Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, The Southern Cross Cable: A Tour

For seventeen years, the Southern Cross Cable has carried 98% of New Zealand’s international Internet traffic, providing our primary point of connection with the outside world. For the past four years, Bronwyn Holloway-Smith has researched and made work about this cable, which lies across the floor of the Pacific Ocean. This installation is part of a broader investigation into the entanglement of systems that shape and influence culture, technology, and politics.

Early in her research, she discovered a lost 1961 ceramic mural by Wellington artist E. Mervyn Taylor that was commissioned to mark the 1962 landing of an earlier cable—the COMPAC cable that linked several Commonwealth countries. Hearing, but refusing to accept, that the mural had been lost, she found, restored, and returned it to the public sphere. She was struck by the mural’s contribution to what, in the 1960s, was a widespread moment of nationalistic pride, in contrast to the comparative secrecy that surrounds the Southern Cross Cable today. Her resulting proposal—to follow Taylor’s lead and make a series of site-specific public artworks to mark the landing sites of the Southern Cross Cable—was rejected by its owner, Spark NZ, on security grounds.

Here she presents iterations of the work she proposed for the four main landing sites. Each marks a specific site, and explores the events and histories that sit behind it. The project has taken Holloway-Smith into the depths of art history, government archives, and the Hauraki Gulf—scuba diving to touch the physical cable. Taylor’s restored mural presides over her entire project. It now reads as a warning of what was to come and, perhaps, a message sent to Holloway-Smith to follow through with her investigations.

The Southern Cross Cable: A Tour was a project within the exhibition This is New Zealand, curated with Robert Leonard and Moya Lawson, City Gallery Wellington, 3 March–15 July 2018

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