Friday 25 November 2011

Brooch adventures... text by Sally Blundell

The following text, by Christchurch writer Sally Blundell, traces adventures hosting three different brooches through the city. Each brooch drew attention to different sensory dimensions and details of her surroundings, and led her to vastly different locations. The rich descriptive density of these passages artfully captures the sense of immersion in movement and affect experienced by many in the project.  This text was also published in the catalogue for Host A Brooch. 
Thank you Sally.

Inside the blue shipping container, past the dog attached to a long rope, sixteen brooches are clipped to panels of flat white. Mangled things, alien objects born out of 26 seconds of tectonic bedlam. It is a lucky dip – I cannot choose a brooch that presents an acceptable version of myself. I pick a number and walk outside, past the dog, a foreign entity attached to my lapel. It is black and yellow. It is hard plastic. It is a ripped, jagged warning of a thing.
It is spring. There are blossom trees in flower. Driveways curl round to public gardens and children’s playgrounds, riverbanks are gentle with green. There is a civic cyclic prettiness to this urban park – no place for the serrated intimation of rough calamity. I scuttle out, almost apologetically, finding my place amidst walls of Hurricane fencing and colour-coded signs: beware, danger, keep out. These are sites of utilitarianism: the urgency of yellow hats and fluoro vests, the rough branding of demolition and construction firms (Ceres, Titan, Ward Demolition), the no-nonsense functionality of rescue, recovery and deconstruction. A police officer smiles for the camera above a high-visibility yellow-striped jacket. Then he hurries away. These are the hard facts of the city.

Other people stop and stare. They peer into their history broken down and heaped up behind double lines of fencing. They are transfixed, caught by the sublime incomprehensibility of city ruin. With a job to do I am impatient, peripatetic, following not a map of my making but a new chart, unfamiliar and untried, a route marked by colour, form, material, even sound.
Blue, yellow, pink – I walk past the dog with a spray of tiny pastel keys, numbered as if for some kind of toy. I look down, beneath, behind. I look to ground level, to the hardy, the inconspicuous – small activities unperturbed by the devastation wrapped up in wire at the end of every street. There are wild flowers growing in year-old cracks, a pale blue house is reflected in a pool of water. In a mangled cityscape children carry balloons, sparrows hop under café tables. A busker – why have I not noticed this before? – sings a gentle melody beside an open suitcase lined with turquoise cloth. These are side-stories, counter-narratives to the more dramatic, sensational accounts built on scale and shocking spectacle. This is resilience on a more intimate level, a sub-urban survivalism.

It is a landscape both familiar and strange – recognisable sights in a famously photogenic city suddenly fallen out of normal context. The architectural archaeology is framed by twisted steel. The ordinary has become the extraordinary. These are no longer places of contemplation. They are sites of urgency, action, rediscovery.
A strange star, this burst of orange plastic – a vital wayfinder guiding the way through a new city defined not by familiar notions of heritage or horticulture but by urban vigour, strong and bright under a hard Pacific sky.  Amid the vertical lines of the inner city I am drawn to the diagonal – the bright pitch of crane booms and metal props, painted pipes snaking through the underground like weird subterranean life forms, the makeshift positioning of a timber cross barring entry through a hobbled gateway, a pipe hanging inexplicably from a second storey windowsill. Outlandish, a city vibrant and alive.

- Sally Blundell

Thursday 6 October 2011

Friday 30 September 2011

Christchurch Landmarks in the Red Zone

It's our final weekend and the gems keep coming in...

Today engineer Andrew and a colleague hosted brooches into the red zone for the first time. So we could resist sharing these straight away. Christchurch's two major landmarks: The Cathedral, and The National. (more photos to come after the weekend).

Final Days + Host A Brooch exhibition Auckland

Host A Brooch is now drawing to a close.  Our final day for participation is this FRIDAY 30th September.  The container will be open from 10am – 4pm, and we welcome you to take a brooch on your own unique urban adventure on our final day.

You are warmly invited to join us on Saturday 1st of October, between 10am & 4pm to celebrate the closing of the project. This will be a chance to see how the project has unfolded. Jacqui has been busy compiling and designing a Catalogue for Host A Brooch. Participants can come and pick up their free copy. 

For those of you further afield we'll send you a copy for $5 (incl postage). Email us here.

The project has certainly grown beyond our wildest imaginings. The container wall is constantly changing with new photos from each weekend's escapades.
Enmasse they present an inspiring picture of lively occupation of the city and jewellery's potential to activate connections with our urban surroundings. If you haven't seen the photos already you can see them on Flickr, and here on the blog.
For those of you who have joined us already, a big thank you all for your wonderful contributions to the project.  We hope you can make it down to see your photos on the wall!

See you soon!


HOST A BROOCH Exhibition in Auckland:
If you are in Auckland, you won’t be totally missing out... Jacqui will be presenting the brooches and documentation of Host A Brooch at Masterworks in Ponsonby next week.  We will both be there for the opening next Wednesday 5th October at 5.30pm and Jacqui will be giving an artist talk at 6.30pm. Love to see you there.

Monday 26 September 2011

Host A Brooch: the full spectrum...

Thanks once again to another weekend of enthusiastic and thoughtful brooch-hosters.
This weekend saw some of the most adventurous adventures, hilarious escapades, as well as a more emotional experiences.

More than ever, active engagement was pushed to the limit with brooch-inspired bodily interactions with the urban environment. Adventures were wide ranging, collectively taking in the cordons, the park, and the museum. Road cones featured prominently as both theatrical props and body adornment.
Christchurch's Triadic Ballet?

Soldiers, workmen in high-vis and even Mr Whippy were co-opted for photos...
geared up for sewage inspection

And Regan and Lennie's 'C-O-N-TEMPORARY' photo topped as our favourite to date, summing up Host A Brooch perfectly: contemporary jewellery making the most of a temporary situation.

Peoples emotional responses varied hugely. Many found the project charged their sense of optimism about the city's potential for recovery. One inner city resident sat stoically in front of a collapsed house, commenting that the juxtaposition of wearing this 'contemporary object'* with the old and damaged behind her made her feel 'grounded' (*She didn't realise the brooches were made from demolition materials). The young girl accompanying her, when asked, said she just felt 'dusty'.

However, for others the experience stirred heavier feelings of sadness, grief and vulnerability, as their brooches drew them for the first time towards scenes of destruction. Some felt challenged to confront the reality of the city and the accompanying sense grief and uncertainty. One woman arrived excited to host a brooch, anticipating a light-hearted fun experience. However she was shocked to find her walk deeply moving and almost overwhelming: she returned after just half an hour. For her it stirred trauma from her younger life, saying 'I think this was one of the most intense experiences in my life'. In a similar vein, a woman the previous weekend commented that brooch number 7, worn by her young daughter, drew her attention to the ubiquitous bright orange structures flanking the city's streets. She explained she usually maintained a positive outlook by focusing on beautiful things - flowers, trees and intact buildings - and ignoring the rest. She felt this particular brooch forced to confront the actuality of the situation and felt 'almost horrified at the devastation of the city everywhere'. This made me realise that the brooches not only heightened awareness of people's surroundings and physical relations with them, but also their coping mechanisms.

Over the past five weekends photos from Host A Brooch have been accumulating and filling the container - as many coming down as going up. This meant the container has begun to operate as an exhibition with a large number local passersby, tourists and rugby fans pausing to look over the photos. We're currently busy compiling some of these a small catalogue that documents the project. The catalogue will also include text about the project and writing by Christchurch writer Sally Blundell sharing her experiences of hosting brooches.
All participants are invited to come on Saturday (the 1st) to collect a copy. These will also be available to the public for a few dollars.

See you then.

Thursday 22 September 2011


This weekend is the second to last. We've been busy preparing the catalogue which will be launched next Saturday 1st of October. If you haven't already taken part, we'll be in the container 10-4 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For those of you who've already enjoyed hosting a brooch, please come along next week and get a copy of the catalogue...

Monday 19 September 2011


For those of you following Host A Brooch outside of Christchurch, these are the brooches people have been hosting:

Monday 12 September 2011

Where do brooches come from?

In case you're wondering, this is where it all began....
Read the full story here.

Interactive City - Weekend Three

Thanks again to this weekend's enthusiastic participants and visitors.
This weekend coincided with an on site exhibition of the new Draft City Plan (in the council's giant geodesic dome) and SCAPE's City as Memory and Imagined Futures panel discussions (as well as the 10th Anniversary of 9/11). This generated conversations ranging from excitement about a future 'city in a garden', to tears over the suggestion of leaving destroyed heritage buildings as ruins.

Fittingly, Host A Brooch participants ventured further into the city and around the cordons. People reported being absorbed in the detail, colour and structure of their surrounding, appreciating what remains, and as a result feeling uplifted. One woman summed this up saying "I looked up! I was amazed at what I had not seen before. The brooch gave me a different perspective of the city and I was surprised at how much of the city remained."

In the context of streets choked by hurricane fencing, road cones and barricades, Host A Brooch encouraged people to interact with and continue to participate in their urban surroundings. The brooches often resonated with the city's ubiquitous orange emergency structures, allowing these earthquake-reminders to be appreciated as something fun and even beautiful amongst the grey. They became theatrical props: road cones became a lens through which to focus a view of the brooch+wearer+city or adornments in themselves; barcades became supports for the body; and local portaloo-humour surfaced. Some participants selected situations and assumed postures to communicate specific thoughts about the brooch and the city.
For one overseas visitor, the giant barrier mesh brooch drew attention to the controlling presence of mesh fencing, barricades and road cones - placed to obstruct movement. These allowed her to reflect on the fear associated with the earthquake and human relationships to land more generally. In the drained bed of Lake Victoria the brooch drew her attention to massive earthmoving machinery as well as the cracked soil; both signs of human intervention on natural systems. She staged a series of photos, reclining on a bulldozer, posing as a conqueror on the golf course, and hiding from the earthquakes.
For others, the brooches themselves felt interactive. One woman comments on feeling a sense of company despite being out alone - perhaps anticipating the audience that would share the experience via the photos. Other's claimed the brooch made them buy coffee or demanded icecreams!

This week, several people also commented that including themselves in their photos was challenging. They remarked that they were accustomed to taking photos of things around them, but Host a Brooch made them position themselves as part of the scene. One woman commented that she sensed disapproval from bystanders when she took photos of herself in front of the rubble. She speculated that they thought she was being a tourist and that taking photos in front of the rubble was bad taste. People even honked their horns at her - whereas, noone noticed when she shot the rubble alone. Others preferred to take photos of the brooch without the body. This had a different effect, connecting the brooch-as-object with its surroundings, allowing the body to remain a bystander.

Three weekends in, the wall down at the Host A Brooch Depot is quickly filling up with photos of people's adventures. Come on down and take a look or you can also see larger number of them on flickr.