Arts Derbyshire


New Exhibition in QUAD, Derby, Explores Virtual Worlds

Lawrence Lek presents ‘Nepenthe (Summer Palace Ruins Edition)’, an architectural installation and video game revolving around the ruins of Beijing’s Old Summer Palace. This installation is part of his ongoing open-world game ‘Nepenthe’, which is set on a mysterious island named after the fictional medicine for sorrow from Greek mythology.

The project continues Lek’s exploration of video games as a cinematic medium, particularly the first-person perspective often employed in adventure-RPGs (role-playing games), which he uses to draw parallels between open-world game mechanics and patterns of colonial exploration.

For his exhibition at QUAD, Lawrence has created a new physical installation and game map based on the ruin of Da Shui Fa – the waterworks at Beijing’s Old Summer Palace. Widely regarded as the ‘Garden of Gardens’ and the pinnacle of classical Chinese garden palace design, the Old Summer Palace was destroyed by a combined Anglo-French expeditionary force during the Second Opium War in 1860.

Within the installation is a playable version of the game, where the ruin has been brought into a virtual museum on an island for further preservation. Built in the Unreal video game engine and featuring an electronic music score by the artist, the game is accompanied by a walkthrough short film that imagines a lone traveller stumbling across the island and encountering the ghosts of past civilisations within glowing ruins and pristine architecture.

As with his previous open-world games such as 2065 and Nøtel, Lek expands the virtual environment of Nepenthe with each new exhibition. The game was previously featured at the 2021 Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts, the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art in London, and at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea. Architecture from these past exhibition sites also feature as ‘ruined’ environments within the game itself.

Entrance to QUAD Gallery is FREE, open: Tuesday to Sunday, 12 noon – 6pm. 

QUAD Exhibitions are funded with generous support from Arts Council England. For more information please see: 

Exhibition Events:

Friday 18 November 6:30pm – 8:30pm – Autumn / Winter Exhibitions Launch including performance by Extra Gallery Space artist, Ashley Holmes

Saturday 19 November, 1pm – 3pm – Lawrence Lek Gallery Tour and Talk

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