Tuesday, March 29, 2011


What is the threshold between the laws of physics and those of metaphysics? At what point is the crossing into the world of the seemingly impossible, incomprehensible, ineffable? Where is the boundary between life and art? The image, above, is not (intentionally) an environmental art work ... but the rubble of my home, sitting on the driveway fractured by the force of the quake. Following the earthquake the house, the core of 'dwelling' is metamorphosed. The physical boundedness evaporated, and the building subsequently distilled, decanted, into a mere pile of materials. The material becomes immaterial, in both senses of the word. Things become simultaneously without tangible form, and also inconsequential. The prior priorities of what dwelling implied are re-formulated. Aspirations to an ambience of beautifully proportioned spaces, volumes of light, a garden of different pleasures, gives way instead to the most rudimentary of concerns. The garden transformed into a toilet, the house made into a kind of shed for living. Nothing else really matters. Thoughts turn inwards into the contemplative realm, of a wish to transcend the banality of existence, to somehow rise above this.

The earthquake not only shattered life, but also profoundly spoke of a temporal existence beyond the ephemerality of our own lives. Of something ancient. The violent shaking, this geological Tourette's syndrome of abrupt episodes of random utterances, brings about thoughts of mythological dimensions. The earthquake inevitably morphs into a sinister presence.

It all just seems too impossible, too abstract, too surreal. Might it be that this is all an elaborate performance art exhibit. At some time soon the sky cloth will be pulled back to reveal our 'real' city still intact behind, the lives, the buildings, all returned?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Phantom Limb

It has gone. It is no longer there, but I still sense it. We are not allowed to go there, into the inner city. Still cordoned by an iron ring of ironically camouflaged army personnel, the city is off limits. Too dangerous, still, one month later. Too tragic. Those who have been admitted inside the cordon, the rescuers, those with a vital task, say we will not believe how awful it is. It has gone, nearly everything has gone. The beloved big moments and small moments that make the city, that were a vital part of what we were, amputated. The smell, they say, is unbearable. Fish markets, butcheries, cafes, now for a month with no electricity. The flowers sit outside florists, or tumbled onto the footpaths. Cafe tables and chairs where they were left...

But unable to ground truth it, to confirm it with my own eyes, it remains phantasmic. Although I did manage to stare down towards the Cathedral, and yes there was no spire. As though someone had photoshopped it out, erased it, it seems so impossible. Is the entire event a piece of theatre? Will we sometime soon sail into the sky cloth like Truman Burbank? Suddenly it will be revealed that this was staged, like the moon landing? It is so traumatic, so spectral, so invasive, so evasive? At our homes there is no respite. Things here are profoundly abnormal. It is, as they say, business as unusual. The new normal. The defamiliarised, the strangely unbeautiful... where are the edges of such a thing?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Inside the Red Zone

14 minute video played at the opening of the outdoor Memorial Service for those lost in the 22 February earthquake, in Hagley Park, Christchurch, yesterday. There were plans for a walk-through of the area within the Red Zone - the core of the CBD which is still out of bounds - but it is still too dangerous. So ... turn up the sound ... Inside the Red Zone...