The Moral Drift is an interdisciplinary project which has been developed by a collective of investigative researchers. It brings together Fraser Crichton—a Te Whanganui-a-Tara based researcher and documentary photographer, Malcolm Richards—a survivor of abuse in care at the former Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit, and Lachlan Kermode—a Research Fellow at the international human rights agency Forensic Architecture. Together they investigate a partial history of Aotearoa's state care system, uncovering a legacy of abuse and the resiliency of the survivors who continue to seek justice today.
The exhibition is staged in two parts. The first builds on a previous version of The Moral Drift, inaugurally exhibited at Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, Wellington in 2020 as part of the exhibition Violent Legalities. Developing a single interactive map from the preceding show, the collective locates twenty-three former care facilities across Aotearoa New Zealand, including residentially-based programmes, special schools, and eleven adult psychiatric facilities. As we interact with the map we are connected with a chronology of articles and government-commissioned reviews which narrate the troubled history of state care in Aotearoa. Seen as a whole, the project demonstrates significant failings in our history of care – showing the impacts of legislative changes that failed to acknowledge Te Tiri principles, police inaction, and a chronology of court cases initiated by individual survivors. The determination of the survivors to hold State actors accountable eventually led to a formal inquiry partially initiated by complaints taken to the United Nations and the Waitangi Tribunal.
A second, new section of the exhibition (launching 5 November) focuses on a case study of the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit (1972-1978). A detailed digital 3D model of Lake Alice (which was demolished in 2016) has been developed by Crichton and Kermode. This is combined with new documentary footage of the site, additional data visualisations of events surrounding Lake Alice’s history, and the distinctive voice and testimony of Malcolm Richards, who describes his experiences of seeking redress from the State for the abuse he suffered at Lake Alice. The exhibition expands the confines of documentary, blurring the lines between investigative journalism and data visualisation, and using architecture imaging tools. It sheds light on the ongoing crisis of care in Aotearoa, probing the question: when systems of redress fail, where can one go to find justice?
Principal Exhibition Partner: Holland Beckett
Image: Erection Villas 7 & 8, Lake Alice Hospital: Peacocke Construction Co Ltd (R16988433) 1945 - 1945 R16988433 ACHL 19315 W33 33 / 16264, Archives New Zealand/Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, Wellington.