And That Was… November 2022

November brought BIG news – almost 10 years after the landmark Rise exhibition, Canterbury Museum will stage SHIFT – an urban art takeover of the iconic institution and a final hurrah to the building before redevelopment. But, this exciting news isn’t all that made November memorable! From international rock stars to small street art, summer is shaping up to be exciting!

SHIFT – Urban Art Takeover @ Canterbury Museum

Perhaps the biggest news of November was the announcement of SHIFT – Urban Art Takeover – a massive artistic takeover of the Museum, with over 50 artists transforming 5 floors of the iconic cultural institution! A completely unique exhibition, this is sure to be an unprecedented event!

Dcypher @ Chiwahwah

A fresh new work appeared along the lively Terrace strip in the central city in November, with a striking Mexican-inspired anamorphic mural by local legend Dcypher on Chiwahwah Cantina’s exterior wall. The mural stretches along the wall and is best viewed from a specific vantage point – make sure you find it!

Ikarus goes small…

Dcypher’s DTR crewmate was also busy, but at a different scale, with a series of small urban diorama’s covertly placed around the city. The grimy settings like tiny stage sets that blend into the surrounding environment.

Archetypes @Fiksate

Archetypes, a collaborative show by Dr Suits and Jessie Rawcliffe ran through November at Fiksate Gallery. The alluring paintings combine Rawcliffe’s stunningly meticulous portraits with Dr Suits’ dynamic abstraction, the results forming a beautiful suite of works that illuminated new readings of each artist.

Klaudia Bartos @ TyanHAUS

Another exhibition that we loved in November was Klaudia Bartos’ Haus of Heads at TyanHAUS in Sydenham. The beguiling series of surreal, devilish visages, produced mediums ranging from watercolour to fabric, were haunting and intriguing, inviting closer inspection…

And a Bonus…

Normally And That Was… is capped at five entries, but I couldn’t leave the return of live gigs by international artists returning to Christchurch! I may have missed UK band Idles, but a week later I was able to witness an impressive performance by US alt legend Jack White, and, it is safe to say, I’m glad I did! There was a request for no videos, so the video below will make do to replicate the energetic opener Taking Me Back

They were out highlights from November 2022 – what were yours? Let us know in the comments!

The Paste-Up Project – with Mark Catley

The fourth and final artist in the Paste-Up Project is Mark Catley – one of the city’s longest tenured paste-up artists. Mark’s nostalgic vintage toy paste ups have been a familiar site across Christchurch for many years and as such he was a natural contributor to this project. For his installation, Mark continued his toy parade, this time with huge images of Barbie, G.I. Joe, He-Man and more circling the bollard like a line-up awaiting identification. Catley’s work evokes nostalgia, warm recollections of childhood favourites, but it also illuminates the darker side, from the ridiculous body shapes and reinforced gender stereotypes to the problematic materials used in production. We chatted with Mark and dived into his experiences pasting art around the city and the Paste-Up Project specifically, and, of course, a specific Star Wars character…

It seems like you have been pasting art up around Ōtautahi for a long time, do you remember when you started?

Well, according to my Instagram page, it was 2015. I only worked that out based on when the photos were taken of the big Batman and Robin faces opposite Victoria Square, it’s some fancy restaurant now…

The Permit Room…

Yeah, that’s it!

So, what was the inspiration?

Well, a lot of people were doing it at the time. After the earthquakes, things had changed, and I just thought I’d give it a go. I honestly don’t even remember now. I would’ve had a friend print them out for me. I was doing my insurance work at the time, and I would get emails about toy figures and I would open them up and put them on my computer monitor and I just started taking photos of the faces of Batman and Robin and then I went home and made them bigger and I just pasted them up. At first, I didn’t actually know anyone doing it personally, so I just had to Google how to do it myself. I remember going to one of those Instructables websites about how to make wheat-paste glue. I just used the first recipe I found and I pretty much stick with it even now…  

Did it always make sense as the medium to use to put your art out in the streets?

