In geology, an ‘erratic’ is a rock of a different composition to that which predominates in the environment where it is found. Scientists speculate that glacial activity is responsible for these irregularities; glaciers carry rocks far from their origins and deposit them on foreign ground when their ice melts, like stowaway cargo.
For his new permanent public sculpture in Ōtautahi, Brett Graham investigates the form of the erratic to complicate narratives of arrival and discovery in Antarctica. Carved from a slab of Norwegian Arctic White granite and placed opposite the Robert Falcon Scott statue on the other side of the Ōtākaro Avon River, Graham’s sculpture is a tribute to Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who used techniques learned from Inuit communities to survive the severe cold and unpredictable conditions of Antarctica. Despite reaching the South Pole thirty-three days before Scott and his party, Amundsen’s expedition and the role of Indigenous knowledge is largely overlooked in the region’s history in favour of that which depicts Scott (and Britain by extension) as the heroic explorer.
The flat oval form of Erratic, which features ninety-nine small mounds spiralling out from its centre (one for each day of Amundsen’s expedition), is a quiet take on the memorial and a modest intervention into the carefully landscaped inner-city riverbank. Like the erratic, it both belongs and doesn’t, and intimates powerful yet unknowable movements across time and space.
Erratic, commissioned by Christchurch City Council and produced in association with SCAPE Public Art, was installed on 11 March 2023.