Pyramid Schemes

2018, Colour video, with sound, 17 min., 10 sec

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Purchased with funds contributed by the Young Collectors Council 2018

“architecture is prosthetic memory—a way for society to write without words”

Pyramid Schemes


Pyramid Schemes is a powerful treatise on architecture in eleven chapters. Narrated by a computer-simulated voice, the video opens with the premise that “architecture is prosthetic memory—a way for society to write without words” and takes Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) as its historical point of departure. Over the remaining fifteen minutes Lek offers a sweeping journey through the evolution of architecture—spaces that reflect and inscribe power structures—by interfusing scenes from the video game Assassin’s Creed with other simulated environments. As print becomes hypertext and gothic cathedrals give way to skyscrapers, the narrator implores: “To progress we must create a space that can shelter the collective, not just reflect it. Architecture must not simply express novelty, it must absorb difference. Difference in culture, difference in technology, difference in language, difference in dreams.”

The aesthetic and structure of a role-playing game assert the agency of the video’s wandering protagonist, and press issues surrounding migration, access, and the privilege of being able to go different places. In the words of the artist, “the simplest form of freedom is the freedom of mobility.”

—Kyung An, Associate Curator, Asian Art


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Written and Edited by Lawrence Lek

Installation image courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York