Wednesday 7 September 2011


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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:

Sunday 4 September 2011

"How did the brooch alter your experience of the city?"

After their adventures, participants are asked "How did the brooch alter your experience of the city?"

Here are some of their written responses:

"It made us stand up and take notice. We were more aware of our surroundings and what was going on around us. It made it exciting and fun to return to this part of the city. We observed some buildings that are no more but found beauty still in these areas.  We really relished, stopping, taking our time and observing. It helped us remember and move forward."

"I found myself looking at different things. Looking at details of things rather than just focusing on all the broken buildings. I became more observant around the clean-up of the CBD and realised how much is still fenced off and out of bounds".

"It made me think about the broken down buildings and making jewellery out of the broken materials. You can make it out  of pipes and you can still look beautiful. it's really cool what you can make out of just pipes and wood and leaves. Ruby (8)."

"On the is expedition with the brooch it seemed like taking it back where it belonged - to the treasured old gems of the city which are now mostly rubble. Seeing landmarks (eg Old Christchurch Girls High School) which have been removed - just a hole in the ground made the tears flow. But it also felt like a reclaiming of the territory - the brooch was part of the old city and on the brink of the new. Being part of an Art project, felt just right - the brooch is an expression of both the loss and resurrection, hope for the future,. We need more art in the city right now. It fitted well also in an ultramodern lunch venue. Just as it did in the old precincts."

"We certainly became more observant of the smaller things - the more positive things.  Great as a family to re-familiarise ourselves with a city that has changed in so many ways".

"ended up looking at the small details and the synergy that keep(sic) appearing with shapes, layers and twisting, reflections, detritus. Unnatural attraction to the aluminium legs of signage. Kept seeing birdnests of mangled scaffolding - giant rubble brooches."

"The architectural nature of the forms made me kind of hyper-aware of other similar forms and materials. So while I felt the brooch itself drew me to more mechanical/structural elements, I felt compelled to introduce the birch to more natural and fluid forms - the botanical gardens and the Earth From Above exhibition."

"No 13 full of surprises. Seeking sunlight then the shade of the fern house. Then he pined for plastic barricading after a "Peace" encounter"

"The woodsy nature of the material drew us to the woody spaces of the botanical gardens. Got us into the deal of the light and shade of spaces. Tangled tree forms easily merged together to create unique views."

"I'm unsure of the altering of my experience of the city through the brooch, but I have really enjoyed just wandering around and relaxing wearing this beautiful object. I spend so much time thinking about the city and all the implications of the earthquake and I have taken so many photos in the last few months. While wandering around today I spent more time thinking about how generous your art project is and how enriching it is to have someone like you Jacqui doing what you are doing, Thank you."