The Star: June 22, 2017



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Thursday June 22 2017

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Peter Majendie

Artist makes bid to find new home

Peter Majendie is trying

to find a permanent

location for his 185

Empty Chairs. Bridget

Rutherford spoke to him

about creating a place

for people to remember

their loved ones and his

stand-up comedy career

So Peter, I see you are looking

for a new home for your

185 Empty Chairs. How is that


Well, at the moment on our

website you can vote for where

you’d like to see the 185 chairs

move to, like the CTV building

site, the Botanic Gardens or

Latimer Square. Latimer Square

seems to be the most favoured

place. We’ve been told it’s not

moving to the CTV site. So I’m

talking to the city council to see

if there is somewhere they can go

and what the future is for it.

How long have you been looking

for a new site?

Our proposal to make it

permanent was with CERA a

good two years ago, because

where it is now is earmarked for

the new stadium. We’re there

POIGNANT: Artist Peter Majendie says he painted the first of the 185 Empty Chairs for a grieving

friend because he just had no clue what to say.


for as long as the church meets

on that site. It’s always been a

temporary site. When we set it

up, it was going to be up for three

weeks. We did it for the first

anniversary of the February 22,

2011, earthquake.

Why do you think they have

remained for five years?

When we put it up, I was pretty

sure it would work. I think immediately

it was pretty popular.

It’s very open-ended and people

could engage with it. Whenever

we thought about taking it away,

I’d get a lot of emails. As far as

the chairs go, I can remember in

the first few months meeting a

young guy, he would have been

about 12, and he’d bike to the

chairs and he would sit there and

chat to his mum. He needed a

memorial then – not six years

later. I think one of the things

the chairs have done is transcended

the earthquake.

Where do the chairs come


My closest friend lost a sonin-law

in the earthquake, and

I asked him if I could paint

a chair. We bought chairs on

Trade Me and a few places have

donated chairs. Over the years,

we’ve had working bees and

people have brought chairs along

to paint. I still get them from

the Salvation Army and the

EcoShop, I’m painting about 10

at the moment. We’ve had very

few thefts, the wheelchair was

stolen, and we’ve had a little bit

of damage through vandalism,

but not much at all. It’s really the

weather that breaks them down

so we need to replace some.

And speaking of the weather,

I hear you have been chatting to

Weta Workshop about making

the chairs more permanent?

We have cast one in aluminium

to see how it would work. We

went to Weta to get options of

how we could make them more

permanent, or make new ones.

We could 3D print them.

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