Penrose Helix

Generation & Display, London, United Kingdom
19 May to 6 June 2020

Penrose Helix alludes to the theme of surveillance via the motif of the tower. Towers are landmarks, international figures that typify the idea of progress. In this sense it is no surprise that they are powerful symbols to dismantle, as proven by the attacks of 9/11. The United States no longer boasts the tallest towers; contemporary military superpowers send the top of the tower — the all-seeing eye — straight to space with a rocket, skipping the need for spiral staircases altogether. Down below on the surface, their market system still relies on the ascension of a staircase, but similarly to the Super Mario 64 obstacle ‘Endless Stairs’, the capitalist staircase can forever be climbed, without making any progress. The capitalist model is based on an infinite game of inflation and deflation, where value must be diminished in order to progress. The height and depth of the tower have been reduced to a Penrose model. We are caught in a two-dimensional reality where positioning and locating oneself becomes near impossible. Ascension has become illusional, and we no longer know who the observer is and who the observed.

left to right: Long House by Amelie Mckee, Alison by Melle Nieling and Pilot Solutions by Amelie Mckee
left to right: Long House by Amelie Mckee, Alison by Melle Nieling and Pilot Solutions by Amelie Mckee

Amelie Mckee’s work operates as a dissection of delivery systems. Long house, an industrialised birth canal, questions the commodification of babies as they are increasingly approached as an embodiment of family values and used as a vehicle to portray the self in the online realm. Pilot Solutions, a series of sculptures, is inspired by drones situated between romantic ideals of flight and dystopian war devices. The work points at debates around the increase of mechanical devices affiliated to the body and the strategy of modification that seeks to avoid surveillance technology (Aposematic Display I).

left to right: Pilot Solutions by Amelie Mckee and On the Making of Maggots by Ma Baocheng
left to right: Pilot Solutions by Amelie Mckee and On the Making of Maggots by Ma Baocheng

Melle Nieling’s new video work Alison displays the ascension from corporeality to virtuality; shifting from the physical realm to algorithmically predicted materiality, we experience the stream of consciousness of an artificial intelligence as it is born and has its first realisations.

Photo of Pilot Solutions by Amelie Mckee
Pilot Solutions by Amelie Mckee

On the Making of Maggots by Ma Baocheng unfolds through an illusionary ever rising musical tone. The piece prods at the idea of Progress portrayed in mass culture via the glorification of technological vessels and renders a bitter aftertaste left by the bombardment of hyper positive commercials.

Video still of one of the Threshold XIV films by Louise Ørsted Jensen and Amelie Mckee
Video still of Threshold XIV by Louise Ørsted Jensen and Amelie Mckee

Louise Ørsted Jensen’s recent work explores notions of piracy. In her collaboration with Amelie Mckee she experiments with body worn spy cameras, exploring a scenario where one’s environment can be recorded without the knowledge of passers-by. The result is live streamed in a first-person game framework, questioning the impact of the Digital arena in the perception of everyday surroundings. In this work, they are interested in the experimental nature of the project and the disorientations it might generate. Shot as a short film series Threshold XVI was released online throughout the duration of the show.

Photo of the Penrose Helix publication
The Penrose Helix publication

Penrose Helix features a publication with texts by Alex Quicho, Sonia Bernac, Ayla Dmyterko, Esme Boggis, Lucy Holt and Francesca Laura Cavallo. Contrary to its physical appearance and symbolic capital, the tower can exert insidious influence over its surroundings. The ironies of choosing Leviathan – ‘a mighty and terrifying beast, usually thought of as a monstrous sea dweller’ – as a title for Hobbes’ discussion on the social contract, were not lost on the author or his contemporaneous readers. The publication is centred on idiosyncratic and unusual explorations of that which towers over us: the social contract. The publication is designed by Can Yang, and edited by Ed Hands.