John Hurrell – 1 January, 2013
There's an impressive economy and nuance in Leach's project, the brilliant linking of the menorah candelabrum to a hitherto unprepossessing park by adding extra lamps and carefully controlling the times of the central ‘shamash' illumination. She has introduced a poetic 'echoing' dimension to both the introduction and the cessation of light, something that can be interpretatively explored by the remnants of the local Jewish community, and others.
17 November 2012 - 10 February 2013
In this the last of three projects about memory and objects, the thematic ‘trace’ is slightly different: six faux-Victorian gas lamps around a park in Cork, Ireland - streetlights showcased by Maddie Leach’s addition of three more lamps in 2011, all nine updated to run now on electricity. The trace strictly speaking is Shalom Park, created in 1989 to commemorate a Jewish community of over fifty families (mainly Russian and Lithuanian migrants) that thrived at the beginning of the twentieth century, but which has diminished to only a handful now.
Leach’s sculptural project has revitalised an interest in the Jewish contribution to Cork culture, so doing through its symbolic references to the nine-branched menorah candelabrum linked to Hanukkah, the eight day Festival of Lights. The three new lamps have the same appearance as the 1989 ones except one that is a metre taller than the others. This represented the central candle (the shamash) in the menorah and is illuminated for only 30 minutes each year on the last day of Hanukkah. The other shorter lamps come on daily - built in sensors detecting when daylight fades and when it later reappears - and unlike the strictly procedural lighting of the menorah, not lit in any special sequence.
At Te Tuhi, there are various elucidatory documents and photographs on the walls, a DVD showing the inauguration of Shalom Park in the late eighties, and a poster explaining the complicated Jewish calendar (it avoids set numbers of days in months and set hours in days, being based instead on principles of lunar and planetary rotation) used to calculate the timing of the ‘shamash’ lamp for the next fifty years. There was also a live video link to Te Tuhi for the ‘performance’ of that lamp on Saturday 15 December, 2012, at 4.24 pm. Irish time. Leach’s project has been going for a year, the result of a residency she did at the National Sculpture Factory in 2008. It is hoped it will carry on in perpetuity.
There’s an impressive economy and nuance in Leach’s project, the brilliant linking of the menorah to a hitherto unprepossessing park by adding extra lamps and carefully controlling the times of the ‘shamash’ illumination. She has introduced a poetic ‘echoing’ dimension to both the introduction and the cessation of light, something that can be interpretatively explored by the remnants of the local Jewish community, particularly say the dwindling coming and going to the region of certain individuals or families. We see poignancy here, and drama - with a whiff of the cosmological, a drawing out and then termination of being, an allusive connection between micro- and macrocosm.