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VIDEO: Kid Zoom/Ian Strange FINAL ACT

My friend Ian “Kid Zoom” Strange has left me in New York to embark on an incredible adventure of creating museum shows and transforming earthquake-affected homes in New Zealand into a beautiful film, giving these condemned former homes one last breath of life before they are leveled, along with the memories of the families who lived in them. Final Act is beautiful, stark and haunting, to me evoking both the work of Gordon Matta-Clark and Pierre Huyghe’s Les Grands Ensembles.


Australian artist Ian Strange continues his worldwide investigation into the suburban home with Final Act; a new work commissioned and exhibited by Canterbury Museum, which saw Strange transform four suburban houses still ravaged by the effects of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The quake, New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime disaster, left 16,000 homes rendered permanently uninhabitable, deemed too dangerous for residents to return.

Working in collaboration with acclaimed New Zealand cinematographer, Alun Bollinger (The Lord of the Rings, The Frighteners, Heavenly Creatures), local residents, community groups and volunteers, Strange produced four unique light based intervention artworks for Final Act. Each piece took, as its foundation, a home that had been slated for demolition by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Unlike his previous work Suburban, which stretched over seven US cities and several years before completion,Final Act was finished comparatively quickly. Though conceptualised in 2012, Strange and his team only entered the four homes in Avonside – a ‘red-zoned’ neighbourhood of former public housing, which is still uninhabitable three years after the quakes – on November 1 to begin the transformation process.

Working with demolition director Graham Thompson, his salvage team and a group of Christchurch volunteers, fences were righted, lawns mowed and gardens re-planted. After three years of overgrowth and damage, the houses were restored close to their original state. Once structurally sound, geometric shapes were painstakingly cut in to each of the houses, before lighting them from the inside, in part, a signifier of the life that had previously inhabited them.

“To come into this neighbourhood where everything is so desolate and create, well, it’s an artifice, but it gives it a sense of life and spirit,” said Bollinger of the creation.

Over three nights the homes were meticulously re-lit, filmed and photographed. The technique required to create the final artwork saw the team lighting houses in the middle of the night and then waiting for early dawn to arrive – that moment saw the key images captured and completed.

“Ultimately, this work becomes the final act for these homes,” said Strange.  “This process of documentation is, in a sense, how they can live on, and I hope that this is something that resonates with the residents of Christchurch, with whom I made this work.”

Consisting of six large-scale photographic works, a 12-minute looped film installation and two cross-sections cut directly from the houses, Final Act, a solo exhibition by Ian Strange, premiered at the Canterbury Museum as part of Rise Festival on Friday December 20, 2013 and runs until March 23, 2014.

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