b. 1968, Sydney
Lives and works in Melbourne, Australia
Peter Hennessey was born in 1968 in Sydney, Australia. He completed a Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours), RMIT in 1995. Exhibitions and collaborations include My Hell’s Gate, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne (2010); My NSAT-110, Kandada, Tokyo (2007); My Voyager, PICA, Perth (2005); Anne Landa Award, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney (2004); TerrUrbanism, Australia Centre, Manila, The Philippines (with Patricia Piccinini) (1995); De Overkant, Den Haag Sculptuur, The Hague (2007).
Trained as an architect, Hennessey has established an international profile for his physically imposing, conceptually rigorous sculptures. He is inspired by the science of space exploration and comparable technological advances, and scours the Internet and other publicly available information 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. In recreating these structures, Hennessey explores the ‘space between images and experience’ and expounds on related social, political and economic imperatives.
“For the past two years, the art of Peter Hennessey has powerfully examined the media-saturated events and phenomena that have inscribed themselves upon his (and our) memories and dreams. Deploying the most commonplace of materials (plywood, galvanised steel hinge, canvas), Hennessey has produced bold, arresting and intricate sculptures based on subject matter which is familiar, even infamous, but physically inaccessible...“
- Space Voyagers and Neonatal Nightmares: an odyssey into the Art of Peter Hennessey by Varga Hosseini, 2006
ALONE WITH THE GODS
ALONE WITH THE GODS (ARTIST STATEMENT) -
Following on from our first collaboration ‘The Shadows Calling’ at Detached in Hobart earlier this year, this exhibition continues to explore the construction of an immersive, narrative space that combines sculpture, audio, scent, video, installation and narrative.
The work will transform the gallery into a parallel world, cut off from the everyday realities of the contemporary life yet inextricably linked with it. The world will house a series of new artworks that form an environment within which a complex narrative will be deployed using spoken word and video.
Conceptually, the work will explore the nation of ‘worlds apart’; spaces and populations that self-consciously separate themselves from the everyday world, in order to create a new reality for themselves. Such worlds are mysterious but comprehensible, on the edge of familiar. They are worlds which tend to operate within the confines of their own belief systems, which are self evident to the inhabitants but make no sense to us. Yet its is precisely this disconnect that calls the status quo into question.
When the viewer enters this world it is deserted, abandoned, and they are free explore it and try to understand what went on, and why.
Patricia Piccinini + Peter Hennessey
MY BURNT FROST
MY BURNT FROST (ARTIST STATEMENT) -
My Burnt Frost continues my investigations of the space between images and experience in the contemporary world, as well as my interest in sculpture as the performance of objects. My particular concern for this show is the point at which objects cease to exist or transform themselves. The moment after which the thing can only be remembered, when the opportunity for actual experience explodes. The focus for the works in this exhibition is an event that occurred on February 21st this year, when the US Navy used a SM-3 missile to destroy a damaged spy satellite, known as USA-193. This operation, code-named ‘Operation Burnt Frost’ was justified on the basis that the satellite, which had malfunctioned shortly after deployment and was in a rapidly decaying orbit, carried 450kg of toxic hydrazine that could potentially produce a toxic gas cloud if it survived re-entry. However, many (including Russia) were sceptical of the hazard that this relatively small quantity of hydrazine presented, claiming instead that this was a de-facto testing of a US missile defence system. The US government stridently denied this claim, although six days after the event US Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates did say that the mission’s success showed that U.S. plans for a missile-defence system were realistic.
I was interested in this occurrence for a number of reasons. I have a long-standing fascination with what I call ‘inaccessible objects’, such as satellites, for both aesthetic and conceptual reasons, and USA-193 is particularly intriguing. Not only was it physically inaccessible (up in orbit) but it was even visually inaccessible, as it was classified so there are no publicly accessible images or even descriptions. We know it only in the vaguest terms, as a blurry dot in an optical telescope image or the deliberately meaningless code-names USA-193 or NROL-21. Now it has been blown up and its existence is further reduced to a series of informational echoes in the media. How could we attempt to represent this thing that we could really never see?
I see my sculptures as more like performances than representations. They attempt to physically ‘act out’ the objects that they represent. There is certainly a physical resemblance - otherwise it would be a poor performance indeed - but they do not tend towards visual equivalence. Instead they attempt to manifest the physical presence of the objects. In many ways they embody the absence of the thing rather than fabricating its presence. Therefore, instead of trying to reproduce the absent object, as I have done in much of my previous work, in this case I am looking more at the moment of its disappearance.
In the central work of the exhibition, My USA-193 (...now you don’t), I am presenting the remnants of a performance of the destruction of the spy satellite. Sealed into a toughened glass case are the remains of a scale reproduction of the spacecraft that has been destroyed in a scaled down explosion. The case itself shows signs of the damage caused by the detonation that has occurred within it, and the viewer is left to try to imagine what the scattered fragments might have been. Accompanying this work is a video of the explosion event, showing the destruction. However, at no point is the viewer ever allowed a definitive inspection of the original object. The exhibition also includes a series of small bronze sculptures titled Debris Piece #1, #2, #3. These capture collections of flying debris, reproducing moments from the process of explosive destruction that has transformed the original object.
MY NICU (ARTIST STATEMENT) -
NICU is an acronym that stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. My NICU is part of a sequence of works that I have prefixed 'My', where I 're-enact' - in plywood - objects and spaces at full size. In the past they have stood in for (performed) objects that we know but could not physically access. In the case of My NICU, I have turned to a space that we could possibly access but in truth would rather not. As a new father, this is my nightmare space - a space that crystalises the anxiety and even fear that comes with anything precious.
At the same time it represents an unwelcome hope; the technologies and processes that are - for some - both despised and relied upon. It is an intensely emotive space, in stark contrast to its clinical lack of character.
In creating My NICU, I have moved away a little from the sharp, wooden perfection of my previous work to something more unsteady. The surface is overlaid with hand-drawn markings and translucent, textured wax. Altogether it is not quite right - a bit wonky and over-crowded - more like a dream of an NICU than the real thing. Perhaps more like a bad dream.