And That Was… January 2022 with Sofiya Romanenko

January can be a funny month – the first week or so can be filled with summer-y exploits of festivals, swimming, holidays and excess, before the realisation seeps in that reality is inching back and routine returns. That can mean valuing those moments to fit in as much as possible in small windows to avoid the dread of the mundane. But January can also be a month to be kind to yourself, to soak in the sun and soak in culture in the form of movies, books and digital content, setting the tone for your year and obsessions. For this month’s recap we asked our friend, photographer and multi-hyphenate Sofiya Romanenko to fill us in on what has captured her imagination in the opening weeks of 2022 – from documentaries to exhibitions, Instagram inspiration to new music, its a great list of must-sees, must-hears and must-dos…

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Movie – Moments Like This Never Last by Cheryl Dunn

They say that time goes faster the older we get, which must mean I’m at least 95 years old, since January seemed to have lasted for only about a week, with a year’s worth of mental exhaustion.

Having succumbed to the holiday blues brought upon the cumbersome reflections on the year just gone, I spent the better time of the month splayed in front of a telly, eventually stumbling upon a true gem – Moments Like This Never Last, a hard-hitting documentary about Dash Snow who turned his self-destruction into art and his art into self-destruction.

The moment it opened with LCD Soundsystem’s song New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, I knew I was in for something very special. An hour and a half-long depiction of a raw, wild, confronting talent mixed with saddening reality of observing someone plunge deep into the dark well of their addiction brought upon some bitter reflections on the price of self-expression, but also an overwhelming wave of inspiration to create, create, create, which is everything I could ask for from a movie like this.

Books – Ariel & Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Image from biblio.com

Back in the day I used to be a notoriously avid reader, consuming every bit of literature my little hands could reach. Many years later, my attention span has adjusted itself to the length of Instagram captions, my hands remained just as little, and while I may not be able to do anything about the latter, re-introducing myself to the writers I held near and dear all that time ago became a great gateway back to proper reading.

In light of that, I have apparently mentioned the influence Sylvia Plath and her Bell Jar had on the coming-of-age feminine turmoil I experienced as a teenager to people often enough to receive her Unabridged Diaries and collection of poems Ariel as gifts this year. Exploring her work from a perspective of a somewhat mature adult as opposed to an insolent youth has definitely opened a whole new level of relatability when it comes to the experience of perceived womanhood, and given that I can finally do it in Plath’s native language too has brought a newly-found appreciation for her morbid sense of humour and immersive style, even when she’s describing the most mundane snippets of her life.

Music – Jackie Down The Line by Fontaines D.C.

If you were to pull a headphone out of my ear in the past two weeks to see what I’m listening to, there’d be a 99% chance it’s Jackie Down The Line by Fontaines D.C.

The monotonous recital of haunting lyrics over a sombre, almost uncomfortable tune absolutely consumed me the moment the song came out, feeding into my obsession with Fontaines D.C.’s anxious style of music that I grew so fond of when I first discovered them about a year ago. What makes it even more great is the fact that this is the first single from their upcoming album Skinty Fia, which explores the topic of one’s morphing and fading cultural identity when moving away from home – something I can relate to deeply, being a Russian immigrant of five years. Also, one of the songs on the record is called Nabokov, who happens to be one of my favourite Russian writers, so anticipation is palpable.

“What good is happiness to me / If I’ve to wield it carefully?”

Art – Nick Robinson’s LINWOOD at Absolution

Photo from Nick Robinson

My general approach to life is to expect as little as possible so I can be delighted if good things do happen and not particularly disappointed if they don’t. Which is why when I learned that not only there’s a show happening in January – one of the slowest months of the year for this type of thing – , but it’s also by one of my favourite local photographers Nick Robinson, I bee-lined for Absolution as soon as his work was up.

Shooting in a similar style, I really enjoyed seeing locations I recognised and even captured myself presented in a way that was different to how I viewed them, fresh, puzzling. The rubbish bins, decaying buildings, awkward angles – a familiar aesthetic with a tasteful, or, depending on the type of person you are, questionable spin. Definitely worth checking out.

