State of Arts: Solidarity Grid lighting up Christchurch's Park Terrace

Featuring a growing number of individual street lights representing global cities, Mischa Kuball's Solidarity Grid has ...
Duncan Shaw-Brown

Featuring a growing number of individual street lights representing global cities, Mischa Kuball's Solidarity Grid has been brightening up Park Terrace since it was launched in 2013.

OPINION: Back in that heady pop-saturated year of 1983, Cyndi Lauper trilled that girls just wanted to have fun.

I don't know about the girls, but 32 years later, this reporter now wants to have fun. Why shouldn't I, after a year of assiduously dissecting, analysing art and culture, while contributing to the catalogue of public intellectualism shyly sheltering amongst the brightly re-furbished pages of this worthy morning journal.

Occasionally I entertain an overwhelming desire to feed the larrikin child within. So a recent brief inner-city encounter with a strikingly statuesque woman in full Polish national costume naturally piqued his curiosity. In a city where the general dress code appears to be either hi-vis vests and hard hats or, on formal occasions, hi-vis jacket and tracksuit pants, the sight of a proud Pole in full national fig was memorable.

It transpired that she was part of the official ceremony to unveil the latest addition to Mischa Kuball's Park Terrace installation Solidarity Grid. Commissioned by the Christchurch City Council and project-produced by SCAPE Public Art, the three year project, launched in 2013, will eventually feature 21 individual street lights from global cities; a gesture of international solidarity during the city's rebuild, a celebration of the art of giving and the positive symbolism of light.

READ MORE: Park Terrace lights a show of Solidarity

This is where the fun arrives. Whatever artistic and philosophical rationale you place on Solidarity Grid, taken as a whole, the concept becomes a highly entertaining assemblage of the otherwise forgettable utilitarian. What Solidarity injects into Christchurch's cityscape is a sense of whimsicality and gleefully eccentricity. In other words, it's fun.

There's the prim modernism of Adelaide's contribution, Belgrade's Balkan Retro and Sendai's fusion of East and West, complete with a doughty miniature Samurai perched between what appear to be twin Victorian gaslights.

Further exploration reveals a dab of Mitteleuropa from Dusseldorf and an extraordinary Chinoiserie pagoda from Wuhan, China, where you half expect Chairman Mao to circle the top on the hour to the sounds of a carillon playing The East Is Red. The latest addition, a graceful filigree light from the Polish city of Sopot,  is demure in comparison.

I'm surprised how few people are aware of the Solidarity project. At a time when art can take itself very seriously indeed, the project comes as welcome light relief. The site is perfect, the rationale uplifting.

The good news is that it's still a work in progress.     

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