State of the arts: Audacious lives up to its name
A severe attack of tardiness prevented me from experiencing most of the city's Audacious Festival of Sonic Arts.
By the time that Labour Day Monday arrived, the project appeared to have fallen silent. I was about to give up, when the sound of a karakia/karaka drifted across a largely deserted Cathedral Square, dispatching a flutter through the pigeon lofts in the ruined cathedral and, it appeared, through some passers-by.
"Why can't they play kapa haka or Howard Morrison instead of this dirge?" one testily enquired of no-one in particular.
"Even Maoris can't understand this stuff."
Ignoring this and other passing cavils, the little I heard of Audacious convinced me that here was a bravely innovative artistic project perfectly attune with Christchurch's brave new world.
Even the notion of wiring an entire central city for sound has enough chutzpah to deserve a hearty public ovation. The individuals behind the 14 sonic installations had the foresight and imagination to recognise that the existing cityscape was the perfect canvas for a diverse catalogue of installations, performances and sound walks.
In a society fixated by the visual, using sound alone to convey emotions and invisible presences must have presented organisers and artists with serious challenges. One mistake and Audacious would have vanished into obscurity, accompanied by a sad, soft whisper of missed opportunity. But fortunately it hit the mark perfectly.
We're busily covering the city's walls with paint and street art of varying quality. Now it was time to fill ears and imaginations with a rich sound theatre, ranging from the voices of seductive sirens to an absorbing Ibsen-esque drama played out by an invisible cast inside a Gloucester St building.
And, answering its critics, Ariana Tikao and Mahina-Ina Kaui's karatia/karaka was an evocative reminder of the city's shared cultural heritage and, no, even the brilliant Howard Morrison would not have achieved the same potent results.
Taken as a whole, Audacious is a long-term concept, capable of placing Christchurch on the world's cultural map. To borrow Shakespeare's words in The Tempest, it filled Christchurch with noises, sounds and sweet airs that gave delight and hurt not – and that's something that we could do with much more of. Like the Bard, I'd like to dream again.
Hopefully the Audacious Festival will be back next year to demonstrate that we're a community where artistic innovation and flair is played with the volume turned high.