Inspiration

Image from houseof_dame Instagram

For a while now I’ve been really drawn to collaging, creating work using vintage magazines, found photos and digital software, so a lot of my inspiration comes from artists creating in a similar genre of grotty-fetishy-morbid goodness which could have come straight from some shitty 80s punk zine.

The standouts in this long long line up of artists are @houseof_dame, @nilultra, @foiegraphics and @piperferrari_, with a special shout out to @ukfetisharchive for a great collection of vintage kinky imagery.

What things inspired you in January 2022 – let us know!

Follow Sofiya on Instagram at @chchasti

 

 

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Showtime!

InHAUS: Exhibition @ Tyan Haus, Friday 28th January, 2022

I was intrigued when I heard Sydenham’s Tyan Haus (a collaborative DAO experiment, but let’s leave that explanation for another day, it’s a little bit complicated…) were presenting Aotearoa’s first ever NFT exhibition. NFT’s have been an unavoidable emergence in various fields depending on your interest; either as an artist offered a new platform to sell your work, as a crypto investor, or a digi-phile always looking for new digital trends. Not without complexities, there is still a lot to sift through (we hope to dive into that in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!), but as an event, InHAUS was energised and packed with an enthusiastic crowd (t-shirts with various crypto currency logos were more ubiquitous than your normal art show attire of black-on-black). While I am not sure if this is the future of the art world, or even if physical exhibitions are the best format for NFT art, I cannot deny that there is big-time buzz and InHAUS most definitely captured that excitement…

It was a large and enthusiastic crowd at Tyan Haus on Friday night, who rapturously received the evenings speeches as a celebration of the potential of NFTs…
While many pieces were displayed as traditional printed works, such as the contribution from Christchurch graffiti legend Ikarus…

 

There were also digital works displayed on large screens…

 

 

Including one of Askew Ones Digilogue studies…
And Dean Johns 8-bit study Coffee and a Girl
Our mate Ghostcat was intrigued… miniature NFTs anyone?

Do you have a show coming up? Let us know,. we would love to cover it in Showtime! Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz with the details!

 

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Hands Up – A Photo Essay

The tag. Who would think that a name written on a wall could draw so much anger and vitriol? While we might romanticise lovers names carved into trees or those historical inscriptions that capture a certain time or event, contemporary tags are rarely given such status, viewed almost primarily as an affront to order and ownership and a symbol of wasted youth.

The tag is the basis of graffiti culture, the building block on which all else follows and evolves. For many traditionalists a solid tag outweighs all, a good hand-style is a necessity. Rendered in marker or spray paint, with clean lines or messy drips, appearing legible or incomprehensible, the humble tag can be as complicated and complex as the people executing them.

Yet, the beauty of a tag is often overlooked. In their various states tags can exhibit chaos, urgency, care, thoughtfulness, anger, humour, defiance, opportunism, and immediacy; a carefully planned dance or an impulsive act of disruption. But, beyond these readings, a tag is importantly a reflection of action, even when the writer has vanished, the legacy of their stealth movement remains, evident in the little details. The sense of flow and energy reveal the dance-like performance. Unlike more developed designs, a linear tag is about efficient movement and a familiarity with the required physical exertion. Watching a sweetly executed tag come to life can be enthralling as it unfolds.

This photo essay, compiled largely from Otautahi but also featuring some images from around Aotearoa, is not a collection of the best hand-styles or tags (it is not my place to determine anything other than knowing what I like), instead it attempts to capture this diversity and the way that in certain environments and frames, these forms can be beguiling and intriguing, aesthetic and appreciated…

Are you a photographer (or you know someone who is)? Do you have an idea for an urban photo essay? We would love to hear from you and potentially feature your work here! Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz and let’s talk!

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A Nice Trip to the Beach…

We are excited to announce a summer series of New Brighton guided street art tours! Watch This Space has already established central Christchurch street art tours, with hundreds of guests joining us to explore the art within the four avenues since 2019. Now, in conjunction with the New Brighton Outdoor Art Foundation, our tours will journey out to one of the city’s most vibrant suburban settings, the beautiful seaside village of New Brighton.

