“It’s a strange feeling I guess, like everybody in the city you still vividly remember that day 10 years ago. Everyone’s affected in some way, some more directly than others. I think for me my life would be so different without the earthquake experience. It’s hard to say that because of the tragedy that the city faced and for so many people, they lost so much. But it also has been filled with infinite possibility, and the potential for change which has made for a decade of really interesting discourses and trajectories.

I was so fortunate I was able to travel not long afterward and that was where my pathway opened up. I found myself travelling Europe and North America and I realised that our connection to place can be so strongly solidified through our engagement with works of art – particularly works of art in our street. As I was finding myself in a new city every day, I’d explore using graffiti and street art to get to know these unfamiliar places.

I came back – dived into what was initially a masters project in 2012, and it turned into a four year PhD. By 2016 there was still more to the story of what was going on. I could have extended it but had to leave it with a somewhat open chapter.

I was present for the 2013 Rise Festival when Ian Strange was producing ‘Final Act’, a video documented work. He transformed three empty houses in the Avonside red zone and then filmed them using light as a very evocative metaphor for their final act. I remember standing in the red zone in front of this weatherboard house where the lawns had been tidied, the weatherboards painted there was a strange sense that you were watching a film set because of the cameras. You expected to see a family get up and start living their lives.

That really hit home, the fact that families that had grown up over generations in these places. That’s a really important thing for me because I now live in the house where I grew up, my daughter has the room I grew up in, my brother lives in the house my grandad built. My family has a really strong connection to where we live. We value that as a family.

We know as a city, change comes and it’s inevitable. There are some people who see it with an end goal in mind. Of course there’s not – no city has an end goal, and urban art is a reflection of that constant state of flux. A city should never be still because it’s made up of people, people come and go and move.

There’s beauty in bumbling through. Getting things wrong and trying again. I want to see a city that’s vibrant and takes a risk to do things but also knows that things are fleeting. Urban art is perfect in that regard. At its basis, graffiti and actual street art – whatever that is – those things are temporary, entirely fleeting, but they’re real.”

– Reuben

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