Well yeah, I mean, I’d never tried using spray cans or anything like that and I figured this was the quickest way to get it up there. Then by chance, the first time I put them up, I think it would have been the Batman head, I remember walking back to my car and turning around to have a look, thinking that’s pretty cool, and there’s some guy yelling out to me: “Hey you!” I was like, oh shit! I mean, it wasn’t that late, it would have been daylight savings, so it had only just got dark, and this guy shouted out to me. I turned around and I just replied “Yeah?” And he asked me: “Did you just do that over there?” I said “Yeah”, and he said it was pretty cool, but he wanted my details, and I just gave them to him. I told him my name, I gave him my cell phone number, and then nothing happened. It wasn’t until six months or a year later that The Press ran a story about this mysterious street artist and it turned out the first guy was a reporter and after the first story was posted on Stuff, that reporter spoke to another reporter and they knew who I was straight away. So, someone from The Press phoned me and said: “Oh, so was this you?” And stupidly I just said, “Yeah it was”, being the good boy I am. I remember hanging up and thinking, shit! So, I rang them back and said: “Hey, why don’t you just not put that it’s me and have a bit of fun with this?” But he was like, “Nah, it’s too late.” So my dream of being a mysterious artist was washed away…

You were never able to become the Banksy figure of mystery…

Exactly, I never really had enough time to give myself a cool name or anything.

I don’t think I’m creative enough to come up with a good name…

I’ve got a good name now, a podcast gave it to me: BosskCat, because Bossk is my favourite Star Wars character and my last name is Catley, so BosskCat. They even made a picture of TopCat, but with Bossk’s head stuck on it. That was some guys in England who thought of it…

You have become known for your annual May the 4th Star Wars bonanza, has that become something that you look forward to each year?

I really like to do it. It’s just a bit of fun and I imagine even if no one else cared, I would just put them up for myself for fun. It must have been a few years ago now, but I remember it was hosing down on the night of May the third, it was stupid weather, you know, there was no way anyway should have gone out putting up paste ups, although some of those pieces have lasted for years. Anyway, one of them was over in Lyttelton, on the old fire station, it was a Princess Leia paste up, but there were about 10 or 12 Russian sailors all hiding under that spot, with bottles of vodka and a plastic bag of cooked fish. They were just drinking and pulling out bits of fish meat to eat. The smell was revolting. I was annoyed because that was the spot, you know, I’d worked out a few days earlier that was the spot, and because it was raining I thought no one would be there. Anyway, I half tried to explain what I was doing but they had no idea what I was saying, they just laughed, so I just quickly did it and got out of there, looking back it was pretty funny…

Interestingly enough, other people started to add to that piece, right? Was that cool to see?

Yeah, they put like little pockets and a big mouth on there, that was cool…

It gave the piece its own life after you walked away, and that’s a good lead-in actually to the Paste-Up Project, because although you haven’t got any Star Wars figures, obviously the vintage toys are a central element, so explain the concept that you’ve installed…

I really wanted to do something interactive and get the public involved. I was treating it along the lines that it’s going to be pretty hard just to keep it updated, let alone with people playing with it, so I just thought I will have some larger figures up there from generic toys from my memories; I really wanted to have a massive Barbie from the 80s, a Sport Barbie in an 80s leotard, showing how crazy the body shape was. I also wanted a He-Man up there too, because I’ve been talking a lot with my friends about how it is so weird that He-Man is such a macho figure, but he’s always in his underwear. It’s the same with fantasy novels like Conan, it’s always fighting monsters in loin clothes, it’s very weird to me. Anyway, I added Raphael, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and a G.I. Joe from the 60s. Back in the 60s, all the boys were taught to go to war and fight and kill, this very macho thing, and all the women were taught just to stay home and look after their man and the family, that was the lifestyle, so I wanted to question that. Then I just asked the public to send me photos of the toys that they had as kids. I’ve still got quite a few to put up as well…

The thing with toys is that they have such a powerful sense of nostalgia for us and yet they are often highly problematic and that was one of the things you said that you were wanting to illuminate. But it’s not just the questions of gender identity and body image, there’s also actually the literal toxicity of older toys…

Yeah, it’s crazy when you look into all the plastics that they used, especially back in 50s and 60s, right up to the 80s and 90s and probably still now a little bit with the mass-produced toys especially, all the knock-off toys. They’re getting better now, but its the hidden stuff like all the glues, the paints. I think Fisher Price is one of the first companies to actually come forward and say publicly that you can still collect these vintage toys, but by all means do not let your children use them. It’s quite interesting because a lot of people just really don’t want to hear that. A friend told me that this local Salvation Army store posted that they had all these great toys from the 80s and someone replied saying, hey, this company’s actually come out and said that these are to collect, not for kids to play with, which is a hard thing to hear. Right now I’m holding a 1980s plastic figure, I love all this stuff, but I will wash my hands after playing with something like this, and I don’t really like letting my daughter play with some of these toys. It’s not because they are collectible, they are toys that are meant to be played with, it’s more that we try to get her toys that aren’t toxic. It’s hard, because I still buy vinyl, but ideally, they should be using recycled plastics to make records. It’s just bewildering, it’s crazy…

You have actually worked quite consistently at a reasonably large scale, some of the previous Paste Up Project artists haven’t worked at such a size. Was this project less daunting because of your previous experience?

Yeah, it was good. Really the only issue was the curve of the bollard and learning about the materials, like soaking the adhesive paper for half an hour. But it went up so easily, I couldn’t believe how fast it was. It was really good how it adhered, so it went well, and I enjoyed working at that scale…

That sense of scale seems quite important for your work because that nostalgic element takes on more emphasis when it is larger. As you get older, things seem smaller, so to make them bigger again plays on our memories of them, it brings back that sense of magic. When you see something after a long time and you’ve gotten older and bigger, it never seems as impressive, so recreating them at this massive scale, it brings back that wonder. It gives them a sense of agency as well; it makes them seem like they can talk back. The large size seems to be a good fit with the concepts that are being teased out in your work…

Yeah, I mean it does make a lot of sense. I mean, I like Ghostcat’s tiny builds, his small stuff, with surprises that you have to look out for, the detail’s just amazing. But then I love things that are just stupidly large, oversized and just really like: Bang! There’s Barbie, standing on Manchester Street. I love the fact that everyone just knows what they are straight away, yet it’s still a surprise. 

It automatically attaches people to something familiar, right?

They go in for a closer look and they go, oh it’s He Man! I remember that as a kid! It starts all the conversations about what their childhood was like. Hopefully it makes people smile…

You talked about a few people commenting as they were passing, have people been responding to the work?

Most of it has been positive. I’m always personally surprised that more people don’t stop and have a chat. I’m the sort of person that if I saw someone doing that, then I’m always like, wow, that’s cool, and I’ll go ahead and try and find out what someone’s doing. But you know, most people just live in their own worlds, looking at their phones. Big groups of drunk people are the worst to be honest, that’s why I try not to do it on a Friday or Saturday night. There’s nothing worse than a whole bunch of drunk people, going “what are you doing?” With this work, when people asked, I could tell them that it’s an official project, and they like to hear that as opposed to just putting something up, but then it’s a bollard, you are not just going to put things up on it are you?

That’s the other thing with your installation, the connection with the bollard. Because they are toys, it automatically raises the idea of advertising, so it starts to become an interesting interplay because it’s not advertising and it’s actually doing the opposite because it’s raising some of the issues of consumption. The way you have composed the work, that large-scale parade going around the bollard, was that in some ways to stop it looking too much like advertising posters?

Yeah, it was. At one point what I wanted to do was like a line-up, like The Usual Suspects mug shot. But then I realised that the heights were all different, and it wouldn’t have worked. I mean, I’ve sort of done that, but not really. I just wanted to make something that you walked around, a big continuous piece to look at, and then to add to it over the weeks. I’ve been there a few times and added stuff to it…

I have one last question and this one is probably pretty hard to answer, you’ve mentioned that you’re a toy collector, what’s the one toy you would buy if price was no object?

I’m a Bossk collector, so there is the famous toxic-limbed Bossk from Spain. There are about 50 of them in the world, some say 29. I’m really into the Spanish Star Wars stuff. Basically, they’ve made like 600 million little tiny figures, mainly in China or Taiwan, places like that, but then Spain got a contract, and started producing some Star Wars figures, but the company that produced them, the quality of plastic they used wasn’t as good and so for some reason the Bossk figure’s plastic has degraded and has turned his limbs, his arms and legs, a green colour. They call it the toxic green Bossk and this figure is sought after all over the world, it goes for stupid money. It’s not like the Boba Fett Rocket Launcher, but…

That’s the famous one, right?

Yeah, but it really annoys me, and I’m getting my geeky hat on here, there are fewer figures of the toxic Bossk, but because it’s Boba Fett, it’s given more cred. But Boba Fett is just a dude in a space helmet, he is literally just a guy in a space suit! He’s a cool figure too, but the Bossk is the one! I know that if I ever got it, it wouldn’t be that amazing, I would have it in my hands and it would be, ahh, its OK, but that’s the one I would buy. 

Did you want to give any shout outs?

Thanks to yourself and Phantom, JZA, Cape of Storms, and teethlikescrewdrivers, he’s always handy with his advice and he is so enthusiastic. I love the fact that he is all over everything…

That sense of community is driven by a lot of people, but he is right at the heart of it…

If I was younger, I would hang out with them all the time. But I do kind of like working by myself. I have so much work, but it just takes time. It always looks so cool and it’s great when there are new fresh walls. I often think what would my mum think? But she would probably drive right past and that’s alright.

