Work from the Undermining line of inquiry was included in the PAS show at Ideas Platform, Artspace, Dec 2017, curated by Talia Linz.

penelope cain undermine

Installation view of two works from this inquiry, in Ideas Platform, Artspace.

These works are part of an ongoing line of investigation reflecting broadly on the politics and spatiality of occupation and territory. This investigation engages with the spatiality of colonialism and sovereignty, both old and new, formal and informal, and consider to differing degrees Australia’s history and contemporary resource politics.


Penelope Cain undermine at Artspace Sydney

Two-Up, 2017 Installation view, Ideas Platform, Artspace UV-cured digital print on acrylic and linen, fibreglass mesh, fabric, trimmings, wood 130 x 190 cm

The line of inquiry pivots from a small painting by a nineteenth century former-convict and amateur artist, George Peacock, in the State Library Collection. The painting looks along Sydney Harbour, encompassing a view of the emerging commerce and city of the colony, while in the foreground loiter colonial figures of a rum-corp soldier and a former convict in a nearby boat.

Penelope Cain undermine at Artspace Sydney

Tenancy: poles, coreflute, rope, cast concrete sandcastles

In this inquiry an oil rig was used as a reverse-historical provocation, placed in the centre of the anthropogenic landscape of Sydney Harbour. Here it reflects on the term ‘extractive economies’, which was brought to light by Acemoglu and Robinson (2) in describing the national economies that base their productivity on non-renewable resources (such as oil and gas), and where there is a tendency for consolidation of the obtained income into the hands of the few rather than redistributed for national good.

Undermine: testing materials

In my research I wanted to test the notion that extractive economics is in fact another version of colonialism and that resources are territory.

cast concrete sandcastles: testing materials


Penelope Cain Undermine

George Peacock, Sydney From Garden Island, 1846, State Library NSW

[2] “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson.