Art on the Underground presented a major new commission by British artist Heather Phillipson for the disused platform at Gloucester Road Underground station in June 2018. my name is lettie eggsyrub, Phillipson’s first public commission in the U.K, filled the 80m platform at the station and was on view from June 2018 – June 2019.
London-based Phillipson works in video, sculpture, online media, music, drawing, poetry and what she calls walk-in collages. Relationships between human and non-human animals are a recurring theme in her work and for this commission she focusses on the egg as an object of reproduction, subject to human interference. In her space-filling sculptural and video installation for Gloucester Road’s disused platform, Phillipson used video game-style layout techniques to magnify eggs and avian body-parts to monstrous proportions.
Phillipson stated: “’my name is lettie eggsyrub’ enlarges the egg as a nucleus of conflict. I wanted Gloucester Road station to become a parallel ‘scape’ – a subterranean disturbance, in which hyper-real, creaturely simulations and analogue counterparts dwarf passengers. Using the bold, simplified visual techniques of early computer gaming graphics, both stylistically and as an organising principle, the passing platform becomes a sequence of overlapping vulnerabilities and escape tactics, in which so-called human and avian – winner/loser – roles might reverse. We too begin as eggs. According to this logic, humans are also at the mercy of weaponised food, exposed embryos, dangling, leaking and mechanical equipment, unignorable disorder and potential revolt. Throughout, the egg recurs as a harbinger and taunt – not only as one of the most fundamental forms in reproductive systems and as representation of fertility, strength, birth and futurity, but also, crucially, (over)production, consumption, exploitation and fragility.”
Assembled across the disused platform, this work featured various large-scale sculptures including two 4-metre-high 3D eggs, a huge automated whisk, twelve 65” video screens and 16 printed panels alongside oversized suspended images. Computer game aesthetics featuring egg sandwiches, scientific diagrams of chicken foetuses, and tomato ketchup and custard tarts speeding through sci-fi graphics, suggested a present tense of menace and dominion.
Phillipson’s installation at Gloucester Road Underground station conjured many understandings of the egg – as new life and possibility, as clichéd reference, as human-animal consumption, as cultural projection, as online anonymity in reference to the former default Twitter avatar, and as indicative of a widespread detachment from foodstuffs and their origins. Phillipson used surreal and at times comic, at times uncomfortable, images to blast assumed positions. In all her work, humour appears in subversive and provocative manners to question dominant power- and thought-structures.
As an extension of this work, Phillipson created a sequence of images and slogans on the vinyl panels which ran the length of the escalator panels at Notting Hill Gate and Bethnal Green stations.