April 8-14, 2014
Present Tense: A painted portrait of present-day Christchurch by Julia Holden alongside a live writing performance by Andrew Paul Wood at the Inconvenience Store from 7-13 April, 2014.
In Julia’s Words:
Present Tense was a suite of 10 paintings of Christchurch as it is right now, highlighting the inconvenience of the city in the present day. The ‘portraits’ showed a radically changed, and ever-changing city at this particular moment. Currently most landmark buildings are gone or going and this very starkness is what makes Christchurch unique. I was in the process of running an Arts Foundation Boosted campaign to raise funds to put 5 of the painted images onto billboards in Auckland in June. Christchurch has few places for artists to show work and The Inconvenience Store provided a much needed opportunity to use the works as a provocation to a dialogue with the public, inviting conversation and feedback on collective and personal experience.
As an aspect of ‘inconvenience’ I installed 10 painted works in the space without an identifying number or title. I asked people to first match painting with the list of 10 randomly ordered titles and then choose 5 they would like to see presented as a billboard installation in Auckland. I tallied the responses every day, and at the end of the exhibition I had the 5 top contenders chosen by viewers to represent Christchurch to an outside audience.
People’s willingness to engage was sincere and their responses were genuinely surprising. Choosing 5 images on behalf of others, intended to send a message out to the wider New Zealand community brought about an interesting aspect to the decision making process. By then inviting people to narrow that choice down to a personal, single image was challenge for some. Weighing up the images that might best represent present-day Christchurch, the ‘us’ or ‘we,’ as we are right now to those outside Christchurch, against a more personal choice we might make based on ‘I’ or ‘me.’ It was an interesting process for visitors to participate in.
Alongside this Andrew tried out a live writing idea, revealing the writer’s normally private process by way of an overhead HDTV. He also wrote ‘inconvenient’ poems for people based on information about their day they chose to share with him. (For more on his experience it would be best to ask him.)
As a further outcome of our participation at the Store Andrew wrote 10 poetry quatrains to go with each painting, and, through negotiating with Phantom Billstickers I will attempt to raise the money to do a print run of these painting/poetry combos to do a paste up in Auckland, beginning with a run here in Christchurch.
The other aspect of this project I really enjoyed is its inclusiveness. I am genuinely interested in people’s responses and everyone who has come to see the work participated, whether they are an artist or passer-by. There is no ‘wrong’ answer, no work is ‘better’ than another, and every opinion and choice has a voice. It is truly democratic and I enjoyed the interaction with visitors to the show so much. It made the perfect contrast to the typically solitary painter’s occupation making the work in the studio!
I really enjoyed the experience, thank you Ryan. I want to make work that communicates with people and there is not often the opportunity to have this kind of direct dialogue with people and have their honest responses to the work.
During Julia and Andrew’s week at the Inconvenience Store, 175 visitors voted on the 10 painted portraits of Christchurch in the Present Tense. People were invited to choose the top 5 images they felt best represented the city right now. The results were:
1. The Container Stack
2. 165 Red Zone Home
3. The Blue Building
4. The Catholic Basilica
5. The Cathedral