Artist Talk: Richard Frater

Richard Frater, Stop Shell (oyster version) 2017, Install Image, Courtesy of the artist.

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Richard Frater will discuss Stop Shell (oyster version) 2017 as part of the exhibition, This Time of Useful Conciousness - Political Ecology Now.

Richard Frater’s Stop Shell series focuses on brand communication and the environmental position of big oil corporations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The inspiration for this version came from a post on Shell’s Facebook wall, where they celebrated the oyster’s ability to filter up to 22 litres of salt water an hour. Shell works with environmental organizations like TNC (The Nature Conservancy) to explore how these natural filters are helping conserve the natural world. Oceans hold one of the keys to mitigating climate change, since CO2 is absorbed into the sea in such a way that it can stay sequestered for up to five hundred years. TNC manage artificial oyster reefs in areas like the wetlands of the state of Louisiana, in the United States of America. These reefs effectively erect alkaline curtains that partially offset the rising acidity of the ocean.

The Shell Facebook post about oysters’ filtering ability was published before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which spewed 4.6 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Ecosystems collapsed and many environmental operations, including TNC’s oyster reef restoration projects, were temporarily suspended. This disaster is a haunting reminder of corporate greed and governmental negligence. With Stop Shell, Frater asks, “do I really believe the oyster filters Shell Petroleum’s acidic ambitions?” With Stop Shell, Frater shows the fragility of the oyster, the improbability of this as a solution given the scale of impact of the fossil fuel industry, and the ongoing denial of corporate responsibility to make necessary adjustments for climate change.

Courtesy of the artist and Robert Heald Gallery.

Supported by Creative NZ

The artist wishes to thank the Jen Warburton Charitable Trust and Hamish Morrison for generously supporting this series