Painting ruins : graffiti and street art in post-earthquake Christchurch.
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis considers the presence and potential readings of graffiti and street art as part of the wider creative public landscape of Christchurch in the wake of the series of earthquakes that significantly disrupted the city physically and socially. While documenting a specific and unprecedented period of time in the city’s history, the prominence of graffiti and street art throughout the constantly changing landscape has also highlighted their popularity as increasingly entrenched additions to urban and suburban settings across the globe. In post-quake Christchurch, graffiti and street art have often displayed established tactics, techniques and styles while exploring and exposing the unique issues confronting this disrupted environment, illustrating both a transposable nature and the entwined relationship with the surrounding landscape evident in the conception of these art forms. The post-quake city has afforded graffiti and street art the opportunity to engage with a range of concepts: from the re-activation and re-population of the empty and abandoned spaces of the city, to commentaries on specific social and political issues, both angry and humorous, and notably the reconsideration of entrenched and evolving traditions, including the distinction between guerrilla and sanctioned work. The examples of graffiti and street art within this work range from the more immediate post-quake appearance of art in a group of affected suburbs, including the increasingly empty residential red-zone, to the use of the undefined spaces sweeping the central city, and even inside the Canterbury Museum, which housed the significant street art exhibition Rise in 2013-2014. These settings expose a number of themes, both distinctive and shared, that relate to both the post-disaster landscape and the concerns of graffiti and street art as art movements unavoidably entangled with public space.