At the foothills of the Southern Alps in the late 1980s Peter King re-engineered a then outdated technology, developing a new way of ‘cutting’ audio into transparent polycarbonate plastic.

Lo-fi but affordable, Peter King’s lathe cut records sparked an explosion of limited-edition releases from NZ’s innovative underground music scenes. Generally produced in runs of 20–100 copies, these records often featured bespoke hand-made cover art, liner notes, booklets, and various other inserts and modifications; audio, artefacts, aesthetics, and attitudes that are practically unfeasible within the economies of scale required by the commercial music industry.

Researched and curated by Luke Wood, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at the University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts, A Short Run brings together a broad selection of these releases, alongside more recent developments and outcomes of lathe-cutting record technology. Drawing from the private collections of artists, musicians, bands, and small independent record labels around the country, this exhibition explores the intersection between music and design in the radical margins of New Zealand culture.

The opening of the exhibition on Friday 18 October will have performances from the band Dean and solo act P Wits. 

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Luke Wood has developed primary research for this exhibition of New Zealand-made lathe cut records out of an interest in the potential for the distribution of music/sound via physical formats in a pervasively digital future. Luke has recently set up the 'art school record label', Ilam Press Records, a research initiative and subsidiary of the Ilam Press; an inhouse publishing workshop at the Ilam School of Fine Arts which he runs in collaboration with colleague Aaron Beehre.

Luke’s broader research interests and outcomes are motivated by the rapidly expanding practices and roles of graphic design in the 21st century. Alongside Brad Haylock (RMIT), he has recently co-edited a book, featuring contributions from leading international designers, teachers and academics, to be published by Occasional Papers (London) in late 2019. Luke also co-created the award-winning graphic design publications Head Full of Snakes and The National Grid.

New Zealand lathe-cut records from the collection of Luke Wood. Image: Haru Sameshima.

7-inch lathe cut record by Peter King. Image: Haru Sameshima

Meat Market, Meat Market, Spotty Dog Records (015 SPOTS), 1997. Cover art by Meat Market (Sarah Bingle, Helen Cain, and Elise Bishop). 12-inch lathe cut record by Peter King Image: Haru Sameshima.