Artist resurrects red-zone houses

BACK TO LIFE: A red-zoned house in Avonside is illuminated and brought back to life by artist Ian Strange as part of the RISE street art festival.
BACK TO LIFE: A red-zoned house in Avonside is illuminated and brought back to life by artist Ian Strange as part of the RISE street art festival.

Red-zoned houses in Christchurch have been dramatically brought back to life by an international artist.

Ian Strange has taken four condemned homes in Avonside, spruced them up to their pre-quake condition, cut holes in them and then lit them for the RISE street art festival starting in Christchurch today.

Films, photographs and artworks created from parts of the four dramatically altered homes will be displayed in the Canterbury Museum as part of the festival.

Strange is fascinated with suburban homes, often subverting them in unusual ways. He has worked with homes in the US – setting one on fire and painting another completely red – and has exhibited to critical acclaim in Sydney and Melbourne.

In Christchurch, Strange removed the front wall of one home, leaving only the front door and windows, while on another he cut a narrow horizontal strip through the middle. The third and fourth homes feature circular holes cut in the walls and roof.

Lights were set up to dramatically beam out of the holes before they were filmed by renowned cinematographer Alun Bollinger over three dawn shoots this month.

The condemned homes will now be demolished and local company Silvan Salvage, which helped cut the holes, will recover and recycle most of the materials.

Strange, who grew up in Perth, said his work was about toying with the iconography of homes and suburbia. He said the light beaming from the homes represented the people that once lived there.

"The light is the humanity behind the architecture and inside the houses," he said.

"This work is about subverting the icon of the home.

"But I don't want to just react against that, I want to incorporate the local context."

The work was commissioned by RISE festival director George Shaw. He believes the artist is exploring rich emotional territory.

"The home is probably the one inanimate object that people treat like either a family member or a favourite pet," he said. "We have a very different relationship to the home as we have with any other inanimate object. The exploration of that is intriguing and extremely compelling.

"In somewhere like Christchurch that is more pronounced than anywhere else in the western world. What home means and how emotive it is. That wound is still very much fresh in this city."

Bollinger said he was attracted to the project as it was "completely different" to his work on feature films like Goodbye Pork Pie, Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners.

"It's an intriguing project and quite different to usual film making. Completely different, in fact.

"This is an opportunity to explore and experiment. We are not storytelling, we are image making.

"There is a certain freedom to it, because you are not bound by a preconceived idea."

The RISE street art festival, which funded the Strange work, starts today at the Canterbury Museum with new work by international and local street artists and a collection of works by British artist Banksy.

 The festival has also commissioned a dozen large artworks that are being created this week on walls in the city centre.

The Press