Art & creativity, Central city  |  8 Sep 2023

In a small, sun-drenched studio at the front of his New Brighton home, Mike Beer is hard at work recreating Christchurch buildings lost in the earthquakes.

But in fun-size.

The artist also known as Ghostcat has been commissioned by the Toi Ōtautahi team to create an art trail called Leave No Trace as part of the Year of the Arts 2023.

Artist Mike Beer installs the night for The Atami Bath House

The trail will see miniatures artworks of iconic buildings lost in the 2011 earthquakes displayed on street poles at their former locations and will sit alongside Mike’s exhibition Ghosts on Every Corner and book which will features full miniature recreations of the buildings.

Last week, Mike installed the slightly more sordid Atami Bath House back in position outside its old Tuam Street home.

“I can’t tell you how much joy this is giving me right now, I can’t wipe the smile off my face,” Mike says.

“It’s so nice to do something to share with everyone, not just for me and it’s going to be great when there’s a few so people can go and find.”

The works are all accompanied by a sign and QR code for those eagle-eyed enough to spot them to find out more.

“While the exact goings on of Atami Bath House have become obscured and tangled by the processes of urban mythmaking, it’s architecturally incongruent place in the history of Ōtautahi’s pre-quake city centre is undeniable,” the sign reads.

Mike is working on at least 12 pieces for the Leave No Trace trail – though there might be a mystery piece or two in the pipeline that people will have to hunt out for themselves.

“We’ve done the Volcano Café in Lyttelton on the Corner of Canterbury and London Streets and next to go up will be The Hack Circle in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to that,” he says.

“I’m now working on The Dog House, the 24 hour takeaway near Cathedral Square. The apartments on top have been a little more fiddly than I thought,” he says

The pieces take between four to six weeks to make and are done with incredible detail, down to flickering lights and drinks fridges, complete with Coke, Sprite, Fanta and Mellow Yellow cans.

“I like the idea of people being able to see the exterior of the building and have that hit of nostalgia. Then they look a bit closer and can see inside there’s game machines, plants and other little easter eggs,” he says.

Mike is originally from the UK, moving to Christchurch in 2007.

Working on elements of The Dog House.

“I remember most of the buildings, but what’s beautiful about the whole thing is seeing how it triggers memories and nostalgia,” he says.

“The other brilliant thing is that everyone has these kinds of memories. People from all over the world have those places you remember from your childhood, or from your home, that never leave you but sit just under the surface and are sparked by seeing things, sounds or even smells.”

To capture those memories, Mike and Reuben Woods are interviewing people and recording their  raw, honest stories of the buildings, which will feature in the book.

“We were told a fantastic story about the Repertory Theatre. Their granddad worked at the theatre and had a wooden leg. After he died, the story goes that you could hear the tapping of his wooden leg around the building,” Mike said.

He’s still on the lookout for more stories, so if you have any striking memories of the buildings get in touch with Mike via Instagram @ghostcat_mb.