Hard News by Russell Brown


A work of art called Chimney Book

Blair Parkes' work for the last Orcon Great Blend culminated in Chimney Book: a haunting 15-minute work of video and music, but more than that.

Brickface, the "typeface" Blair created by painting and scanning indvidual bricks from his New Brighton home's chimney -- destroyed by the February 22 aftershocks in Christchurch -- came to brand the whole event. I thought it was remarkable that a work of such vulnerability and particularity could carry that weight.

Chimney Book's screening at the Great Blend, downstairs, in the dark, was a moving experience. Blair and I agreed that it should be seen more widely, but in a context that did it justice. So while I posted the rest of the event video on Vimeo, I approached NZ On Screen and asked if they would be interested in Chimney Book. They were.

And here it is:

I'd recommend watching Chimney Book full-screen in a quiet environment. If you have been living with the earthquakes, as Blair and his family have, it may trigger some powerful emotions. If you're outside Christchurch, I think it will offer an insight you won't find in any headlines.

Blair provided me with some words about why the work was created:

People had asked how things were for our family.

The emotional landscape was shifting as much as the physical. I could never answer.

I had to try.

Chimney Book is a time specific response.

Some of how it felt in my head, in New Brighton, mid June 2011, after nine months of earthquakes. Some memories set.

Markers while everything shifts

And why it works the way it does:

The viewer needs to watch and listen closely to gain maximum information.

Text disappears before the viewer can easily finish reading. Questions and answers are incomplete. Text blurs and darkens. The narrative jumps forward and back. Time and memories are fluid. The viewer needs to try harder. Anxiety may occur. Frustration is inevitable. Discomfort is possible. The complete story cannot be told, heard or easily read. Frustration, anxiety, confusion and discomfort are a part of it.

This may not be the last you hear of Chimney Book -- the source work, those bricks, still exists. But for now, watch this. 

(NZ On Screen offers embedding code on its Chimney Book page, and you may embed the video in your own website or blog, but please don't upload it anywhere else.)

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