KW INSTITUTE BERLIN
Richard FraterSedum hakonense; Sempervivum arachnoideum; Sedum spathulifolium; Talinum calycinum; Galium verum; Euphorbia cyparissias; Aster linosyris; Scabiosa caucasica; Rudbeckia lgida; erbena bonariensis;Gaura lindheimeri; Sedum spurium; Sedum oriferum; Rhodiola pachyclados; Antennaria dioica; and more...14–17 September 17, and ongoing Rooftop of the main hall, 3rd oorLife is entirely dependent on the chlorophyllin function of the plant. This means that if looked at in its initial compulsion, life was a tendency to accumulate in a reservoir, as to especially the green parts of vegetables, to an instantaneous effective discharge, like that which animal brings about, something that would have otherwise owed away. It is like an effort to raise the weight which falls. True it only succeeds in retarding the fall but at least it can give us an idea of what the raising of weight looked like.Creative Evolution – Henri Bergson (L’Évolution créatrice, 1907)The visitors enter an empty gallery space; one window at the backside is left open, offering a view onto the rooftop of the exhibition hall. Here, Berlin-based artist Richard Frater has constructed a garden full of wild owers, succulents, and endangered local plants.The presence of pale yellow calls to mind various biologically deserted images: a harvested crop; a wild grass meadow in the fall; an unoccupied allotment;and the non-spaces that line roads and railways. Surveying their contents closely reveals a more enlivened situation. In this site, a thickening of wild grasses, owers, and succulent varietals mingle in a damp soil bed. Over the years, the seeds of wild carrots and onions have also fallen here. Anomalies include pine trees and fruit trees. One imagines then a space that is the result of accumulated interventions,which ultimately foreground a withdrawal from human presence and nurture. The position of the roof is independent and isolated from the institutional compound. Although visible from the exhibition spaces the garden was never perceived as a part of the institution, it existed as a non-space within the institutional compound. For Frater’s intervention the central task was to enhance diversity without creating a situation that introduced regular nurture into the scheme. Plants were therefore selected on their ability to survive independently. Frater worked closely with Jonathan Hamnett, an experienced urban garden manager that also specializes in foraging for edible plants in the wider Brandenburg region. Their survey of the existing landscape infrastructure determined the plant species that would enhance plant diversity. Hedge-like borders made of steel provide sheltering and shade that form microclimates within the larger square of the rooftop. The inclusion of endangered local species such as Aster linosyris and Antennaria dioca supports the spreading of rare plants; owers such as Gaura and Verbena increase bee and insect activity. The pulsing effect of owering will be present over the course of the exhibition and the durational image ofthe coming fall will surface as the plant life withdrawsEninto its root system or dies off before winter, their seeds joining the perennial program of what has indeed stabilized in this space over years.Frater is working with a wildlife photographer and an experimental composer to include their means of production. The photographer will respond to a list of bird sightings in the KW courtyard recorded by artist Scott Rogers during his residency at KW in May 2017. During the last days of September, the photographer will visit the courtyard and document the birds thatlive there. Scott and Frater will approach the same task as amateur photographers observing identi able patterns to professional practice, the imaging of urban ecology with and against the genre’s key nature/culture binaries. Their photos will appear online in early October in the context of an Instagram takeover ofthe KW account.Frater’s artistic interventions at KW will culminate in a live sound performance. He will collaborate with the minimal classical composer Maya Shenfeld on a piece inspired by 1970s environmental protest songs.Their interest lies in the spirit of collective celebration of this era popularized through music. In contrast, contemporary pop music seems to completely lack such spirit despite the intensi cation of environmental issues. Examples of these songs are Teach In’s Greenpeace (1979) and Fourmyula’s 1969 single Nature, one of which will be adapted to wind instruments for an evening durational performance. In their various ways, these collaborations between Frater and his colleagues from different elds expand upon the ecology ofthe visit.
For this series, I am concerned with a growing urgency expressed in the consumer world to undercut ecological uncertainty. For example, one of the sculptures explores how living and symbolic oysters join in the life support of a brand. Recently, on Shell Petroleum’s Facebook wall, Shell espoused the oyster’s ability to filter up to 22 litres of salt water an hour, further proclaiming:
See how Shell works with environmental organizations like TNC (The Nature Conservancy) to use these natural filters and find other ways of helping conserve the natural world.
But it is not just a salt-water filter Shell has observed. Artificial oyster reefs erect alkaline curtains that, to an oblique degree, offset the company’s contribution to the rising acidity of the ocean. Acidity that, since the beginning of the industrial revolution, has increased by 30%, largely due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.
One quarter of global CO2 is absorbed into the oceans in such a way that it can stay sequestered for up to five hundred years. An ocean is like a gigantic pulsing sink of carbonate chains and it is a key to mitigating climate change. CO2 is absorbed into oceans where its ions exchange in a series of mineral and metabolic processes. Under the right conditions alkaline zones can emerge that are beneficial to a wide range of marine organisms with calcite structures such as coral skeletons and shells.
Yet adverse effects are emerging from the growing presence of CO2. Not least of all, lowering the pH level of seawater decreases the saturation zone where calcium-carbonate bonds. The zone narrows and rises closer to the ocean’s surface. Consequently, the delicate balance for calcification (becoming solid) is upset. Dissolution writes over the precipitation process for existing marine organisms. Shells become deformed and in younger specimens are unable to form.
In this example, the question I am asking is how do we then position the oyster’s blind occupation? Do we believe the oyster filters Shell Petroleum’s acidic ambitions? Shell Petroleum observed this flux of nonhuman agency could be co-opted into the composite shell of its corporate identity so that living and symbolic oysters join in the life support of the brand.