Into the Underworld

A collaborative art-science exhibition exploring the ancient lava caves of Auckland.
Stephen Heard
Published on September 03, 2018


Speleologist Peter Crossley spent three years mapping the ancient lava caves beneath the streets of Auckland.

The subterranean world was formed out of volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago, but without any legal framework during the 20th century, many of the discovered sites have been lost, destroyed, or become a hidden layer beneath the built environment.

More than 200 cave entrances have been documented across the isthmus, across Mount Albert, Three Kings, Mount Eden, Mangere and One Tree Hill, often behind streetfront garages, private backyards or under roadside manholes, with new sites still being uncovered today.

Into the Underworld / Ngā Mahi Rarowhenua is a collaborative art-science exhibition by Peter with artist Chirag Jindal and composer Peter Hobbs. For three weeks in September, the caves will be presented in an exhibition of large panoramic light boxes (up to seven metres wide and five metres tall), revealing the sublime and uncanny narrative of the city's volcanic underground.

A newly-recorded ambient score composed by award-winning sound artist Peter Hobbs will accompany the work. The piece was recorded in a lava cave beneath Te Tātua-a-Riukiuta (Three Kings) with musicians Maxine Cunliffe on cello and Charmian Keay on violin.

The exhibition will also feature screenings of Meet Peter, a 2017 documentary by filmmaker Gemma Duncan on Peter and his life documenting over 200 caves across the city. Through artful cinematography, the film accounts the derelict state of these forgotten sites, but frames them within the beauty of their fossilised lava flows.

Held at Silo 6 at Wynyard Quarter, the exhibition will be open from midday to 9pm from Sunday, 9 September to Monday, 1 October. Admission is by koha.


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