TEZA 2013, Transmission

#9 Final Day: TEZA – The New in New Brighton

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Our final day theme was Put the New in New Brighton, a day of bringing everything together with our friends to facilitate our departure and lay the ground for the project’s legacy. Above Kura Puke adding to a collaborative mural addition.
Suitably, then the day began with the assembly of a new barbecue.
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 And the arrival of a nicely timed Facebook contribution from Dan Arps of Lawrence Shustak’s design for a geodesic dome to cover Brighton circa 2000.
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Lunch saw a large group gather for the launch of Kerry Ann Lee with Kim Lowe’s Alternating Currents New Brighton zine, the culmination of three discussions during the week and contributions from the local ‘migrant-settler’ community and local museum.
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Local muralist Pops invited us to contribute to a nearby wall. Nathan Pohio added colour to a representation of Sonic the Hedgehog.
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The BBQ  got cranking.
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And – clearly having got the message we wanted people to take things into their own hands – a group of local kids held an inaugural Stretch Club out on the pavement with the extended TEZA whanau.
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We then gathered for a discussion on The New. We considered both the challenges and opportunities for New Brighton in the wider context offered by having visitors from many places together. About the only person who didn’t speak was new arrival Richard Arlidge – he was too busy taking these photos.
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Kim Lowe, Sorcha, Tim, David and Kim Paton.
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Tim Barlow, Kim, Ali Bramwell and Richard Bartlett
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Phil Tekao, Kura Puke, John Kirby and Pops.
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Rebecca May, Renew Brighton.
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Our visit concluded with an emotional poroporoake as many new friends said goodbye, and started to turn towards their homes.
Images: Mark Amery and Richard Arlidge.
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TEZA 2013, Transmission

#8 Day Five: Saturday: Lets Bring Art and People Together

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Saturday saw TEZA spread its physical boundaries, with activity occurring in three different places at once. Whilst the New Brighton occupation continued, following a Friday hui at Tuahiwi School in Kaiapoi led by Nathan Pohio, Priscilla Cowie and Ron Bull Jnr and our ‘What Does Occupation look like’ discussion, the Kaihaukai food exchange project saw Ngai Tahu gently reoccupy Market or Victoria Square in the Christchurch CBD. Set on the Okataro/Avon river, this was once a marketplace, fed by the gardens at Rapaki, where we were welcomed on Sunday. One of our crew spotted a big fat tuna lazily swim up the river as he crossed the bridge to the nearby Pallet Pavilion.
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Kaihaukai began with an enriching mihimihi full of stories of kai gathering (Simon Kaan and Ron Bull Jnr above). Vivian Russell recalled how back in 1970 much of their food came from the local awa.
Back at the beach the giant wall occupation in the mall that culminates The Freeville School project was celebrated with an opening at New Brighton Market, with words from local councillor (and former Freeville board chair) David East and  a participatory performance by Random Acts of Music.
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Here are artists David Cook and Tim J Veling with David East and Sophie Jerram
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The production team Bayley Corfield, David Draper, Hannah Watkinson, Tim and David.
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Mark Harvey worked with the children on some productive work. Today he also canvassed locals on what they wanted to see improved locally and provided these to Councillor East.
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Parents and children from Freeville continued to visit their work throughout the day.
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Back at Market Square TEZA participants reported eating one of the best lunches ever. It included whitebait fritters (caught locally), paua from all over, cockles from the peninsula, titi from down south, tuna from Kaiapoi and a cross-indigenous collaboration stemming from the first iteration of Kaihaukai in New Mexico – titi and corn stew.
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Chef Ron Bull Jnr cooking tuna and mussels with help.
River sticks were painted (pictured below Kiri Jarden), harakeke weaved and there were a number of other art workshops. As part of the Local Time project Nathan Pohio brought spring water from Kaiapoi.
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Kaan and crew had asked guests to bring nonperishable food so this could be then taken back with us to New Brighton to the food bank, and we went away with boxes.
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Back at camp Phil Dadson held a music making workshop with Coca Cola bottles sourced from the Sustainability Centre at University of Canterbury in the morning.
The Norwester got up, leading to Te Ao Marama’s skirts being rolled up to provide yet another change in this work.
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We also helped Heather Hayward shift Picture House to a stunning location under the New Brighton Pier.
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As the wind died the Bicycle Choir rode out in the golden evening light, followed in a car by an intrepid camera crew.
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They sounded out with their voices the beachfront, supermarket car-parks and suburban streets surrounding the mall. We got a round of applause from Poto Williams and her team as we passed the Labour Party HQ, just ahead of the news that she’d won the local by-election.
Here are a couple more images from the far end of the TEZA hub in the Creative Quarter, New Brighton. The walls in the CQ and surrounding area are surrounded by a huge range of mural works and provided a suitable setting for a stimulating evening discussion about the relationship between art and community. The first half of the conversation was dominated by the arts fraternity, the second the community.
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As if hearing the call a group of musicians and drummers took over Te Ao Marama, and the light work AIO created a cone over it.
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Others wandered in between, down to Heather and Tessa’s work at the pier, and the pub.
Images: Gabrielle McKone, Mark Amery and Sophie Jerram
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TEZA 2013, Transmission

