, Dunedin, group show

2013 Resonance, Enjoy Gallery, Wellington, solo show

2011 Through My Body To Your Body And Back , St Paul St Gallery, solo show of Master of Art & Design final exhibition

2008 Replicated Communities, New Zealand student representative at Prague Stage and Theatre Quadrennial



2011 Master of Art & Design from Auckland University of Technology

2009 Bachelor of Spatial Design from Auckland University of Technology



2013 Aotearoa Digital Arts Symposium, presentation of ongoing research





Rose james

gallery/gallery 4 (1)

Interview 8 July 2018

Lynn Freeman from RNZ's Standing Room Only interviews Rose James and Trent Hiles about Through a cloud of smoke and dust, and the wider project that is Crux★Te Punga.

Ghosts of Christchurch's Police Station