Finding common ground

17 JulCommunity / Exhibitions

Mirjam De Oude with the art gallery walls projected onto the art gallery walls.


by Carly Thomas

A new exhibition at Te Manawa has stepped away from conventionality and stepped into a collection of Covid-19 bubbles.

Common … Pause is a digitally projected exhibition in the physical space of Te Manawa’s art gallery. In direct response to the Covid-19 lockdown, the project plays with ideas of inclusion, exclusion and the connectivity that has come through New Zealanders sharing a common experience.

NOA Open Studio, an arts group based at Te Manawa, has been the catalyst for the project and its members will be the first to create a visual representation of their lockdown experiences. Through images, movies, words and sound, a message will be shared.

Just what that message will be is the unknown and exciting element of the project. NOA facilitator Mirjam De Oude likens it to a science experiment.

“You have a hypothesis and some steps to get there but you don’t necessarily know what the outcome will be. It’s an exploration.”

The ongoing phases of the project will see the initial participants inviting another wave of people to express their creativity. They could be anyone from the team of five million. You can join in by submitting your own art!

“And so the project extends, sending out ripples and waves and growing our connection to one another, and hopefully growing our understanding for each other,” says Mirjam.

Common … Pause is the third Te Manawa “We Are All Artists” project in which NOA have been involved. The group has previously created a mural on Church Street and a huge “paste-up” on a wall in the UCOL carpark.

“We believe there’s an artist in everyone,” says Mirjam. “People can express it any way they want to. Aside from visual arts, it’s also about the art of living: making connections and having meaningful and reflective conversations.”

The project was born out of unprecedented times and so Janet Ellery, Te Manawa’s People and Partnerships Leader, says the project will reflect some of the un-comfort and extremes of the experience.

“It is a bit scary doing something when you don’t know exactly what it will look like, but that is also exciting,” she says. “We hope people will come and pause, reflect and find some common ground.”

The project has begun with the white walls of the gallery while the first participants are working on their responses. Mirjam says the empty walls represent the uncomfortable blank space that is there at the start of a new artwork, big project or the sudden stillness of lockdown.

The exhibition is now open in the Te Manawa art gallery – free entry. It will be updated as more people become involved. All projects in the “We Are All Artists” series have been supported by IHC Foundation.