Last Thursday I spent the day working, whilst impatiently anticipating the Centre of Contemporary Art exhibition preview of 'Precarious Balance', which would take place that evening. I felt very lucky to have received an invitation and couldn't stop thinking about the event all day. My hopes were not deflated when at last I was able to walk through the doors of the new CoCA, it did not disappoint. CoCA proves that some of the most horrible and tragic events can indeed lead to great and better things. CoCA was my favourite gallery space in Christchurch before the February earthquake in 2011 and now, five years on it is even better than before. A space that has a majestic feel to it and so much light! I felt inspired and emotional to be in that special space again and see it reformed into something greater than it was before. Precarious Balance wowed me and judging by the looks on the rest of the audiences faces, I was not alone.
As I walked up the stairs to the main gallery I was first greeted by the sight of two performers; a man and women harmoniously using the weight of one another to precariously balance (sorry, I couldn't resist!), whilst offering wine to enthralled viewers as they passed by. Then I was struck by the work and how ingenious the idea was to incorporate such performers into the gallery space. There were other performers present, such as a very elegant ballerina and in the tiny glass room above the stairs, two performers used there movement and weight to counteract the other using what resembled some kind of arched spring board.
The exhibition could not be more significant to Christchurch and obviously the gallery itself. It reflects the last five years of flux and uncertainty that Christchurch has been through, and after yesterday’s 5.7 quake, continues to experience. But for me it also questioned the uncertainty of the future with a positivity, vigour and humour. Like so many others, I feel tremendously excited that we have another wonderful gallery in Christchurch and excited at the possibilities it offers for the art community here, but also the wider community of Christchurch. After all, the new CoCA is a space for everyone, so please go along and enjoy all it has to offer.
Whilst I enjoyed the exhibition as a whole, I would recommend that there are some works worth paying particular attention to. Storm Sequence, 2000 by Shaun Gladwell is a captivating moving imagery piece that I found hard to take my eyes off. Shaun performs tricks on his skateboard, but it is the effect slow motion plays on your senses that really makes the work so successful. I felt a tense anxiety, wondering if Shaun would complete the next move or if he would miss it. If he missed it, what would the consequence be? The work is an experience akin to the uncertain times we have experienced in our city, albeit on a smaller scale. The oncoming storm is the perfect backdrop.
Big Yellow by Richard Maloy is on the face of it a fun, bright and happy work that immediately made me reminisce about my childhood love of building dens. For me there is also connection to the changing city with the rebuild in full flow. The way that this work has been constructed ensures Big Yellow is far from static. The work has an energy and vibration that makes the way that you move around it envelop you, you become an active participant. Take a walk around the work, peek through its peep holes and you will understand what I mean. With the ongoing vision of CoCA I felt it was a particularly successful work.
I also felt a strong connection to Untitled M1 (Brimham Rocks), by Abigail Reynolds. I was sucked in by the initial aesthetic pleasure the work affords. When I realised on closer inspection there is more at play this only increased the enjoyment of examining the work. What lies beneath? As I discovered imagery emerging from beneath the top surface I reflected on the many landmarks and spaces around Christchurch, what they used to be, what they are now and how they have changed. CoCA is part of that.
I must stress that all of the works that make up 'Precarious Balance' are worth thorough interaction with and you will have your own favourites. CoCA offers the perfect space to share this type of work with the Christchurch community and draw in audiences from further afield. I can't wait to see what they have on offer next.