Media art and the transitional city

Following the earthquake of February 2011, the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand has been largely dismantled. Huge tracts of open ground spread out where buildings once stood, and much of the centre is still closed off to residents. Navigating around hurricane fences, demolition sites, and the street-gouges of caterpillar tracks has forced a renegotiation of the format of the city and its built and deconstructed spaces. At the same time, the command and control process ‘recovery’ adopted by central government, against international best practice, explicitly reduces scope for community consultation in the reconstruction of the city. In a city that is exhausted and bewildered by natural disaster and its response, resistance feels fundamentally futile. And yet, in this place, it has never been so important.

In the shadow of the demolitions, or rather the open spaces in their wake, artists are regenerating empty lots, blank walls, and social connections, in what seem like resistant creative acts. However the officially-designated rebuild-in-progress ‘transitional city’ relies on this creative endeavour, vesting artists and others with the responsibility of making the blank city more appealing to visitors and residents.

Aotearoa Digital Arts’ ‘Mesh Cities’ project explores the potential role of media art in transitional and future Christchurch. At this early stage in the project, this panel asks how productive media art can actually be for reimagining, remembering, reinvigorating, reconnecting with, or indeed resisting, urban and social space.

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When: Tuesday 11th June (1:30PM – 2:30PM Stream 4 after keynote)
Where: Theatre 104, New Law School Building, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2000, Australia

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The Mesh Cities panel proceedings on The Sydney eScholarship repository :

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Working process

Propose the following format,  designed to minimise preparation and maximise free-flowing conversation:
1. A round-the table very short presentation round (2-3 minutes each)
2. And then a full discussion picking up on key threads through each others’ presentations, and the themes of network, space, and memory that we developed at the Chch launch event.
Panelists presented own practice in relation to the idea of the city (or not-city) in Aotearoa
And the way the events / situation in Christchurch have shifted the ground for making media art in the New Zealand city (or not-city)

Zita Joyce: ADA and Roundtable Chair

Earthquakes September 2010 and February 2011

The City is cordoned off, access is restricted, there begins a long process of walking the cordon while the city is demolished inside it.

Two processes:

  • Understanding what is actually there and not there now – remembering the city
  • Planning and arguing about what comes next – Reimagining the city

Issues :

  • The meaning and parameters of the transitional
  • The networked city / the smart city: an ideal of the City Council, possibly torn by warring ideas of how the city is to be rebuilt and reorganised.

The Sensor City project is the main form of smart city in infrastructure planning.

So introducing the ideals of

  • The Role of art, artists, media art
  • Art: city council art, street art, art galleries
  • ground up initiatives Gap filler, et al
  • Art plans in the council plans – art trails etc, desire to shift focus from big sculptures
  • Smart city: how to connect the dimensions

Overall issues of what media art making in a smart city looks like when that city has actually been erased and its future is contested…

Accompanied by the images from

Su Ballard: tracing art and the transitional city through disaster, and post industrialism, 

Vicki Smith: nets, networks, and mesh fences

Trudy Lane: artist developing media works for public spaces, parks, and cities and supporting the organisation of the Auckland ADA.

Ian Clothier: facilitating artists’ negotiation of place through the SCANZ residency and exploring non city island spaces in own his practice

Janine Randerson: introducing media art as a mnemonic device to retain memories of a place, and transitional spaces around Onehunga.

Caro McCaw: supporting the organisation of the Dunedin ADA symposium, so among other projects response to the issues raised for art practice in Dunedin by the events of Christchurch.

Danny Butt: discussing Local Time project for the Auckland Triennial about how they engaged the city’s history with respect to archiving (or not), and information transfer.

The ISEA roundtable conversation has been worked into a paper for publication in the ISEA conference proceedings. It is currently under peer review, and will be updated here when the review and publication process is complete.

Attendance at ISEA 2013 was supported by Creative New Zealand as an output of the ADA Mesh Cities project.cnz-logo



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ADA List contributions:

Adam Hyde and John Hopkins suggest;

the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Wendover,  Matt Coolidge (@!
(Adam) some information or ideas on approaches to contextualise some of the themes with regard to other experiences and events
(John) Much of their remit is very much about the US environment (and the effects of military-industrial development on the wider landscape/social system/culture, etc). But their approach is quite open and they have built up quite a profound historical and contemporary knowledge-base as well as a strong human network.

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