Level Playing Field

  • Artists: David Cross
  • Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Date: 2013 – 2013
  • Produced by: The artist and Scape Public Art Biennial, Christchurch
  • External links: Scape Public Art


Level Playing Field, David Cross, 2013  © SCAPE Public Art & David Cross
Places and Sites Christchurch New Zealand


In response, Cross envisioned a large-scale participatory installation consisting of an inflatable structure designed specifically for an invented team sport that was played by teams of local Cantabrians. The colourful rectangular inflatable occupied the entire footprint of a since demolished high-rise building in downtown Christchurch and stood in stark contrast to the grey backdrop of concrete rubble and hurricane fences that typified the post quake environment of the city. Yet despite this engaging formal presence it was the social engagement of the work that truly made the significant impact and reengagement of people with the disaster stricken city.

Level Playing Field involved 48 teams of 5 people who responded to an open call for participants who competed for 6 weeks. The creation of the sport was in direct response to the idea of unstable ground. The rules required participants to run over an erratically undulating playing surface in the form of a long mound. Teams took turns running in a relay circuit over the inflatable while the opposing team, hidden inside structure, pulled upon strapping to manipulate the stability of the surface with the goal of unseating those traversing over top. The more circuits each team completed, within the limited time frame, became the victors.

This very direct form of community engagement was envisioned in attempt to change the psychological association of unstable ground being something truly life shattering and difficult to overcome to being momentarily reconceptualised as something that locals could control. The easily understood parameters and energetic experience of the game injected therapeutic activity and humour to a dire and unpleasant social predicament.

This work also temporarily activated the heart of the city which was still significantly absent of activity and community presence. Given the sports crazed culture in Christchurch, the work drew in not only 240 participants but also scores of spectators. Level Playing Field is a testament to how a discerning conceptual approach to temporary public art can result in meaningful community engagement with lasting memorable outcomes.

This very direct form of community engagement was envisioned in attempt to change the psychological association of unstable ground being something truly life shattering and difficult to overcome to being momentarily reconceptualised as something that locals could control. The easily understood parameters and energetic experience of the game injected therapeutic activity and humour to a dire and unpleasant social predicament.

This work also temporarily activated the heart of the city which was still significantly absent of activity and community presence. Given the sports crazed culture in Christchurch, the work drew in not only 240 participants but also scores of spectators. Level Playing Field is a testament to how a discerning conceptual approach to temporary public art can result in meaningful community engagement with lasting memorable outcomes.

Partners: Artist and Scape Public Art Biennial, Christchurch

Supported by: Scape Public Art Biennial, Christchurch

Level Playing Field, David Cross, 2013  © SCAPE Public Art & David Cross

Level Playing Field, David Cross, 2013 © SCAPE Public Art & David Cross

Level Playing Field, David Cross, 2013  © SCAPE Public Art & David Cross

Level Playing Field, David Cross, 2013 © SCAPE Public Art & David Cross

Level Playing Field, David Cross, 2013  © SCAPE Public Art & David Cross

Level Playing Field, David Cross, 2013 © SCAPE Public Art & David Cross