“The various bodies that have made the decision for the diocese have determined that we will take a conservative approach, and we will look after safety as a priority.” Gavin Holley COO Christchurch Anglican Diocese*
Conservative? Not as people at the Cathedral demo demo last Saturday understand the term, including the protestor with a T-shirt emblazoned with “Destruction con”. They are calling for a tea break in the “deconstruction” of Christ Church Cathedral to consider alternatives before there are no options- and very little cathedral-left.
On YouTube there is a nostalgic 2009 time lapse video* of the large chess set in play in Christchurch’s Square, with the Cathedral reassuringly in the background.*
The graphic video* captured by a Japanese tourist Mr Shogo Asawa just a few months later, seconds after the Cathedral’s spire speared into the ground during the fierce earthquake of 22 February 2011, shows the chess men toppled like the statue of John Robert Godley as dust billowed and shocked bystanders tried to make sense of what they had just experienced.
15 months later, in the now denuded inner city, more than 770 commercial buildings having already been demolished, with a further 1800 plus on death row, including the centrepiece Anglican Cathedral. These numbers will probably rise if in-progress engineering evaluations deem buildings irreparable or insurers rule them uneconomic to repair.
In recent weeks the Anglican Church has been playing lightning chess with the deconstruction of the Cathedral after Bishop Victoria Matthews played her early gambit about “making the Cathedral safe”.
The aggressive Bishop’s Gambit is one of the oldest chess openings on record, showing up about the same time as Galileo was supposedly dropping two balls of different masses off the Tower of Pisa.
423 years later, in an affair with a different kind of gravity, Bishop Matthews who has been accused of dropping the ball now that the remainder of the Tower of Christ Church Cathedral has been dropped, with the rest of the historic building due to be taken down to a height of 2-3 metres pending further developments.
Rule number 1 of gambit chess is that you play for higher goals than just regaining or retaining material. Not much Cathedral building material has been retained so far: the machines used have been gobblers not nibblers. With the tower down it may be easier to deconstruct rather than destroy, but don’t hold your breath.
There have been some belated white knight moves in response to the Bishop’s opening gambit and rooks are waiting on the fringes ready to pounce, but the pawns have been sidelined. It is like a waiting move at chess-the one you have to make first to open up the end game play. But what is the big game plan and what are the lines of defence for Black?
In an advertisement in The Press last week, the Wizard of New Zealand, (channelled by Ian Brackenbury Channell), says Bishop Victoria Matthews “will be deconstructed” at a rally outside the Canterbury Museum last Sunday.
More bishopbludgeon than bishopric the Wizard announced that “I have examined the Bishop’s foundations and have discovered that they are built on sand. She is in a very dangerous state, being seriously cracked, and I can see no evidence that she can be made safe.”
He calls her “as dull and bland as her beloved Cardboard Cathedral”, but refers to himself modestly as having “attractive Gothic features”.
Some do indeed see in the irrepressible Wizard’s visage unmistakeable gargoyle like features; others more unkind mutter bats in the belfry but the Wizard from Oz is not to be taken lightly in debate even if his Janus-faced Volkswagen makes it difficult to know whether he’s coming or going.
Echoing her words regarding the Cathedral, he stresses that the Bishop’s deconstruction would be carefully done in order to rescue the real treasure within.
His derision is derived from Derrida. The term “deconstruction” was coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology . Derrida opted for deconstruction over the literal translation of Martin Heidegger’s concept of Destruktion to suggest “precision” rather than “violence”, though when it comes to the Cathedral some may be quite happy with the original term.
Deconstructionism is a philosophical theory of literary and other artistic criticism. It has been described as “a tendency to subvert or pull apart and examine existing conventions having to do with meaning and individualism.”
Christ Church Cathedral is certainly being pulled apart-and so is the good citizenry of Christchurch, with two more demo demos coming up. The issues are by no means black or white.
Anglican minister Philip Robinson has spoken in defence of Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews, who he says has taken the brunt of “vicious accusations, anger and abuse”. There has certainly been a lot of playing the woman not the ball and a fair bit of No Minister in both the political and ecclesiastical settings.
It was revealed last week that what remained of the tower needed to be taken down quickly. The remainder will be deconstructed, with the blocks numbered, so that they are available for the possibility of a rebuild in the future. Until such time as the rebuild is possible, the site will be made into a place of reflection and prayer.
The decision to demolish the Cathedral, which has been made following a “make safe” request from CERA. However, the speed of the demolition process has caught many people, apparently including CERA’s Roger Sutton, by surprise.
The notion of carefully numbered stones, being reverently placed back in the jigsaw box for later rejoining is a little ludicrous. We’re not talking about chess pieces being returned to the chess box ready for the next game..
New City Councillor Peter Beck, the former Dean of the Cathedral, was one of 4 who voted against the recent Christchurch City Council motion passed to ask the Anglican Church to halt the demolition to provide time for reflection and reconsideration.* “The cathedral that was was an icon of the city that was”. He wants a new Cathedral that “will pay due homage and respect to the past that we value so much and build for the future, embracing and symbolizing the future city we dream of…”
The dialogue with the public about the future cathedral has really only started after the Anglican Synod got some belated parish priest and parish pump traction four weeks ago.
A favorite chess tactic is the often surprising and usually quite elegant Diversion. Just when everything seems to be as it should, one move exposes the truth which is that things aren’t exactly as they seem.
But it does seem that the end game is nigh. There will be few pieces left on the inner city chess board. The centre piece is about to bite the dust. But don’t dismiss the importance at this stage of the game of the humble pawns. Bishop and pawn versus knight and pawns endings can be interesting.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91VRWtgS99o Chess-time links photo 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2SWleuCgn0 Second after the February 2010 Christchurch quake