Window Work: Graham Fletcher


exhibition Details

The title of Graham Fletcher's window work, Ultra-Man (the default hypothesis), references eugenics, a scientific theory which maintains that through selective breeding the human race can be enhanced. Fletcher explains that recent research has found 'Polynesian peoples to be genetically stronger and physically superior to other races.' According to the theory of eugenics the reason for this is that the Polynesian gene pool is relatively small and has been isolated for many hundreds of years.

On a painted tapa cloth Fletcher creates his version of this superior being which he terms 'Ultra-Man'. Fletcher's Ultra-Man, while physically strong however takes the form of an 'urban thug', thus fulfilling the stereotype of the Polynesian male held by wider society. The figure privileges the physicality of the Polynesian man at the expense of his intellect, personality, emotions and culture.

Fletcher comments that 'It is ironic that this seemingly invincible super being is celebrated on the sports field as the ultimate warrior but he is largely absent from the corporate, commercial and academic spheres.' He adds that according to statistics the Polynesian man is 'predisposed to a life of poverty, failure in school, unemployment, illness, welfare dependency, ineffective parenting, and a life of crime and incivility.' Despite his physically superior form it would seem by default that the Polynesian male is predestined not to succeed. Ultra-Man confronts this issue directly.

Ultra-Man also questions the notions of fear the warrior-like image of the Polynesian male plays into. Fletcher comments that his intention was to highlight 'the vulnerability of this man while at the same time confronting the stranglehold of fear, both real and imagined, that exists in the minds of the average New Zealander - a fear often directed, by default, towards the physically imposing figure of the Maori and Polynesian male.'

Curated by
Jane Davidson
New Gallery, Lower Level
Free entry