Thank you to Phantom Billstickers and the Christchurch City Council for their support of The Paste-Up Project!

And That Was… October 2022

October is a month that keeps you guessing. The weather is still likely to throw a few curve balls, and people tend to not know if they are still in a mid-year blitz or are creeping towards the end of the year wind-down. It feels like this unpredictable manner extends to the art in the streets, with surprises popping up in the form of both small additions and large projects. October 2022 kicked off with the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit, saw a refresh for the Berlin Wall, and provided a range of little surprises in between. So, let’s have a look at what we loved in October…

The Dance-O-Mat gets a facelift…

Gap Filler’s iconic Dance-O-Mat had already made itself known in it’s new home on Manchester Street, but in October, it got a brighter spruce-up when the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit Graffiti Jam painted the walls of the site with traditional pieces and characters by Tepid, YSEK, Meep, Drows, Xact and APEK. Additionally, the temporary wall was unveiled as a paste-up site, with the wood covered by the Slap City collective.

DTR X FILTH Crews Collab

In addition to the Dance-O-Mat Graffiti Jam, the Cathedral Square section of Spark Lane also got some new art courtesy of a collaborative production between the FILTH crew and DTR. Coordinated by Ikarus as an additional element of the Hip Hop Summit, the jam featured some Christchurch graffiti royalty in a Simpsons/Masters of the Universe mash-up themed production. With the site now opened and more visible, the painting is a timely addition and reminder of the talented local scene.


Now What Belongs Together, Will Grow Together, Bols on the Berlin Wall

Local stencil artist Bols refreshed the west-facing side of the Berlin Wall in Rauora Park. The text-based painting, based on a quote from German politician Willy Brandt, continues the artist’s investigation of words as image. The layered text in reds, orange, yellow and white, echo not only the German flag, but also the flames of protest, a reminder of what it takes to break down walls.

Complementary Summoning Spot

Right next to the Berlin Wall, we also found one of our favourite pieces of street art, if it can be called as such – perhaps it is more aptly described as an activation – of the dead! Cinder’s Complementary Summoning Spot, seeingly installed by Archfiend, is an urban ouija board, adding a spiritual twist to the streets, and daring passers-by to scratch that supernatural itch!

Sam and Sandra…

To sign off on October, we take a very different direction, a much more wholesome example of urban inscription. Is there anything more heart-warming than a declaration of friendship inscribed for posterity? Sam and Sandra are BFF’s and they have committed that to the world, in fact, the world would be that much better if we all displayed that kind of earnestness…

They were our favourite things from October, what were yours? Let us know in the comments!

The Christchurch Hip Hop Summit 2022 – The DTR Graffiti Showcase

The Christchurch Hip Hop Summit kicked off for 2022 with a day of painting and tunes as the oldest of the four elements took centre stage. Organised and curated by Ikarus of the DTR Crew, the Summit’s Graffiti Jam featured two productions; one by a collection of local artists at the re-activated Dance-O-Mat site on Manchester Street and the other, a collaboration between the DTR and FILTH crews, along Spark Laneway between Hereford Street and Cathedral Square. While the two jams had starkly different atmospheres; DJs played music as crowds gathered at the Dance-O-Mat, the DTR and FILTH jam more low-key, they both celebrated the traditions of graffiti and resulted in impressive productions.

Making a Place of Play

Gapfiller’s Dance-O-Mat, a relocatable urban dance floor, is one of the city’s most enduring post-quake place-making icons – a status cemented when the now King and Queen Consort, Charles and Camilla, cut some shapes on the floor when they visited the city in 2012. When the Dance-O-Mat needed a new home, GapFiller found the vacant space next to Paddy McNaughton’s Irish Pub on Manchester Street. The process of installing the dance floor was undertaken and soon, the washing machine discotheque was sending rhythms out across the city and limbs were moving (some more elegantly than others).

The Dance-O-Mat’s new setting was a typical Ōtautahi lot, vacant but for rocky shingle, weeds and bright graffiti painted on the surrounding walls. Now with support from GapFiller, Resene Paints, the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit and a range of artists, the paint covered walls have been given a facelift to match the Dance-O-Mat’s activation. The first addition was a simple black and white declaration of the site as a Gapfiller ‘Place of Play’ – part of the urban play initiative. The mural, completed by Nick Lowry and Bols, simply deploys the graphic Place of Play logo, designed by Ariki Creative, running along the upper section of the Northern wall, boldly declaring the site as a destination. The painting spanning 18 metres in length and starting more than three metres up the wall, was completed in just two days, and set the tone for further activations.

