Simon Denny: Optimism 2023
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki has launched a sculpture commission for Te Ātea | North Atrium by Berlin-based New Zealand artist Simon Denny. The new work titled Optimism is Denny’s largest public commission since he represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2015. Opening after an extended period of research and development, Optimism continues Denny’s interest in the frontiers of technology—this time with a powerful new installation focusing on future-proofing within the space industry.
With particular reference to New Zealand’s possibly little-known role in the space race, Denny references the patents by US-based New Zealand company Rocket Lab who are just one of the space businesses in New Zealand. One astronomer has referred to the presence of the space industry in the South Island as being like Cape Canaveral.
The installation consists of two large suspended “megastructures” each measuring over five metres in diameter. The sculptural structures are large scale models of patent diagrams printed in 3D using light resistant filament. The patents for rocket engine parts were filed by American New Zealand company Rocket Lab over the last ten years. Their forms uncannily resemble familiar images of UFOs and space craft alluding to the popular fascination with space, including the technology and companies that might fuel a future in which we inhabit and travel beyond Earth.
The sculptures extend on Denny’s interest in the business of patenting and the way in which technology companies use patents to speculate on the needs of the future, sometimes years ahead of manufacture.
Optimism asks where future innovation resides—whether in the imagining of individuals, public governance, or in private enterprise and at what cost.
The sculptures are integrated with augmented reality (AR) technology that incorporates visuals of space colonies and futuristic living from the 1960s to today composed onto the objects in real time, weaving together imagery extending from Trek culture, to SpaceX, virtual societies, private space programmes, existing terrestrial successionist movements and frontier narratives.
Auckland Art Gallery Commissioning Curator, Natasha Conland says “Optimism combines historic associations between utopian thought and design, as well as questions our ethical impasse regarding how to live and care for the planet”.
Simon Denny: Optimism, 2023 is supported by Auckland Contemporary Art Trust (ACAT) and the Contemporary Benefactors of the Auckland Art Gallery.
Exhibition details: Optimism
When: Saturday December 2, 2023–Sunday October 27, 2024, 10am–5pm daily
About Simon Denny
Born in 1982, Auckland, Simon Denny lives and works in Berlin. Denny is an artist whose work explores the cultures and values behind some of the new technologies that are changing the world. In recent years, Denny has looked at the exploitation of information in data-economies, using his work to visualise systems of competing political and economic visions, interrelationships of labour, capital, developments in technologies, and impacts on the environment.
Denny graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland, in 2004, and completed his Masters in Fine Arts at Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt am Main in 2009. Denny was winner of the prestigious Baloise art Prize 2012, has twice been nominated for the Walters Prize, 2012 and 2014, and he represented New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale, with Secret Power 2015. He is a University of Auckland young alumnus award recipient, and currently Professor of Time-Based media at the HFBK Hamburg.