“Committed to experiencing and understanding things that elude us because of our distance from them, Peter Hennessey’s self-appointed mission has been to give them shape. He does so with no small degree of irony, acknowledging that his structures are no more than understudies. He nevertheless finds delight in giving objects known predominantly through the digital realm three-dimensional form, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Altruistic and optimistic, Hennessey creates work that challenges our paradigms, with a view to a more humane world.”
— Samantha Littley, Curator, UQ Art Museum and Curator, Peter Hennessey: Making it real
About Peter Hennessey’s work
Peter Hennessey is inspired by the science of space exploration and comparable technological advances, and scours the Internet and other publicly available research material to produce his work. The resulting sculptures are ‘re-enactments’ of objects that allow people to encounter in three-dimensions what they would otherwise only see in reproduction, or on the Web. Replicas in scale but not in materials or functionality, the sculptures infer the original without attempting to duplicate it. Through his accounts of these structures, Hennessey explores the ‘space between images and experience’ and expounds on related social, political and economic imperatives.
Where we are now (Navstar Block II-F satellite, USA) 2014 is the second work by Peter Hennessey to enter The University of Queensland’s Collection, joining My Humvee (Inversion therapy) 2008, which was donated by the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation. The sculptures will be important inclusions in UQ Art Museum’s forthcoming survey Peter Hennessey: Making it real (14 March to 12 July 2015).
About the work acquired
Hennessey has always been drawn to structures that are inherently aesthetic. Indeed, he chooses his objects not only for their symbolic value, but also because they are visually and physically engaging. This is true of works from his recent series ‘Here be dragons / Hic sunt dracones’ 2014, in which he comments on the pervasive reach of satellites. The title refers to a Medieval Latin phrase that was used on maps of old. The idiom was marked on regions that had not yet been explored and were, therefore, beyond the limits of knowledge.
In Hennessey’s hands, the GPS satellite becomes a modern-day metaphor for mapping, and the power it confers in our global, networked age. As he explains, ‘much as the great world empires have succeeded, other giant corporate empires are rising, and they, too, define their ubiquity through maps.’1 In recreating the front panel or ‘face’ of the USA’s Navstar Block II-F satellite, Hennessey brings this idea into our consciousness, making visible the technology that we all rely on but rarely see, and asking us to consider the forces driving its development.
In his words, ‘I am interested in examining that ubiquity and disrupting that invisibility, and also in questions of how modern technological cartography reflects contemporary geopolitics.’2 Like the other satellite faces that Hennessey has crafted – reenactments of Russian, Chinese and EU systems – Where we are now (Navstar Block II-F satellite, USA) makes a larger comment about cultural imperialism and control.
Unlike its counterparts, the wax-coated plywood Navstar is displayed horizontally on a table top, imbuing the work with an architectural quality that invokes images of Modernist, utopian cities. The small, digitally printed figures that Hennessey has made to populate his satellite enhance these inferences, and distort our sense of proportion, making the life-sized object appear more like a scale model. For Hennessey, the figures, ‘add a layer of narrative to the works, converting them from objects into spaces.’3 Through this device, we become aware of how things beyond our literal comprehension have become embedded in our lives.
1. Peter Hennessey, ‘Here Be Dragons / Hic sunt dracones’, Tolarno Gallery, Melbourne, 2014.
Text by Samantha Littley, Curator, UQ Art Museum and Curator, Peter Hennessey: Making it real