Wednesday, 7 September 2011


This weekend marked the anniversary of the September earthquake and the beginning of spring. This part of town (around the Art Gallery, the former Arts Centre, and Hagley Park) was teeming with people enjoying the sunshine. It also saw another bunch of enthusiastic brooch-hosters including staff from the Cantebury Museum (celebrating it's reopening this week), family groups, pairs of friends, and couples; both locals and visitors.

More than anything this weekend highlighted the range of people's experience in Host A Brooch.

On the whole, people felt increased awareness, being drawn to the colour, detail and materiality of their surroundings. They remarked that hosting a brooch allowed them to focus on the beauty of what remained rather than what was missing or broken, and made returning to the city exciting.  For some, this was their first visit to the CBD since the earthquakes, and very much a tearful experience. One woman commented that she worked in the CBD, but avoided looking out the window to spare the pain of seeing the fallen cathedral. Revisiting the city was also emotional for another woman who described the expedition as feeling like taking the brooches back to where they belonged; to the former 'gems' of the city. She wrote it:
"felt like a reclaiming of the territory - the brooch was part of the old city and on the brink of the new…. the brooch is an expression of both the loss and resurrection, hope for the future."
One of our highlights of the weekend was a vivacious older couple who claimed hosting the brooch made them feel youthful: borrowing scooters off children, hugging trees and making walking up hill much easier.

Surprisingly, some participants admitted the brooch didn't alter their experience of the city whatsoever. While they enjoyed the experience, the brooch didn't draw their attention to anything in their surroundings; they admitted "but that's probably just me". 
Another participant had a strongly adverse reaction to wearing the brooch. In this instance, a couple decided in advance to "take the brooches to see the daffodils". On a sunny day, amongst families enjoying the signs of spring, the man felt the brooch was an intrusion on the happy scene. While most interpreted the brooches as signs of transformation or hope, he associated the brooch directly with the earthquake's destruction and felt it an unwanted reminder. This made apparent the degree to which Host A Brooch drew on peoples personal feelings about the earthquakes and their willingness to be open to adventure.

Although awareness of our surroundings seems a basic part of life, for some people the concept was almost esoteric. One man remarked "Woe, that's a bit deep", when explained the project. Another participant commented that she found the exercise quite difficult at first. This seemed to highlight the degree to which we separate ourselves from the world around us.

Even when taken as a fun and light-hearted activity, Host A Brooch demands that people actively participate in and (re)occupy the city. As Sally Blundell remarked, this contrasted with the Earth From Above Exhibition (outside the park on Rolleston Ave) which maintained a passive mode of viewing. I realised times of transition, we can not afford to be passive spectators - waiting to see what 'they' decide to do with the city. It's critical that people are actively involved in the city and inventive about new ways of occupying it. Although architecture and infrastructure may take years, life in the city can adapt and continue.

Read more participant's comments here.

Some of the from this week:

No comments:

Post a Comment