#5 Respondent: Ali Bramwell – Love and criticality

Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery emailed me just over a week ago and invited me to observe and respond in writing. The first thing I did was read “On the birth of TEZA” by Richard Meros. Analytically I found the text to be full of unconscious essentialisms and somewhat ideologically breathless. I wondered if this would mean that those qualities would be present in the event itself.

For various personal reasons I wasn’t able to attend the whole event period, which would have been my preference, so I did my best to feel my way into the zeitgeist of the event via TEZA Transmissions. Because other responders have spoken variously about the meta concerns around the project – about specific projects and the incredible atmosphere of warmth – I’ve decided to focus on recording some of the discursive and communicative moments.

I was present for three of the Creative Summit evening meetings and each had their distinct atmosphere and function. It is often overlooked how group chemistry alters a conversational dynamic, but this process was clear. The conversations, presided over by the very able and mature facilitation skills of Richard Bartlett, with the TEZA crew and their increasing familial bond and a core group of local producers – surprisingly, consistently loyal participants (with all the time and energy commitment that requires) – were punctuated by the different perspectives of various visiting experts (who often didn’t stay very long onsite). In the last meeting on Sunday Mark Amery spoke about how for him there were two parallel processes going on all week, one that was intellectual and the other emotional. I’m not sure that these two things are ever entirely separable and nor is it necessary to do so, however this observation opens a key area of dialogue that occurred.

The Creative Summit on Friday evening was interrogating the notion of Occupation. There was little actual facilitated discussion as the time was used in slightly longer presentations from the five guest speakers. However, there was value in the histories presented, and the points raised were picked up in pockets of individual conversation afterwards, in and around the lightworks over a last cup of tea. The value of the presentations was also in the way they framed some shared discursive territory for a much richer discussion that occured the following evening.

Tim Barlow spoke about the ethics, theoretical concerns and negotiations underpinning how the physical architecture of the TEZA site was developed in relationship to honouring previous histories and local kaupapa. While introducing their project Kaihaukai, a facilitation of the re-occupation of Ngai Tahu spaces due to be staged the following day, Simon Kaan and Ron Bull Jnr each skillfully picked up and responded to several threads Barlow raised. They discussed Marae architectures as warm and living social structures built from what is already existant, and of an inherent connectivity built through shared stories and histories wider than definitions based on traceable geneologies. Richard Bartlett spoke about the history of the Occupation movement (including international protest movements named in other ways) and spoke with quietly persuasive passion and conviction about his own transformative experience shifting from observer to active participant. He spoke in terms of re-emerging realities, positing alternatives by example, gentleness and optimism in the face of monolithic and resistant forces.

The final presentation of the evening was a thoughtfully structured presentation by Barnaby Bennett, framed as “Loving your Transitional Monsters”. Bennett positioned TEZA as the most recent iteration of a two year old history of transitional projects in Christchurch, although his focus was largely on examining the meta dynamics between the governmental modes of radical restructuring and a generally more conservative (with a small c) ameliorative mode used by the very large range of temporary occupations and community expressions. Bennett made a provocative and interesting observation that the contemporary art community in Christchurch was failing to adapt and were collectively showing signs of professional malaise or even irrelevence in the face of the post-quake environment, a point that he then retreated from, unwilling or perhaps not yet able to elaborate a partly formed thought and commit to any concrete criticism of specific examples and excusing himself (somewhat disingenuously) as a non-art expert. It is a conversation that would have been productive to pursue.

