Spring­clean for 185 Empty Chairs

The Southland Times - - National News - Mad­di­son North­cott

About half of the orig­i­nal 185 empty white chairs erected in the wake of the Christchurch earth­quakes have been re­placed.

A fur­ther three chairs from the orig­i­nal in­stal­la­tion were re­placed at a work­ing bee on Satur­day due to ir­repara­ble dam­age. The re­main­ing chairs, rep­re­sent­ing those killed in the Fe­bru­ary 2011 earth­quake, were cleaned and re­painted by the com­mit­ted ‘‘com­mu­nity around the chairs’’.

Artist Peter Ma­jendie de­signed the work as a ther­a­peu­tic place to re­flect on loss.

Work­ing bee events were held at the site be­fore Christ­mas, be­fore the quake an­niver­sary, and at the start of spring. Most of the chairs were made from wood or steel so had held up well, but the can­vas and frag­ile chairs had to be re­placed more of­ten, Ma­jendie said.

Be­tween 80 to 100 of the orig­i­nal chairs re­mained at the site.

Ma­jendie said an im­por­tant point was that the 185 Empty Chairs site was art, not a me­mo­rial like the of­fi­cial Oi Manawa earth­quake re­mem­brance wall. No chair rep­re­sented any par­tic­u­lar vic­tim of the earth­quake so re­mov­ing or chang­ing one was not sym­bolic of the loss of a per­son.

‘‘They’re rep­re­sent­ing ab­sences; ev­ery­one has had the feel­ing of look­ing at an empty chair some­time. It should of­fer a place of re­flec­tion and of con­tem­pla­tion, some­where peo­ple can think about their own loss, not just in the earth­quake but in their own way.’’

The chairs were orig­i­nally in­stalled on the site of the Ox­ford Ter­race Bap­tist Church for the first an­niver­sary of the Fe­bru­ary 2011 earth­quake and are now in their sec­ond lo­ca­tion – a cor­ner site on Madras and Cashel streets ear­marked for the city’s new sta­dium.

Ma­jendie wants a per­ma­nent in­stal­la­tion lo­cated in the cen­tral city.

Christchurch earth­quake me­mo­rial chairs founder Pete Ma­jendie or­gan­ised a work­ing bee at the week­end to spruce up the me­mo­rial ex­hibit. STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

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