May 8, 2015

Richard FraterLiving Cities

Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington
Richard Frater, Living Cities 2011– (still), 2015. From the film trailer. © Richard Frater 2015.

Curated by Laura Preston

Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi at Victoria University of Wellington is pleased to present Richard Frater’s expansive Living Cities project. Encompassing both the Adam’s Kirk Gallery and an offsite location specifically secured for Frater’s project, the artist carefully orchestrates a chain of discrete scenarios for viewing his sculptures as well as an architectural intervention and collaborative sonic works developed with sound artist Richard Francis. The impetus for Richard Frater’s Living Cities project was seeded in a 2011 exhibition series at the Adam Art Gallery titled In Camera. Curated by former Adam Art Gallery Curator Laura Preston, Frater’s contribution to this earlier series involved taking up residence in Wellington and over the course of a month developing work in situ in response to natural and planned features of the city.

Frater’s current project develops out of his ongoing conversations with Preston. In this instance he seeks out a perceptual space for his suite of site responsive artworks which is analogous to the experience of cinematic real-time. Each of these works translate tropes of film into objects and situations—the aperture of a lens, diegetic/non-diegetic sound, the chemical makeup of celluloid and so forth—putting into play a kind of expanded notion of cinema which, with the exception of the online “trailer” for this exhibition, is realised without the use of a camera.

A connecting thread within these works is Frater’s concern with the ecological makeup and built environment of Wellington. Frater has been researching Zealandia, the Karori wildlife sanctuary with a “500 year vision” to restore local bush to its pre-human conditions. These major rejuvenation efforts have restored the populations of the spotted kiwi, hihi and tuatara and Frater’s particular interest is their work with the kaka, the native parrot that was successfully reintroduced into the region in 2001.

The kaka operates as the invisible “protagonist” in these works and each of the objects in the exhibition is connected by the plight of this mischievous bird. The artist assembles lead roofing nails which kaka gnaw at, causing contamination to young chicks, and exhibits a nail gun as an icon of the 20th-century suburban sprawl which has permanently altered the kaka’s habitat. This network of objects, combined with the artist’s deft reworking of the architectural features of the gallery to frame a view towards the city, unearth the hostile relationship between the natural wildlife and contemporary urban developments that so rapidly undermine a delicate ecosystem thousands of years in the making.

Richard Frater is a New Zealand-born, Berlin-based artist. He studied at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in 2006, and has a MFA from the Glasgow School of Art (2012). His works have been included in exhibitions in New Zealand, Australia and Germany and he is preparing for a solo exhibition in Berlin later this year. He is represented by Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington.

The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of Chartwell Trust in the realisation of this project.


The Adam Art Gallery is the university art gallery of Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. It is a forum for critical thinking about art and its histories as well as the professional structure within which the Victoria University Art Collection is managed. The gallery’s programmes explore the full range of media available to artists and aim to test and expand art form and disciplinary boundaries. The gallery is a remarkable architectural statement designed by Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s foremost architects.


Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington presents Richard Frater's Living Cities

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