Saturday was packed full, because of simultaneous activity happening at the mall and in Victoria Square in the CBD. I found myself split. My desire to visit Kaihaukai won out and the practicalities of busing into town robbed me of more than an hour and mean’t that I entirely missed The Freeville Project launch at New Brighton market – which was anecdotally an inspiring and moving event. I regret that. I do not however regret the time spent on the river bank with a gently self organising group all contributing in their own comfort zones to the (unpermitted) reclaimation of Ngai Tahu spaces. Kaan and Bull’s vision for mutual exchange was fully realised in an unforced way: beautifully prepared South Island kai moana for creative labour and or a donation of non perishable goods destined for a New Brighton food bank.

Gradon Diprose made a comment on his Transmission that anticipated one of the strongly emergent threads of discussion that developed in the summit on Saturday evening: how the languages of funding work to create institutional disparities of value for community focussed projects as opposed to Proper Art (irony alert). Warren Feeney opened with some reflections on the theoretical histories that contribute to the persistently un-useful duality of High Art versus Populism. In the process he nearly made himself the physical embodiment of a vague Straw Man representative of the Intellectually-Defensive-Elitist-High-Art-Canon-Funding-Hogging-Bastards, attracting passionate rebuttals to things that he neither said nor intended. A trigger phrase for me in particular was the definition of populism as generating short-term pleasure and gratification without challenging the audience, something that is often poorly generically and uncritically conflated with participatory practices (nevertheless a conflation that Feeney did not make). His contribution was valuable and necessary, providing an engaged and educated perspective on local funding structures and their evolving rationales that would have otherwise have been missing.

The discussion was frequently heated with a passion and exhaustion underpinning much of what was said, perhaps inevitable nearing the end of a week requiring an unsustainable amount of attentiveness and emotional/ intellectual/practical output from all of the facilitators; a micro example of the normal professional realities for community producers. It is well known phenomena that burnout of key individuals is the plague of all community groups across the board, threatening the continuity of all long-term projects. The current National government’s unsustainable leveraging of volunteer labour and charitable groups to pick up the slack in community care in a more general sense is, or in my view should be, part of the broader contextual conversation.

Richard Bartlett,with a light but effective hand and a stroke of brilliance turned the conversation. It was threatening to become a producers’ lament fest at the inherent unfairness of suits (aka: THEM) who consistently fail to understand the value of their altruistic sacrifice and potentially unwarranted cars (cars without warrants being a placeholder for financial insufficiency that already has a unacknowledged blindspot, assuming as it does that people have cars). He turned it back to the core value system of the project as a whole: the New Brighton community. All of the locals (defined as people who resided or invested time into New Brighton) present spoke in turn, introducing their various roles, investments, losses and experiences in their community. The humility, honesty, indomitability and quiet fortitude expressed was genuinely a humbling and moving experience.

During this entire conversation a drummers’ circle had occupied Te Ao Marama nearby, so the intensity of the conversation was against a soundtrack and backdrop of a handover that was already in progress, foreshadowing the moment of TEZA leaving and the New Brighton creative quarter reverting to its next iteration.

Sunday was a gentler affair. In the morning the artists were quieter and spent and the mood reflective. Bags were already packed and departure times discussed while the new BBQ was assembled for the launch of Kerry Anne Lee and Kim Lowe’s epic labour producing Alternating Currents: New Brighton, self-described as an open-sourced collaborative zine. Lee didnt sleep the night before. Impressively none of this showed when she addressed the packed tent of people who arrived. Another example of the hidden and often debilitating donation of labour in community projects.

The last creative summit “Putting the New in New Brighton” completed the handover process. There were very few present who did not speak. The conversation was occasionally tearful and often moving, but also concrete. By explicit design the presenters were all local producers. While I was not present at the beginning of the project, I’m willing to suggest that it was a conversation that would not have been possible at the beginning of the week. The room was full of the active cultural producers of New Brighton, those with institutional affiliations and those without, and everyone now knew each others names. This fact alone speaks to the range that TEZA accomplished in its goal to be effective and establish a genuine reach, as an human expression of lasting warmth and as a project with both agency and critical traction.

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