If the Place of Play mural served a practical purpose, the next wave of creative work was brighter and exemplified the Place of Play intentions. On the first weekend of October, the 2022 Christchurch Hip Hop Summit kicked off with graffiti jams – including at the Dance-O-Mat site, where a selection of local graffiti artists refreshed the walls with characters and pieces. The activity, bolstered by DJs playing music, drew sizeable crowds (and dancers), making the most of the (almost) summery weather. Across from the graffiti artists, members of Slap City decorated the dedicated paste-up wall (which already featured a bold ‘Dance-O-Mat’ painting in red and yellow by teethlikescrewdrivers) with paper-based additions big, small and everywhere in between.

The flurry of activity was a perfect introduction for a site that now celebrates various creative outlets, a new must-see destination in the heart of Ōtautahi. The Dance-O-Mat is back and it looks fantastic!

One More, More The Show

More The Show returns this week with One More, More the Show – once again celebrating local wahine artists and raising funds for The Period Place. One More, More the Show will fill the walls of Clubhouse Creative on Southwark Street with art by a wide range of Ōtautahi creatives, painters, illustrators, makers and more. As organiser Lydia Thomas explains, More the Show came from the lack of wahine art at local art shows: “I haven’t been in Ōtautahi long, but I can already see and know of extremely talented females and I wanted to create someone just for them.” The More shows are short and sweet with a playful energy, intended to function like a gig or a festival (music will be supplied by talented local female DJs), a limited window to experience the event. This time, Thomas has a selection of almost 30 artists, featuring returning creatives like Robbi Carvalho, Kyla K and Harriet Murray, but also new contributors, including Emma Turner and Lily Wenmoth. Whereas previous shows have allowed artists to present multiple works, this show is more focused, with each artist contributing just one work, giving each a more unique value. The show will also donate a minimum of 10% of every sale to The Period Place, whose mission is ensure every person with a period in Aotearoa can have access to period education and products. As Thomas declares: “People should come to see the show because the talent of wahine artists in Ōtautahi is out of the gate – we are so lucky be able to head out and enjoy it, to drink wine, eat cake and celebrate!”

One More, More the Show opens Thursday 6th October, 5:30pm – 7:30pm at ClubHouse Creative, Southwark Street. Drinks and food will be supplied by from Buzz Club, Good Sh*t Soda, Young & Co Wines and Full Time Tart.

TUNE! with PK

One of the best things about the TUNE! project is seeing the diverse range of influences different artists reveal. The spectrum of musical collections is a great reminder that nothing is monolithic. It is easy to assume graffiti writers and street artists are all simple stereotypes (hooded vandals or hipster artists), the reality is, of course, not so monochromatic. For this edition of TUNE!, we talk to enigmatic local graffiti writer, photographer and urban explorer PK, who drops an eclectic mix of tunes, from Grace Jones and The Brian Jonestown Massacre to Dam Native and The Birthday Party, a perfect example of spiraling influences…

PK: Music is my second biggest obsession (the first isn’t hard to guess!). I think music is definitely the cooler of the two. I don’t often listen to stuff while I’m painting or going about my day now, but I have fun memories of boosting around on all night missions as a teenager listening to my punk cassettes and BBC One In The Jungle mixes. I wanted this list to have a bit of everything I enjoy but it got to like 50 songs so I cut it down to a lucky 13 that I think represents most of what I’ve been listening to recently…

Burning Witch – Stillborn

Lydia Lunch – Friday Afternoon

Joanne Robertson – Hi Watt

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – E to G

Flipper – Shed No Tears

Townes Van Zandt – White Freight Liner Blues

Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence – Grey/Afro

Scraps – Baby Baby

Grace Jones – Me! I Disconnect From You

Strawberry Switchblade – Trees and Flowers

The Birthday Party – Sonny’s Burning

Dam Native – Battle Styles

Marilao – F*@k Me Moon [Morph]

TUNE! is an ever-growing playlist of the music that inspires our favourite creatives – stay tuned for our next edition!

And That Was… August 2022

I am actually skeptical August even happened. I have the most fleeting recollections of some days that purported to be in August, but I have no certainty, such was the speed with which it passed. On the bright side of this hurtling stream of months is, of course, the impending arrival of weather conducive to art making outdoors – longer days, warmer nights and a bigger audience… But before we get to all that, let’s use all of our available resources to paint a picture of what happened in the mysterious month of August…

Jay Hutchinson @ Fiksate

We have been fans of Ōtepoti artist jay Hutchinson’s work for a while, so it was brilliant to come face to face with his hand-embroidered refuse in our favourite gallery. From a discarded Subway napkin to a greasy KFC chip box (both presented on chunks of asphalt), the jarring juxtaposition of delicate beauty and overlooked mundanity striking and alluring.

