Bronwyn Holloway Smith
May - October 2014
Bronwyn Holloway-Smith's Te Ika-a-Akoranga (The Fish of Akoranga) is the second in a series of projects commissioned by Letting Space with JWT in Auckland, which explores the relationship between private and public space. The first in the series was Please Give Generously by Judy Darragh.
Through Te Ika-a-Akoranga Holloway-Smith has been slowly unveiling a reproduction of a recently rediscovered, neglected public artwork. Since May the work has started to be revealed tile by tile in a cabinet at JWT's offices in Queen Street and online here.
In researching the history of the Southern Cross Cable, New Zealand’s primary internet connection to the world, and interested in the issues of surveillance and intellectal property that surround it, Holloway-Smith helped to unearth a long-forgotten large-scale ceramic mural: a depiction of the story of Te Ika-A-Māui, created in 1961 by artist E. Mervyn Taylor for the opening of the Commonwealth Pacific Cable (COMPAC).
Holloway-Smith is placing the mural back in the public realm – slowly, like a jigsaw, placing images in the JWT Auckland office space and releasing them online.
Made up of 414 tiles, the ceramic mural is a large-scale full-colour illustration of the mythical Māori tale of Maui fishing up the North Island of New Zealand (Te Ika-a-Māui). Holloway-Smith has painstakingly photographed each tile in the mural with the aim to gradually reconstruct a photographic version of the full image.
Alongside a physical replica of the mural, images of each tile will be released online under a Creative Commons copyright license that will allow members of the public, anywhere in the internet-connected world, to reconstruct their own version of the mural.
A precursor of today’s Southern Cross Cable, which carries 98% of New Zealand’s international internet traffic, the COMPAC cable was a major post-World War Two submarine telecommunications system built between 1961-63 to connect a network of Commonwealth countries. The more recent Southern Cross Cable’s landing station is located in the same high-security complex as the now disused COMPAC landing station.
The COMPAC cable reinforced the geo-political ties that were strengthened during the war. At the time, the cable was a feat of finances and engineering: costing a total of $100 million, spanning 14,000 miles, and containing 11,000 miles of telephone cable that linked Scotland, Canada, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. The tale of The Fish of Maui bears a metaphorical connection with the physical nature of the COMPAC cable.
Taylor’s mural was installed in the foyer of the COMPAC landing station in Northcote, Auckland, but was later removed due to deterioration and thought to be lost. The mural has recently been rediscovered stacked away in a disused area of the now defunct COMPAC landing station.
The COMPAC station was publicly accessible for many years until approximately 1990, when a high-security perimeter fence was built around the complex. Holloway-Smith is now working with the operators of the landing station - Telecom - to restore the mural and have it reinstalled.
The work is the first in a series Holloway-Smith is creating as part of a PhD through Massey University College of Creative Arts, where she is investigating the cultural significance of the landing sites of New Zealand’s Southern Cross Cable.
Bronwyn Holloway-Smith is a Wellington-based artist who works in a wide-range of media, specialising in cross-platform, trans-disciplinary installation practice. Her work often examines and engages with new technologies and the futuristic ideals and challenges these inventions present, with a recent focus on internet culture, three-dimensional printing, open source art, and space colonisation. Her work has been shown internationally and throughout New Zealand, and is represented in both private and public collections. She is a prospective PhD candidate at Massey University, where she also gained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours). She has completed additional studies through Harvard University. Her first project with Letting Space was Pioneer City in 2012. For more information on her practice see: http://bronwyn.co.nz