Penelope or, the Endless Loom
A Behemoth Press project for The Supreme Achievement, a workshop organised at CAMPO in Rome by Maria Giudici (Black Square) and Davide Sacconi with contributions by Amid/Cero9, Aristide Antonas, Behemoth Press, Dogma, Didier Faustino, FORA+ Beth Hughes, MAPOffice, Alex Maymind, Microcities, Miniatura, Philippe Morel, Raumlabor and photos by Antonio Ottomanelli.
PenelopeTM is the leading product of Ithaca Co., to a machine to “make and do almost anything.” As one can read in the company's mission, “Penelope is a modern, user-friendly decision making and data management system for nonprofits, governments, health, military and social services agencies that is secure, fully integrated and highly configurable.”
Penelope is today 100% powered by renewable energies—aeolic, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric. It is composed by a score written on a loop tape containing an indefinite number of arrays of random-access memory cells, which can move in either directions, and Moog, a programmable roll which executes a variable set of instructions over the cells.
The core of the system is constituted by the Turk, a central processing unit which programs Moog and composes any available data on the cells of the tape: mortgage interest rates, bird migrations, basal temperatures, world university rankings, the concentration of cocaine in the sewage water.
The Turk, designed by the CEO of Ithaca during his 20s as part of his Master's thesis, was deemed in the beginning as the hoax of a clumsy circus impostor. Journalists denounced that the Turk's automatic virtuosism was in fact that of employees of the Company, which operated it as a puppet.
Yet, as time passed, the Turk showed that he was able to learn from the operations that the employees performed for him. Infused with the practice and the knowledge which he was exposed to, it started working more and more on his own, with less need of help from the humans.
Regular employees started to be fired and substituted by the large amount of volunteers applying to move to the Campus, appealed by Ithaca Co.'s Baroque aesthetics and its advantageous welfare scheme.
The Campers—so are called the inhabitants of the Campus—are not hired through regular contracts, and they do not receive a salary. On the contrary, Ithaca Co. buys their study debts and mortgages, and provides them with shelter, food, entertainment and cognitive enhancers.
In exchange, debt-free Campers are supposed to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in case the Turk needed them. Yet, their actual working time may vary considerably, according to the fluctuation of the markets, the availability of resources, the atmospheric conditions and political turmoil. In case their services are needed, they are subject to the Calling of the Human Resources department.
While they are not working, the Idle Campers occupy themselves in various activities of procrastination such as sleep, chatter, masturbation, hanging out in the 1980s arcade video game parlour, kundalini yoga and twitting. Dispensers provide free unlimited supply of cappuccino, a wide selection of microbrew beers, MDMA and Adderall.
From some well-orchestrated company leaks it has emerged that Penelope will soon discontinue the Callings from its operations. The intensive states and information efficiently mined from the active boredom of idle Campers appears sufficiently productive to feed Penelope's tape. It has been claimed that Penelope will achieve the total elimination of wage labour from their premises by 2025.