on an east wind

on an east wind by Melissa Macleod for SCAPE Public Art Season 2020 

IMAGE: Melissa Macleod, on an east wind, sea air (New Brighton), dunnage bags, aluminium, 2020. Images courtesy of the artist and SCAPE Public Art. 

Based in New Brighton, Melissa Macleod takes the coast, and particularly the Eastern Christchurch community, as the focal point for her practice; addressing the marginalisation of the area, which, in recent years, has been exacerbated by local and global environmental impacts including the Canterbury earthquake sequence of 2010 and 2011 and the ongoing and increasing effects of climate change.  

Working across sculpture, installation, photography and performance, Macleod transforms everyday and seemingly common materials by creating new modes of presentation that shift context and focus. Her recent projects have used materials from coastal environments including sand and sea water to represent the geography of those areas and carry local stories. By using these transient or impermanent materials, which may change or alter during the projects’ life span, Macleod echoes naturally occurring processes in a delicate ecological balance.  

on an east wind builds on Macleod’s exhibition The Trappings of Ghosts (2020) at Ashburton Art Gallery, which saw Macleod filling the gallery space with sea air from Wakanui Beach. This SCAPE work is substantially larger and sees Macleod capturing sea air in and around the New Brighton coastline. Using an air compressor to fill bag after bag, Macleod has literally carried the oft-ignored area into the centre of the city—displacing the regnant air—and bringing with it all the associations and stories that this sea air holds for us. 

With its uniformly organised aisles, on an east wind resembles a vault; a place for safe keeping. There is an uncanny feeling of fullness within the space, even though the surrounding bulk is filled only with air. And in contrast to the unruly and somewhat mysterious material inside the bags, the structures themselves are precise and suggest a great deal of care for the inflated vessels they carry. These large dunnage bags are usually employed inside shipping containers to buffer and protect freight during oceanic journeys. This transition from mere tools to items of precious cargo encourages an alternative perspective on the intangible environmental forces around us and the way in which we attribute value to them.  

on an east wind ran from 5 December 2020 to 21 February 2021, open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm.