Remembrance of 22nd February 2011
He thinks of it as a set apart space, a sacred space. Those are the words Peter Majendie uses.
The chairs appeared on the quiet morning of February 22, 2012, the first anniversary of the worst Christchurch earthquake. Stuff reported that Majendie's installation of 185 white chairs on the site of the demolished Oxford Tce Baptist Church would be there for just one week.
There are times when it gets noticeably busier. On the earthquake anniversary, of course, but on Mother's Day too. At the moment, Majendie is thinking ahead to its future.
He recently lobbied the Christchurch City Council's Social and Community Development Committee about finding a permanent spot for the memorial and perhaps designing new chairs, casting them in aluminium and setting them on a concrete foundation. That would cost around $500,000.
The council seemed open to it, he says. And the money would not necessarily be a council handout. "We do have support and a number of people have said, 'Well, when you have a site, come and see us.'"
The man behind Christchurch's 185 Empty Chairs installation is lobbying the city council to find a permanent home for the earthquake memorial.
Artist Peter Majendie in February released a design for the permanent artwork, which involves casting 185 chairs – one for each victim of the 2011 earthquake – in aluminium and placing them on a concrete pad.
Majendie has approached Wellington special effects company Weta Worksop, of Lord of the Rings fame, to see how it could help with the new design.
On Monday he will brief the Christchurch City Council's Social and Community Development Committee on his proposal and ask for a site for the chairs, which currently sit at the corner of Madras and Cashel streets.
"I'm just going to do a little presentation on the chairs themselves, what it is, what our proposal is, how we see it working, and [ask] is there a possibility of [finding a] site?" Majendie said.
"Nothing is at all concrete. It is the first time we've actually talked to council."
As the official memorial to victims of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake is unveiled, an unofficial but beloved installation commemorating the dead remains in limbo.
You can see traces of visitors' interactions in the flowers, cards, stuffed animals, and even jewelry left beside the chairs — more marks that liken them to headstones. With these small gestures, the installation continuously evolves, just like the built environment around it that has welcomed sleek, modern buildings.
"Brian Eno's definition of installation art is that it is art that is unfinished — it is added to and changed by those who engage with it," Majendie said. He recalled one particularly memorable day when he saw "half a dozen young guys, all in business suits, sitting on the bar stools within the installation and silently raising their cans of beer in a salute.
"The installation transcends the actual event of the earthquake," he added, "and offers a place of reflection and healing for all kinds of loss."
www.stuff.co.nz February 14th 2017
Artist Pete Majendie has unveiled his design for a permanent 185 Empty Chairs installation. The design involves casting each chair in aluminium and placing them on a black concrete pad. The pad would be underlit with a pattern reminiscent of cracks in the earth or human nerves.
He said one important distinction was that there would be no names on the artwork, and no chair represented any particular victim of the earthquake.
"There are no chairs representing relations. They're representing absences."
www.pressreader.com February 8th 2017
Peter Majendie's installation remains convincing as an engaging and meaningful experience, writes Warren Feeney.
There are many good reasons for Christchurch to retain Pete Majendie's memorial sculpture, 185 White Chairs. This is an art installation that needs no words to make its point, just the experience of being a participant, walking around it and through it or sitting and talking to others.
Majendie's 185 White Chairs have drawn thousands of unprompted responses from the public as an artwork which has made tangible the reality of the loss and absence of family and loved ones to many visiting the central city since February 2012. Praise for 185 Chairs in the 35 commentary books that the artist has collected since its installation has been spontaneous and sincere.
The artist behind Christchurch's 185 white chairs has indicated he wants the installation to become permanent. Majendie said the permanent installation might be at a different site. The artwork is currently on Government-owned land earmarked for a new sports stadium.
Majendie said a permanent installation would have to be cast from aluminium and powder-coated white.
In the meantime, a working bee was planned from 9am on February 11 2017 – weather permitting – to repair and repaint the chairs in time for the sixth anniversary of the earthquake, he said.