A cover photograph of a set of storage racks, a six-digit phone number and a simple address: Botanical Gardens, Rolleston Avenue. The first issue of Bulletin, sent to members of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in the early months of 1979, was a no-nonsense, four-page, black and white, bi-monthly newsheet promising an informative diet of “news, views and reviews of activities” at the Gallery and “important visual arts news from Christchurch”.
The glancing body of a hooked swordfish; the shivering skin of a panicky horse; a shiny tin kicked in rage by a young boy outside the Cape Campbell lighthouse. This triptych of memories was the inspiration for avant-garde New Zealand sculptor, painter and film-maker Len Lye’s Blade (1972–4) – a vertical band of steel that curves, flexes, arches then hammers frenetically against a cork ball in a fury of light, sound and movement.
That experience of foreignness, of working within a different geographic or cultural context, has proved a compelling stimulus for arts practices, particularly when coupled with a studio and free accommodation.
As you read this, hundreds of artists and curators from around the world are carving out a living and working space in locations made remarkable by their strangeness and/or the opportunity to live and work away from the pressure of paid work, be it in Sweden or Southland, Dunedin or Denmark, New Plymouth or the Netherlands.