Seaside Session

It’s always great to to see familiar spaces get a spruce up and in mid-August, a popular New Brighton spot was the site of a communal re-paint, featuring a range of contributions, including Burga, Peaz, Tepid, Nemo and teethlikescrewdrivers. This evolving space is always good for a gander, full of intentional and accidental collaborations…

IRONS X Yikes (Kind Of…)

Yikes’ startled character, seemingly locked between brick pillars on Manchester Street has been a favourite for years, but a recent addition by IRONS highlighted the way pieces can become a harmonious pairing. IRONS’ painting above Yikes’ work feels entirely organic due to the green background echoing the older piece, a perfect understanding of how to seamlessly fit in…

Ikarus X YSEK

If the Yikes and IRONS juxtaposition was more a response from the latter, Ikarus and YSEK’s Sydenham collaboration was much more planned, a combination of each artists’ iconic style – the unmistakable letter forms of Ikarus and YSEK’s signature animal characters, in this case a blue-skinned lizard, all tied together with a sewer background and unified colour scheme. Chef’s kiss.

Black Panther 2 Trailer

OK, so technically it was released in July, but let’s just say I only saw it in August. The trailer for Black Panther 2 is pretty epic, adding new elements to the story and hinting at the handling of the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. Technically it isn’t urban art related, but as someone suggested, the mural of T’Challa spotted in the trailer looks like a Retna and El Mac collaboration, which is good enough for me!

What were your highlights in August? Let us know!

Tune! with Peaz

The next entry in our ever-growing playlist of music that inspires our favourite creatives comes from graffiti artist Peaz. With a mix of hip-hop, low-fi, pysch and blues, these cuts are a perfect blend and reflection of the artist’s tastes and a world view that is about the present and the importance of expression and experiences…

Peaz: I love all kinds of music, especially depending on which part of my life journey is being experienced. Everything from early psychedelic rock to the newer styles, doom, hip hop, blues, jazz and metal. Much like graffiti, I especially value artists with a message, who have a story to tell. There is a lot to be said for music and art that makes us look a little deeper and think a little differently. Most of the artists listed here constantly remind me of what’s really important in life and existing, much like being active as a writer. It’s about looking at the bigger picture and being here, now; living in every moment and expressing oneself as authentically as possible. It’s almost impossible to sweat the small stuff when creating and experiencing, so I suppose that’s what makes music more meaningful to me.

Horrorshow – Waiting for the 5.04


All Day – Wasting Time

Mac Miller – Ascension

@peace – Nothing

Avantdale Bowling Club – Home

All Them Witches – Effervescent

Dead Meadow – The Light

The Doors – Been Down So Long

Kid Cudi – Solo Dolo

David Dallas – Til Tomorrow

Follow Peaz on Instagram

Counterfeit – A place for things that don’t have a place…

A few weeks ago, I was lazily scrolling through Instagram and a striking black and white image flashed past. I scrolled back and was drawn by the raw energy of a puffy face with a swollen black eye, the grainy image accompanied by a Gothic script reading Counterfeit. The stark minimalist look contrasted with a punky DIY quality and I was immediately intrigued, it was a nice contrast from a lot of the manipulated bluster of social media and I wanted to know more about this Counterfeit presence. When I visited the website, the content was an impressive reflection of local talent, from zine publications to photo essays, all capturing a sense of low-fi outsider attitude. After some low-level sleuthing I was able to connect with the semi-anonymous founders of Counterfeit, ‘J’ and ‘S’ and chat about the goals of the platform, the art it represents and how it is a “place for things that have no place’…

I must admit, when Counterfeit appeared on my Instagram feed, I was immediately intrigued by the raw aesthetic and by the mystery of not knowing anything about it, and I love when that happens, because it feels a bit more rare these days, to find something that feels new and authentic. What inspired you to start Counterfeit?  

J: It seemed like there was a lot of stuff that I love that hasn’t had a place to exist, stuff that was not ‘fine art’ enough to go in a gallery, and stuff that didn’t fit in aesthetically or stylistically with local group shows. I just felt like everything I wanted to see and the work by the people I like, there just wasn’t that space where you could see it. There are a whole bunch of rad people doing rad stuff, but it was all really separate and spread out and I just wanted a place where it could all come together…  

Did you think there were enough people making work that fit the Counterfeit aesthetic to make it work, or was it also about making a platform with the whole, ‘build it and they will come’ mantra? 

