I enjoyed going on Angela Kilford's Reclamation Walk as part of the Performance Arcade last week. The walk was a guided tour which traced the old waterfront from Pipitea marae down to the old Te Aro pā site. It made me realise how very little I really know about the history of the city I've lived in for the past 8 years or so, when it comes down to it. I didn't, for example, know that the bus station is around where waka used to be pulled up onto the beach- as Angela said, there's a nice visual parallel there. It was a fun imaginative exercise to walk Lambton Quay and imagine it as waterfront again, and to remember all the rivers and streams that lie buried under the city. As I tell visitors to Wellington, if the land is flat, we made it up. I was reminded by the range of stories in the tour, from various points in time, of Teju Cole's novel Open City. In that book, the narrator spends a lot of time wandering in New York and exploring the city as a constantly rewritten text, layers and layers of history co-existing or erasing each other. Angela's information was interesting, but the unexpected thing about the tour was how the in-between parts, the walking parts, became chances for locals on the tour to share their own stories and favourite places in the city, and for us to get to know each other. A chance to share memories of places as we stood in them.
The other thing that has stuck with me is Kirsten Lavers' Admitting the Possibilities of Error. It was the kind of simple and immediately graspable concept that works so well in the arcade- the artist drew a huge circle and then tried to replicate it in concentric inner circles, by hand, one by one. This led of course to error and slow correction. It played to another strength of the arcade by providing an opening for conversation and contemplation with the artist while she worked, in a direct and genuine way, without obligation. Each circle was made with a different pen provided by the public, and their names added around the edge. We were encouraged to think about mistakes, and especially the ones we don't regret. The finished piece is being silently auctioned for the arcade here.
There was also a stormtrooper who gave counselling, which sounds like it was great and I'm sad I missed it. Great music too, and lots of stuff I didn't have time to investigate properly. I like the way the arcade makes artists come to the public rather than making them go to the artists. Like Sam said in his opening speech, it's a gift, made better by the fact we can take it or leave it as we please.
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