Railway tracks both cut and define this place. Traveling goods connect Christchurch with the Port of Lyttelton, on the other (hidden) harbour side of the majestic, yet barren Port Hills. By day, men fabricate steel, sheet metal and machinery, and are refueled by meat pies sold at local lunch outlets. Wilsons Road is a major thoroughfare and traffic passes by the old stadium, now an abandoned ruin.
By night it’s dark and quiet. The workers have gone home, and the neighbouring residential suburbs are asleep.
Waltham is a central suburb of Christchurch’s historical manufacturing belt, and Open Workshop #1: Industrial Waltham is the title of an art exhibition produced in response to this seemingly and somewhat desolate, yet undervalued area of Christchurch.
Open Workshop #1: Industrial Waltham is a new kind of art exhibition. Supported by the Christchurch City Council Community Arts Development fund, this exhibition is the product of a year’s planning by Waltham’s rejuvenated warehouse the Christchurch Exchange (XCHC), and 6 months of idea workshopping by a group of seven local artists. It is the first in the Open Workshop series.
Last Spring, the Open Workshop put out a call for project participants. Seven artists took up the challenge and proposed their ideas based on the given theme: Industrial Waltham. The Open Workshop participants have regularly met over the last 6 months to share their creative ideas and research of Waltham, and to constructively critique and support each other and collaboratively produce the project. It was up to each artist to interpret how they would engage with the theme and local context, however they were encouraged to use local skills and materials.
The resulting art exhibition is an amalgamation of the artists’ personal and professional reactions to the local context of Waltham.
Previously a trustee of the XCHC, Gaby Montejo has taken a lead role in coordinating the Open Workshop from its inception. Originally from Cuba, Montejo has made post-quake Christchurch his home, and is kept busy engaging in the numerous art projects aiming to facilitate public engagement in the city’s development.
Currently fascinated by people’s choices of food consumption, Montejo’s artwork for Open Workshop #1 took a unique approach to engaging with the area. He discreetly investigated every pie shop he could find in Waltham and the surrounding suburbs; then one lunchtime he notably intervened.
Montejo bought 84 pies from the five biggest pie shops in greater Waltham. He then dressed as a chef and delivered these pies to the staff of Christchurch Art Gallery, connecting the Open Workshop back to its funder, the Christchurch City Council—the overarching body of Christchurch Art Gallery. 1. Seeking a public reaction to an anonymous pie delivery, Montejo also dropped off two meat and mushroom pies to the doorstep of “Christchurch’s Alternative Radio Station” RDU. This led to a short impromptu ‘Monday morning pie review’, live on RDU!
Pie Surveillance Project is hilariously presented in book form and also documented in this blog.
Marine Aubert used her photographic talent and locally-scavenged materials to make a series of interactive artworks for Open Workshop #1. She photographed Waltham’s industrial scenery and used substrates (wood, plastic and scrap metal from the area) on which to print her photos.
Aubert, an ecology doctoral candidate at the University of Canterbury, was interested in the impacts of industrialisation and subsequent history in Waltham. Her artworks emphasise the textural quality of the railway and manufacturing materials, and portray the decline of Waltham’s manufacturing heritage.
Aubert says, “Ecosystems are naively perceived as single pictures with multiple elements that can be removed or put back in, but in reality they are made of numerous layers intricately linked…I make art as I would create ecosystems.”
Aubert’s prints are predominantly made up of two or three substrates articulated or hinged together so that the artworks can be interacted with by the viewer.
Open Workshop #1: Industrial Waltham is a full-sensory experience, providing a visual, aural and interactive experience for the audience. The exhibition’s kinetic and sonic artworks mirror the sounds of the train tracks and manufacturing heard and echoed in Waltham.
Shades Arcade is an artist duo comprising of Carl Pavletich (co-founder of laser cutting company Fab Lab Chch) and Julieanne Eason (director of scenic and audio visual design for performance company The Clinic). The artists’ combined skills give their work a strong interactive design, combining sound and movement, controlled by sensor-activated electronics. Shades Arcade have made functioning Jacob’s ladders out of locally-sourced paint chips, which continuously cascade and clatter from the ceiling when disturbed by nearby movement.
Similarly, Nicolas Woollaston’s steel tree-stump, when touched, sends out sounds of industrial Waltham. The stump highlights the destruction of the natural world for industrial progress and symbolises the decay of the once lively hub of industrial manufacture, now a quieter post-quake suburb of Christchurch.
Open Workshop #1: Industrial Waltham is an exhibition that shows how investigation can change perception. Through participating in Open Workshop #1, seven artists have brought to light the underground contemporary life of a less appreciated area of Christchurch, and have reminded us of its historical and social significance. The artworks speak of consumer behaviour, and the need for ecological balance and environmental consideration – themes well-known to contemporary art.
Open Workshop #1: Industrial Waltham opens to the public at 5pm on Thursday 5 May 2016 at the XCHC, 376 Wilsons Road, Christchurch, and will run until 20 May.
Story submitted by Claire Adele Baker, a participating artist in Open Workshop #1: Industrial Waltham.
Artist Gaby Montejo will present his pie research at Christchurch’s 27th official PechaKucha night on Thursday 26 May. The quarterly PechaKucha events move around different Christchurch venues, and the upcoming PechaKucha Night will be hosted by the recently reopened Christchurch Art Gallery.
Open Workshop #2 is already in the planning stages and a call for proposals will be announced in the coming months. Rumours are that participants will be connected with a local business to collaboratively produce their art. More information will be disseminated via the XCHC e-news: Sign up at the bottom of the XCHC homepage.