J: I felt like the work I was making didn’t fit in anywhere and I just noticed a fair few other people in the local art scene that I thought might have been in that same position, and then the more you start to think about it, the more you notice there are plenty more people out there you can try to pull in to be part of it…

S: From my perspective, when I started making and showing my work publicly, I noticed a fair few other artists whose work thematically aligned with what I want to see out there, within one show, one platform, one zine. By gathering all these artists under one proverbial roof we hope that it will draw in more people alike in one space. 

Image by Josh Bradshaw

How would you categorize the cross-section of art and artists presented by Counterfeit? There seem to be elements of skate culture, punk culture, zine culture, a kind of outsider art, there’s a sense of the urban influence… It probably doesn’t need to be pigeonholed, but did you spend time thinking about exactly what makes something right for Counterfeit or is that an ongoing and evolving discussion?

J: I reckon it’s easier to figure out what’s not it. All of the elements you mentioned are exactly all of the things we really like so are naturally drawn to. It’s quite obvious quite quickly when something doesn’t fit that, haha.  

S: What I looked up to was always somewhere else and when J and I came together, it was like, oh actually, there’s a big cross-section of people here who we find really appealing and it coincides with a lot of things that we really like, so it’s become much easier to understand what it is that fits on the platform.

For me, elements of the Counterfeit aesthetic feel very Ōtautahi. The gothic text, the black and white, the grime, although the positive spin has been the bright and colourful post-quake city, the reality of being a cold damp Southern city feels fittingly represented by the Counterfeit aesthetic. Is that something you recognised, or is the influence more global than that?

J: I just wanted something that feels real. Just like the grime, the devastation, the dirt of Ōtautahi represented through the content of the website; the logo, the general aesthetic, all juxtaposed with the clean look of the website itself; like the new emerging parts of the city neighboring with ruins and dingy car parks. 

S: While it is inspired by Ōtautahi, it is definitely global. We find solace in the not-so-pretty aspects of the world and we find a lot of artists on social media from across the globe share the same view. I think this aesthetic is about finding beauty in the raw energy of everything that’s around us, it is not necessarily ‘pretty’, it recognises the grimy, gritty elements that you can’t erase from the streets and makes them worthy of attention…  

Image by Miiekes

That kind of leads to the question of Counterfeit as a platform in the increasingly digital world. I would suggest the art Counterfeit champions needs an actual physical presence in the world too, is that a goal, to have that real world presence?

J: The goal is to be curating exhibitions and producing physical artworks and merchandise and actual tangible things. At the moment we are just trying to establish the digital side, so when people go to it, they can get a feel for what Counterfeit actually is and if it aligns with any other shit they’ve got going on, and eventually, once we build up that sort of network of artists, then we can look at putting on shows…

Were there people you knew you wanted to have involved straight away?

J: Definitely, there are so many local artists that we have close relationships with that we could reach out to, so we just hit up friends who fit that style first and then the more we collect, the more people will come in from outside that circle that we don’t know, and as long as the work fits the themes and feeling we are going for, we are happy to take it.

Did you give any thought to creating a manifesto, or a declaration, or something that summarises your goals? Even if it was a declarative statement that defines what it’s not, an anti-manifesto?

J: As someone who loves punk, owns Doc Martins and shaves their head, being in Christchurch and hearing the word manifesto, I immediately recoil! But we didn’t really write out our intentions, we do have an ‘about’ section on the website, but we don’t really know what it is yet. We came up with the phrase ‘a place for things that don’t have a place’, and I guess that’s as close as it gets.  

S: I feel like a manifesto could get quite limiting with what we want to present, so I think at this point of what we’re doing it’s not particularly necessary. I feel like the work speaks for itself…  

Do you each have designated roles within Counterfeit?

J: We definitely have designated roles, because I can’t work the Internet and it’s a digital platform! Luckily one of us has some idea of web development and how to use Instagram, so, they have that covered, and in theory that person has done most of the work so far! I just know a whole bunch of people that do stuff, and I really know what I like and don’t like, so it’s pretty much my sort of vision for it. It is kind of the perfect mix in the way it works…  

S: From my perspective, I’m not very good with social things. I’m supremely awkward, so I am responsible for the technical side of things while J is taking care of the curation and actually talking to people, which works perfectly for us…  

Image by Sofiya R

Are you open to bringing new voices in? 

