Tomas Penc ‘ENDUSER’
Triskel Christchurch, Cork
11 October – 22 December 2018
In large black type, the word “ENDUSER” confronts visitors, while underneath, an inscrutable text begins: “you owe me, big smooth eggs of divine fertility laid out of the window into the endless landscape.” The phrase “you owe me” is repeated throughout this text: “you owe me…snow… strawberries…colour…”. Some, but not all, of the things ‘owed’ also appear in the presented artworks.
Penc presented two distinct and consecutive phases of this exhibition, each running for approximately a month at Triskel Christchurch – an eighteenth-century neoclassical Georgian church, which functions as Triskel Art Centre’s main auditorium. The titular artwork, ENDUSER, featured in both iterations, comprising four holographic projections, sited at balcony-height, near the corner pillars of the nave, which were activated by viewers’ movements as they passed through the space. When not activated, this work exists as a mechanical structure, a single blade propeller on a steel pole. When triggered, the blade whirs into motion. As the speed increases, the spectral apparition of a ghostly head appears, revolving 360 degrees on its axis, before cutting to an upright rotating hand. In the context of the overall show, I would relate the hand and the head to making and thinking; to creation, production and measurement.
A two-minute film loop, titled The last Judgement, is projected onto the first of two screens in the aisle, hung from the ceiling. The film features three figures – naked, hairless and devoid of genitals, reminiscent of action men dolls – inhabiting a bleak computer-generated world. They trudge atop a revolving disc; one figure wears knee-length black boots and pulls a rope attached to the wheel’s axel. His labour in this dystopian gymnasium is being converted to energy. Of course, virtual, remote and unseen slave labour exists in our world, supplying the commodities that keep capital moving – from coltan mining in the Congo to textile factories in Bangladesh. The scene reveals a bleached rudimentary landscape, populated with geometric shapes and small figures that seem to be plucked from the hellscape of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. A short looped computer-generated film, Strawberry Advertisement, depicts a landscape of strawberries; sumptuous and seductive in their fleshy unreality and perhaps plucked by one of Bosch’s unfortunate eunuch slaves. During the exhibition’s run, a story emerged of needles being found in strawberries in Australia, which shut down the country’s multi-million-dollar strawberry industry for several weeks. Speculation abounded of disgruntled pickers engaging in sabotage – a needle in the fruit replacing the spanner in the works.
The second instalment of the show included two film works and a sound piece. Digital Waste Disposal Site, a computer-generated animation, features a static snowy landscape over which footage of seven long flags has been superimposed. The flags move, but are not tethered to anything, bringing an uncanny aspect to the scene. It is a picturesque vista with pine trees and snow-covered cabins, the light suggesting dawn or dusk. The unfurled flags could suggest the simple measure of wind direction, hinting at windmills – an early method of harnessing nature’s energy – or they may refer to political projects, the unfurling of the red flag a symbol of the masses rising up against their masters. In a similar vein, Marked for Deletion comprises a still image of a beautiful seascape, with horizontal and vertical lines superimposed on the composition’s lower portion. A gridded cube moves through the arrangement, recalling the modernist desire to purify the artmaking process from the emotional subjectivity of the ‘tortured artist’ of popular cliché. Both films show the natural landscape – an archetypal subject in Romanticism – being contested by another force.
Hanging from the ceiling between the projection screens is Closing Credits, a steel-frame cube which triggers a cacophonous alarm when approached. This extended note adds to the low-level electronic hum already filling the space. It is a heavy looking industrial piece; the nuts and bolts are exposed, highlighting its materiality. This work oscillates between being a sculpture and a piece of equipment, housing the technology. The themes that emerge in ‘ENDUSER’ are consumption and production. The finished products are displayed in all their beauty and seductiveness, while the labour spent during production of these artworks is hidden away.
Catherine Harty is a member of the Cork Artists Collective and a director of The Guesthouse Project.
Tomas Penc, ENDUSER, 2018, audio/visual installation, holographic projectors, sound, duration 3:50 minutes, dimensions variable; photograph by venividiphoto.net.
Thomas Penc, Strawberries Advertisement, 2018, computer-generated animation, loop, duration 1:30 minutes, and The Last Judgement, 2018, computer-generated animation and sound, loop, duration 2:04 minutes; photograph by venividiphoto.net.