MC Escher: Treasure hunt

Published 12 October 2015

As an exhibition of over 100 works by MC Escher opens at Dulwich Picture Gallery, we show you the impact the graphic artist has had on popular modern culture.

1. Labyrinth (1986)

Fifteen-year old Sarah (Jennifer Connolly) selfishly wishes for her baby brother, Toby, to be taken away. Her wish comes true when the Goblin King (David Bowie) abducts the boy. Feeling guilty, she sets forth to rescue Toby and finds herself on an adventure of a lifetime. To save her little brother, Sarah sneaks into the Goblin King's castle and, in a room based on MC Escher’s Relativity, confronts the kidnapper.

2. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)

The third of the Night at the Museum films, Secret of the Tomb, is based around the tablet of Ahkmenrah which affects the behaviour of the museum exhibits. As part of solving the tablet’s mystery, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) travels to the British Museum in London where the exhibits also come to life. Lancelot (Dan Stevens) tries to steal the tablet from Larry and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) mistaking it for the Holy Grail. During their fight, the three of them fall into a room based on MC Escher’s Relativity.

3. Inception (2010)

Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are recruited to perform ‘inception’: planting an idea in a person’s subconscious. To achieve this, Dominick employs a team and offers the architecture student Ariadne (Ellen Page) the task of designing the dream landscapes. Although reluctant, Ariadne agrees to help and Arthur introduces her to some paradoxical architectural creations. One of these is the Penrose Steps which feature in MC Escher’s Ascending and Descending.

4. Audio A6, Illusions commercial (2006)

The commercial starts with an Audi driving through an ordinary, almost mundane, cityscape. Very soon, however, the streets and buildings are transformed into impossible spaces and continuous paths. The 40-second spot is full of optical puzzles based on MC Escher’s famously astonishing art.

5. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Otherside (2000)

In the music video, the protagonist enters a room that resembles MC Escher’s Relativity. The song refers to one of the band members, Hillel Slovak, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988. However, the song has a broader message about the intense inner-battle to end addiction. The constant struggle with the affliction is emphasised at the beginning and end of the music video – the position the man wakes up and ends up in is the same. It shows addiction as a cycle that seems inescapable.

The Amazing World of MC Escher is at the Dulwich Picture Gallery from 14 October to 17 January, 50% off with National Art Pass.

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