J: I like the possibility of people contributing ideas, because there is a whole bunch of stuff that we are playing around with that isn’t on the website and that’s for further down the line and that would be cool to get other people’s input, but in terms of the actual operational thing, the core of it will just remain the same, a small team. If people want to jump in and help on projects and stuff like that, I’m open to that…

The website looks great, it is clean and yet raw. What should people be checking out on there?

J: I really like the digital zine library. We’re just going to be forever adding to it as we get zines from people. There are other places in Ōtautahi that have zines, and we didn’t really want to step on any toes, so we like the idea of collecting zines that are out of run and that are almost forgotten about. You make zines, you give them out, you sell a few, and once the run is over everyone forgets about them, so it’s nice to collect those dead zines and have a place where they are all kept nicely. We have also introduced the X Counterfeit collab which will be an ongoing series with work made specifically for Counterfeit. Then we want to have work by people that might be something they do that’s not their normal practice, you know, someone who shoots photos might have a sketchbook that they do drawings in and we are just as interested in those as the other work. Again, it’s a place for things that don’t have a place.

The latest X Counterfeit contribution is a photo essay by Cammy H, how did that come about?  

J: I noticed that he was posting photos that looked a bit a different to what he would normally shoot. I love Cam’s photos and with the black and white stuff that he was starting to post, S and I would look at each other and be like, this is perfect for Counterfeit, we should add these! So, I asked Cam if he would want to submit some new ones to the website. He was super keen and we showed him a preview of the website so he had a feeling of the look, and the photos we got from him were just perfect.

Image by Cammy H

You also have a selection of zines from local skate crew FAUP. What is your relationship with them?

J: I’ve skated most of my life, so I’ve seen some of those kids come up, watched them form their crew, skate and then as they got older break off and form punk bands and stuff. But just watching them shooting their own photos and videos, making their own clothes, making zines, all for no reason, just for the fact that they love doing it, that’s the feeling I was talking about, it’s fucking real, it’s so perfect, it’s everything that I feel a lot of stuff is missing these days with the internet and shit…

FAUP Bitch, Vol. 3 by Gianni Ruffino

I guess the big thing is that you have to be willing to dive in, like in skating you have to know you will probably get hurt at some stage, but you have to do it anyway, and it correlates with creativity…

J: There’s no one making you jump down those stairs for hours. When you’re falling over for that long, for the possibility of success, I think it teaches you how to overcome challenges and deal with failures.

S: I would rather see a spectacular failure than a boring success…  

What is next for Counterfeit?

J: Zinefest, on the 17th of September, we will have a table there. We will have artist zines for sale, some older ones, some new ones and a first Counterfeit issue with a bunch of contributing artists, which is actually a real physical thing that you can look at, instead of just clicking through on the website…

And beyond Zinefest?

S: We have been speaking with quite a few artists, so we will hopefully source some work from them in the future. We plan to sell stuff as well, Counterfeit zines, Counterfeit merch…

J: Like I said earlier, we also want to stage some group exhibitions…

I imagine finding the right venues will be really important for Counterfeit shows…

S: The grimier the better!

J: I really want to have some shows at the Darkroom, that would be perfect because the exhibition could roll on into a punk show straight afterwards, making it an event. I think we just want to make it fun. There’s plenty of people doing cool shit, it just needs to be organised a bit better…

I’m a massive advocate for creating platforms for things to be seen and shared and celebrated, because in Christchurch, it’s big enough to have people doing cool stuff, but small enough to not have enough platforms…  

J: A lot of the artists and the work I like you could call lowbrow or gritty and people just do that stuff for the love of doing it. A lot might fall through the cracks or be forgotten, and I wanted to collect all that work. The thing with Counterfeit is that it might be grittier but I wanted it to be presented really well, to be respected, and I wanted the website to be super clean and to focus on the artwork and the artists, rather than Counterfeit. Exhibitions and stuff as well, it might have some shitty punk kids and beers out of a trash can, but all the work will be presented really well…

S: We just want to encourage more people to create or continue to create. If someone knows that, not only can they make something but they can actually have it seen by other people, they can make it a more significant part of their life

Image by Bethany Ponniah

And creating a platform that ensures people can feel like they can do that, that they can feel part of something, that encourages them to put something out there, is so important, because until they are visible, they go unknown and who knows who will connect with it…

S: That’s why we are open to seeing what’s out there and deciding what works for us and what doesn’t. At the end of the day our platform isn’t the only one to showcase work, it is specifically for things that we have seen a lack of representation around, so we are just happy to fill the gap.

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