Connecting You Now public art project, Balmain
Connecting You Now is an exciting light mural installed at a new plaza on Darling Street in Balmain. It is a contemporary work, directly connected to the telecommunications heritage of the site. After many years of community activism and support by Council, the front face of the Telstra building was demolished to create a small new plaza, and interestingly the Telstra Exchange is still in operation.
The design for Connecting You Now was created by local Balmain Artist Sue Callanan, to nestle above a green wall, and directly refers to this layer of the telecommunications history of Balmain.
The Telstra exchange has been located in the heart of Balmain and servicing the district since the original telephone exchange was opened in 1914. The front section of the current building was built by the Commonwealth in about 1957.
Connecting you Now brings to life the long history of communications on this site and references the telephone switchboard that would light up, transmitting voices and linking communities together across distances. It pays tribute to the many people who have worked to connect us over time."
Connecting You Now by Sue Callanan, 2021
Sue's work sits flat above a green wall is a contemporary response to history. It relishes in the craftsmanship and the mechanics of the era, often hand made technology. The Balmain Exchange has been a divisive building, and love it or hate it, the building still operates and provides connectivity between people, more pertinent now during Covid 19. The flat nature of both the mural and the green wall responds to community feedback which requested a clear view of the Post Office next door. The addition of Sue's work brings a fresh vision and response to the Telstra Exchange. During the day, Connecting You Now will quietly allow the splendour of the Post Office to take prominence, and by night the artworks' convex shapes will light up as "a call back in time," when the humble home telephone was manually connected by armies of receptionists, plugging us in to the telecommunications grid, and putting us in contact with each other.
Through this work, Sue Callanan also bring us closer to the interior of the Balmain telecommunications building - a mystery for many years. Her work was inspired by imagery of Telephone Exchanges documented in the work of photographer David Field, who has captured exchanges such as the Balmain Exchange, and others across the inner west and wider Sydney.
To see other photographs of the inside of the Balmain Exchange you can view David Field's collection in That Exchange Project