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After the success of Suburban, Australian artist Ian Strange has continued his investigation into the suburban home with a new work, Final Act. The project saw Strange transform four houses deemed uninhabitable after the ravaging effects of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, to produce four unique, light-based intervention artworks.

Each house underwent Strange’s alteration process ­– geometric shapes meticulously carved into each, before being lit from the inside in a process that signifies the life that was once inside. In contrast to Suburban’s span of several years, Final Act went down fairly quickly. Conceptualisation for the project began in 2012, and Strange and his team began the transformation process on November 1, 2013.

Commissioned by Christchurch Museum, Strange worked in collaboration with acclaimed New Zealand cinematographer Alun Bollinger (Lord of the Rings, Heavenly Creatures), demolition director Graham Thompson, as well as Christchurch residents, community groups and volunteers.

In the three years since the earthquake, each house had seen overgrowth and damage, and had been slated for demolition. The crew restored the houses close to their original states, with lawns mowed and gardens re-planted.

“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,” Bollinger says of the process.

The homes were filmed and photographed over three nights, in a process that saw the team set up at midnight and capture the key images as early dawn arrived. The result is a series of imagery that carries a haunting sense of place, combining the simultaneously familiar and unsettling elements of suburbia and the added weight that comes with reflecting on a traumatic time in New Zealand’s recent history.

“Ultimately, this work becomes the final act for these homes,” Strange says.  “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.”

Ian Strange’s solo exhibition Final Act consists of six large-scale photographic works, a film installation and two cross-sections of the houses. It premiered at the Canterbury Museum on Friday December 20, 2013.

A new video of the project documents the involvement with the Christchurch community, ideas behind the work and the process of making Final Act. Check out the video below, see the images of the making and exhibition of Final Act above, or head to Strange’s website.

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