Bodies of Work /


Capital, execution site, formerly The Terrace Gaol, The Terrace, Te Aro, Wellington, 2010. Digital C-type photograph, 1650 × 850 mm.


The image depicts the approximate space where executions occured in Wellington in the 19th and 20th centuries. The image, printed in reverse (a mirror image), reactivates the public memory of Wellington and re-scripts the moral and ethical narratives that we take for granted in/about our city. This work provides a context for the reevaluation of city space, its social and juridical uses. Now close of the recreational and educational areas of Victoria University and Te Aro School the site around which the executions occured reflects Walter Benjamin’s famous statement that ‘every site is the scene of a crime’, in this case acts of great violence. This artwork raises complex questions regarding the relationships between land use, history, trauma, ethics and crime as they circulate in relation to Wellington City. Crucially, these apsects of our city’s history are largely unknown and complicate the narratives of urban pride and positivity that are at large in our city culture. Arguing for a city more cognisant of its chequered past and one that remembers its failures, this work attempts to activate discourse via the potential of photography’s testimonial ability. My ongoing research investigates how events are displaced in the landscape, what that means and how an examination of these events can affect contemporary knowledge. I am interested in these histories not as a nostalgic look back to the past nor as a ghoulish infatuation with it, but as a way to critically negotiate the meta discourses that are at work in the mechanisms of these events. My images ask what is remembered, what is recorded and reiterated – “If memory is re­flection then Shelton’s images are about the anxiety of what is able to be really known and kept.”1

  1. Word reaches Us From The Distance, Huddleston, Charlotte, a kind of sleep, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. 2006 p.26.