Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sign of the times

At the risk of sounding slightly train-spotterish, I must 'fess up to a new fascination, an obsession almost, that has taken hold since the February quake. It's nothing to do with panic or escape plans, instead it's all about public expression.

Our landscape has changed - there's simply no denying or escaping that - and these changes have resulted in a proliferation of signs all over the city. Some of this signage was already there but either hidden, inaccessible or just unknown to us until circumstances forced us into new routines, new premises... such as this little gem on the wall of the back room at Vivace Coffee on Tuam St, where C4 are currently trading from:
Ok so technically this is signwriting as opposed to signage but I love it all the same! It appeals to my inner caffiene demon ;)

The signs that have been really capturing my attention however are not the professionally-made slick quips and witty quotes like the Dave Barry number above but the handmade ones that have sprouted like mushrooms all across the city. In my part of town there are plenty of different signs and messages, and each of them tells a story.
There are many roads with lumps, bumps and hollows that make driving around Shakeytown an interesting experience in damage evasion. Cars play follow the leader as they weave to avoid the large dips, craters and uneven surfaces that are now par for the course on Christchurch streets. Never before has a 4WD seemed like a valid and sensible option for city driving!
And, as those of us living on damaged piles or foundations know, every rattle and bump on the road transmits itself through the houses, especially when vehicles are large and/or fast.

Our local shops were hit pretty badly in the September quake, as many of them were un-reinforced masonry (ie bricks) - just like our house. However, unlike our house, that block of brick shops has now been demolished (all bar one) and some of the businesses are now trading elsewhere.
There are many signs like this, telling passersby where they can find the shops, services and people who used to occupy these now-vacant sites.
Others provide information & a glimmer of hope that things will eventually return to some kind of normality.
And of course, it's not just businesses that have been forced to relocate, or now have different access points due to fencing and demolished/dangerous buildings.

Then there are the signs that make us (well me anyway) burst out laughing... and in stressful times like these, I need all the laughter I can get!

Also in my neighbourhood this week is another wonderfully creative use of space. The Gapfiller project started in response to the first quake in September, with vacant city sites being used as temporary art or performance spaces. The Colombo St gap they are currently occupying is going to be filled with music and movies, starting tomorrow (Wednesday) night. Some of my favourite local musos like Lindon Puffin and The Eastern will be playing over the next few nights and the movies look interesting too... Draquila and Candyman look quirky enough to make me don my winter woolies and sit in an empty lot for an evening!
If you're "lucky" enough to be living in Shakeytown at the moment I urge you to check out their website and the music and movies on offer this week. Distraction, entertainment and the company of others are simple pleasures that can do us all the world of good in these troubled times.

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