Ikarus and Ysek below Joel Hart

Although New Brighton has faced a litany of challenges over the years, from the economic downturn with the arrival of mega malls, to the damage of the Christchurch earthquakes, art has been an undeniable presence – brightening walls with evolving works that have often reflected the indomitable community spirit of the area! While today, the beautiful Pier is accompanied by the bustling children’s playground and the popular He Puna Taimoana hot pools (and a brand new surf life saving club to boot), since 2012, the dilapidated walls and empty spaces have been filled with art.  From the 2012 event Mural Madness to the 2020 New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival – art has been at the heart of so many aspects of the village’s revitalisation. The art found in New Brighton is not as pristine and curated as the central city, where there is an increasing sense of input from power brokers, instead it is more organic and experimental, and at times challenging, with traditional graffiti a prominent part of the artistic profile with legal walls and collaborative productions. But that makes it all the more interesting and authentic – it is the art of action!

Welcome to Orua Paeroa, by the Fiksate crew and the New Brighton Community

With free tours spread across January and February, now is the time to book in and explore New Brighton! Perfect for locals who want to celebrate their neighbourhood or for visitors who will find a ‘new’ New Brighton, our tours are available for all ages!

Email tours@watchthisspace.org.nz for booking options and we will see you at the beach!   

Tour dates:

12pm, Saturday, January 22nd (almost fill, less than 3 places available!)

6pm, Thursday, January 27th

12pm, Sunday, January 30th

6pm, Thursday, February 3rd

12pm, Saturday, February 5th

12pm, Sunday, February 20th

The New Brighton street art tours are an initiative between Watch This Space, the New Brighton Outdoor Art Foundation and ChristchurchNZ.

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And that Was… December 2021

December was kind of like a microcosm of the year 2021 – lots of uncertainty and doubt, but still enough to keep us occupied and perhaps an optimism underlined by the hard-earned resilience of the last 24 months. This month’s And That Was… is a little shorter than normal, largely because we put together the whopper 2021 recap and co-ordinating that many responses is hard work! But that doesn’t mean we should not acknowledge some of the cool stuff we saw and did in December 2021, the sign-off to a year that was… unforgettable?

BOXed Quarter additions…

Nick Lowry’s massive Eel and Bone piece is one of a collection of new works at the BOXed Quarter to sign off 2021

New work at the BOXed Quarter added to the already impressive collection, with new pieces by teethlikescrewdrivers, Bols and Bloom n Grow Gal, as well as a massive, three-panel high production by Nick Lowry, a new, neon-tinged landmark for Madras Street traffic…

Stitch-o-Mat Bouquet in New Brighton

We loved finding these beautiful cross-stitched floral arrangements in New Brighton, weaved through a netting board, they are beguiling, intricate, and ramshackle – the perfect combination…

ZZAN

The Watch This Space team enjoys the food and atmosphere of ZZAN!

ZZAN Korean Fried Chicken on Manchester Street is not only great because it has huge servings of good food – it also has the coolest decor in the city – the graffiti aesthetic is so good Watch This Space had to have our Xmas gathering there!

New TOGO works at Fiksate

Wellington based artist and adventurer TOGO is a definite favourite here – from his daring graffiti that breaks expectations around style and aesthetics, to his incredible, but often less visible studio and gallery work – so we loved seeing some new pieces at Fiksate – continuing his experimental techniques to create abstract works that draw on urban chaos and chance, they are simultaneously elegant and energetic.

It’s not about the gifts…

Some of the new books the author compiled throughout December. Now it is time to find the opportunity to read them!

December is both my birthday month and Christmas, and while I know its about the time spent with loved ones, it is also nice to know my collection of art books is always likely to grow come the last month of the year – and 2021 was a fine example, with new reads now piled high on my dresser!

And That Was… December 2021 and 2021 wrapped! Join us in 2022 for more lists, interviews and articles – and let us know what and who you would like to see featured in our online content this year!

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