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Looking at the History of SCAPE

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Because Feeney has been so thorough, Out There makes invaluable reading for art administrators, especially if they're setting up an event of the biennial/triennial type. Over the twenty years SCAPE has tackled every imaginable challenge and pitfall.

Warren Feeney

 

Out There: SCAPE Public Art 1998-2018

SCAPE Public Art Trust, Christchurch, 2019

 

ISBN: 978-0-473-45708-2
RRP: $79.95

Christchurch’s SCAPE festival of art in public space is celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year, and over that period it has evolved considerably- not always for the better. In my opinion, going from a biennial to an annual format has made it less ambitious and less of a special thing to look forward to. The collaboration between art and industry that gave it its point of difference isn’t as obvious as it was, and public engagement has taken a back seat to corporate schmoozing behind closed doors.

On the other hand, the event played an important role in getting us through the post-quake void and has contributed some significant public art to the city’s urban environment. It is what it is and I’m not going to bash it, because the fact it exists at all is pretty amazing in the first place.

Unlike nearly every other festival in Christchurch SCAPE distinctively belonged to Christchurch, not merely sharing attractions with other centres. It really elevated the city nationally.

SCAPE is celebrating its vicennial +1 with a publication by Warren Feeney, Out There: Public Art 1998-2018. Unlike so many of these types of publications, it (surprisingly enough) isn’t a straight-out hagiography for client goodie-bags, but is actually a thoroughly researched, objective, intellectually stimulating history of the event.

The stories of many much-loved public works of art and their installations are told in detail, as well as the sagas around more publicly controversial works like the very expensive Antony Gormley sculptures, or Michael Parekowhai’s giant fibreglass cartoon rabbits in the square that ended up never happening. Disappointingly the seagull-impaling tendencies of David McCracken’s Diminish and Ascend in Christchurch Botanic Gardens didn’t rate a mention.

Because Feeney has been so thorough, Out There makes invaluable reading for art administrators, especially if they’re setting up an event of the biennial/triennial type. Over the twenty years SCAPE has tackled every imaginable challenge and pitfall.

It’s an essential book for anyone interested in public art in general, and also an important visual record of every work of art installed by SCAPE, most of which were only temporary—although a handful have stuck around far longer than intended.

I really enjoyed Out There. It brought back many wonderful memories.

Andrew Paul Wood

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