Perigee #11

28 August 2008
Breaker Bay, Wellington
New Zealand

Project commission for One Day Sculpture

Curator: Claire Doherty



Description

  • Long range forecast by lunar forecaster Ken Ring at www.predictweather.com;
  • Beaufort wind scale texts printed in the Dominion Post weather page 26–28 August 2008;
  • Reconditioned boatshed (cedar planking, custom window, custom doors);
  • Small battery powered lamp;
  • VHF radio receiver/scanner receiving intermittent shipping communications via Beacon Signal Station.


    Credits
    Carpentry and installation: Tim Larkin
    Designer: Warren Olds / Studio Ahoy
    Photography: Stephen Rowe

On 28th August 2008, a storm was predicted over the city of Wellington. Using a long-range weather forecasting system developed by mathematician Ken Ring, Maddie Leach pinpointed a winter’s day in which downpours, hail, wind and rain were expected to descend upon the North Island’s most southerly city. A perigee is the moment at which the moon is at its closest to the earth each month and, according to Ring, it is around this time that significant changes in weather patterns occur.

Anticipation for the storm was built by the artist through a series of newspaper forecasts which appeared prior to the notable day of the project. On the day itself we were encouraged to seek out a boatshed at Breaker Bay, set at the mouth of the harbour, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, from which to watch in anticipation over the Cook Strait over a period of 24 hours.

Leach’s work has always been concerned with potentiality and it is in that gap between actuality and potentiality, in the waiting for something to happen, that Leach encourages us to think back and forth between what we imagine is going to happen and what we are experiencing physically. What does it feel like to seek out the boatshed at 3am awaiting a storm? Or do you battle against the winds with a group of friends at sundown? When you look out across the sea from the shed, do you solemnly recall the 1968 Wahine Disaster or does the conversation turn to the mundanity of daily drizzle? Or do you spend the afternoon in the sunshine wondering what it must feel like to be hauled up in a shed awaiting a storm?

Adapted as part-viewing platform, part-shelter, the shed is the most obviously sculptural aspect of the project, occurring as a temporary public sculpture on Wellington’s coastal road, but of course it is only one aspect of this project. Perigee #11 occurs as rumour, as text, as topic of conversation, as quest, and as a site of sociability in public space, always slightly out of our grasp, occurring always in the future and then in the past.

Claire Doherty
One Day Sculpture. Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2009

Perigee #11

Read

  • This text was originally published in 2008 on the One Day Sculpture website. It was retitled "On False Leads, Readymades, and Seascapes" in the book One Day Sculpture, edited by Claire Doherty and David Cross (Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2009).

Perigee #11

Epilogue

On 20 June 2013, an extratropical cyclone hit New Zealand and was described by NIWA as an “extreme event” with “record wave heights of 15m peak to trough recorded by a buoy offshore from Baring Head in the Cook Strait”. It lasted three days and there were reports that the road around Wellington’s south coast was virtually impassable.

Scrolling through news pictures and media reports I saw a familiar blue wooden door, part of its frame and hinges still intact, lying among rocks, broken chunks of asphalt, seaweed, and plants. The caption read: “A separated door on Breaker Bay Road”. Further on, there was an image of a teenage boy in gumboots, his foot resting on an eviscerated tree stump next to a piece of truncated power pole. A bright white rectangular window frame has come to rest against a fence beyond him. Still further, and there it was: “A crushed Breaker Bay boatshed” captioned a picture of boatshed 805 partially collapsed on its foundations, roof intact, minus two of its four walls. It looked as if the slipway doors had come loose, it had filled up with sea water, and burst outwards with an explosive force.

Maddie Leach
Excerpt from "Not fully present: Five artworks by Maddie Leach". PhD thesis, Deakin University, 2021.