Towering above an open parking lot in the Ropewalks district of Liverpool there’s a series of multicolored metal stalks topped off by even brighter circular orbs. This unique installation is the work of Cuban-born sculpture Jorge Pardo, created as his entry into the city’s 2006 Biennial, the U.K.’s largest art festival, which takes place every two years in galleries, museums, and open spaces across the cityscape.
Pardo wanted to create something that reflected the city’s rich manufacturing heritage, and specifically the rope-making trade. Interestingly enough, he settled on the Greek myth of Homer’s “Odyssey.” In this epic tale, the lead character, Ulysses, is married to Penelope, from whom the art installation gets its title. As Ulysses is off on his ambitious adventures, Penelope is left at home, having to fend for herself from a horde of pestering suitors. A faithful wife, she informs the pack of wooers that she will choose one of them when she has completed her weaving. Unbeknownst to them, she unravels her work at night, thus protecting her fidelity.
Pardo’s art installation is a visual allegory representing this tale, with the structure symbolizing Penelope’s loom and bobbin. Located in the heart of the Ropewalks, it pays tribute to the rich history of rope-making in port city, which was at the center of the ship sailing industry up until the 19th century.