Nepenthe Valley

2023

ongoing NFT series, video, duration variable

Nepenthe Valley

INTRODUCTION

Located on a tropical island, Nepenthe Zone (2022) is an architecturally andpsychologically reflective environment. The player’s mental space is mirroredthrough the glossy walls of the buildings, which are based upon the project’sprevious installations at the Ljubljana Biennale and at Goldsmiths CCA inLondon. Presented here as an open-world game, Nepenthe Zone gives the playerautonomy to escape any prescribed temporal framework. This fluid and reflectiveisland setting is also simulated in the virtual world of 2065 (2018) andGeomancer (2017) by Lawrence Lek (b. 1982 in Frankfurt am Main; lives and worksin London), in which speculative fiction is employed as an invention in therealm of posthuman intelligence that questions the conditions of the present.Through the worldbuilding of possible futures, Lek’s artistic explorations spanfeature films, video games, site-specific simulations, Web3 projects, virtualreality experiences, and music.

In Nepenthe Zone,Lek captures the ephemeral quality of our memory in the near future, sincememory is conditioned by an economy that treats human attention as a resourceand scarce commodity. Manifesting against the backdrop of wellness cultures andhealing lifestyle, Lek scored the cyclical rhythms of the soundtrack and builtthe virtual world while inspired by the “doorway effect,” the psychologicalterm for when somebody forgets the reason for entering a room upon passingthrough a doorway. This effect crops up when our attention shifts between thedifferent levels of goals, plans, and actions while the physical and mentalenvironments change, which in turn reflects the unreliability of our memories.Memories as forms of knowledge are now objectified in everyday objects andapparatuses. The transformation and destruction of memory in contemporaryconsumerism is a reality for all of us who rely on artificial memory aids.Artificial memory is a pharmakon, a remedy that is also a poison, sincedependence on artificial memory makes the training of one’s own memory lessimperative. Nepenthe Zone takes its name from a fictional medicine for sorrow,a drug of forgetfulness from Greek mythology. Nepenthe Zone is not a memorypalace, but a place that asks the player: “You came here to forget. Don’t youremember?” Wandering through this virtual sonic zone of blue—the hue ofmythology, sorrow, and eternity—the player’s memory is suspended, and he or shecan forget all the troubles in the world.

 

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