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Off the Board Sport, Onto the Digital Canvas


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The capricious churn of internet-charged tradition is producing extra primary characters, apocrypha and relics than we will deal with. Keep in mind when the Canadian musician referred to as Grimes — former companion of one of many world’s strongest males, the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk — introduced a sword to the 2021 Met Gala? The picture of a futurist pop star lugging a medieval blade (produced from a smelted AR-15, no much less) down the pink carpet summed up the mystifying approach up to date tradition appears to run in all instructions, chasing myths each new and outdated.

Simon Denny, an artist working in Berlin, creates sculptures, installations, movies and prints impressed by the aesthetics of tech corporations. In two concurrent reveals in Manhattan he has seized on omens just like the blade to discover the sociopolitical fallout of the expertise business’s style for medieval lore. In Denny’s telling, desires of wizards and blacksmiths, darkish forests and dank castles form the most recent digital realms.

“Dungeon,” Denny’s fifth present with Petzel Gallery in New York, encompasses a form of heaving shrine to Grimes: Puffs from an computerized steamer inflate a black “Sport of Thrones” T-shirt as soon as owned by the star, put in in a Plexiglas case like a go well with of armor. The sculpture is plugged into an influence strip that Denny sourced from a liquidation sale at Twitter throughout its Musk-mandated transition to X.

Downtown, “Learn Write Personal,” Denny’s first present with Dunkunsthalle, an artist-run house within the monetary district, gives latest work from his “Metaverse Panorama” sequence alongside sculptures made utilizing whiteboards auctioned off by Twitter after Musk took the reins. The work means that web tradition, and by extension our closely networked society, resembles the fantasy landscapes evoked by Dungeons & Dragons, or “The Lord of the Rings.” Tech-augmented life, in different phrases, could be understood as a large role-playing recreation, during which bodily and digital realms merge, and Musk et al. make the principles. (Denny additionally curated a present group present at Petzel that includes like-minded artists exploring fantasy genres with new media similar to 3-D printing.)

“Dungeon” encompasses a new sequence of work of top-down views of varied role-playing recreation maps — actually digital prints on canvas, smeared with oil pigment, for a photorealistic but decaying impact. In a rendering of a HeroQuest board, grey, blue and inexperienced bricks simmer within the blocky darkness like a geometrical abstraction. Different work deepen the concept of “dungeon”: One smeary determine eight is the board for a Hannah Montana-branded model of the tabletop recreation Mall Insanity. A beguiling iridescent sample on one other portray may very well be ranks of columns or cabinets, however the firm identify Nvidia within the nook tells you it’s truly a graphics card of the type typically tailored for dealing with cryptocurrency transactions.

Denny’s skeptical view of the tech business in “Dungeon” is somewhat apparent; it deepens upon viewing the present at Dunkunsthalle, the place the “Metaverse Landscapes” depict digital actual property. One clean earth tone map highlights a “waterfront” lot. Others resemble pixelated blueprints of streets and storefronts.

The thought of metaverse “landscapes” performs on the historical past of panorama work, which in Europe traditionally served as boasts about royal possessions, and in the US as commercials for westward growth, providing (false, romantic) footage of virgin wilderness for the taking. By together with the metaverse on this lineage, Denny underlines the awful indisputable fact that at the moment’s land grabs typically don’t contain precise land. So many individuals are unable to afford an precise home that the concept of investing in a digital plot is a bitter mockery. QR codes on the works’ sides hyperlink to blockchain entries that monitor these weightless parcels’ present homeowners. The visible attraction of the work is second to the heady attraction of proudly owning a portray of another person’s digital property, and that, as Denny appears to level out, this canvas picture is, essentially, the extra actual of the 2.

Denny doesn’t push creative type in new instructions a lot as examine the aesthetics of the tech business. A part of his tradeshow-like 2015 exhibition at MoMA PS1 in Queens showcased replicas of objects seized within the spectacular downfall of Kim Dotcom, also called Kim Schmitz, a German Finnish web entrepreneur. Included was an enormous statue of a Predator from the sci-fi motion films. Denny’s earlier present at Petzel, in 2021, handled an Amazon patent for a comically bulbous supply drone.

Viewing these objects within the full mild of actuality, tech’s aesthetics look somewhat crummy. However the toylike silliness of the long run shouldn’t make us snigger, Denny suggests — it ought to unnerve us.

There’s a sword at Petzel, too: Throughout the room from the T-shirt shrine hangs a reproduction of Anduril, an Elven blade from “The Lord of the Rings,” which Denny normal from resin tinted with espresso. It’s based mostly on the sword owned by Palmer Luckey, the protection contractor and inventor of the Oculus Rift digital actuality headset (he offered the corporate he based to Fb for $2 billion). Luckey as soon as modified a headset — as a joke — with explosives in order that in case your avatar dies in a recreation, you die in actual life.He additionally based a protection expertise firm, Anduril Industries.(A number of of his companions in that enterprise got here from the big-data firm Palantir, additionally named for a “Lord of the Rings” treasure.)

{That a} V.R. guru would make very actual navy drones and robotic sentries, underneath the model of an imaginary weapon, doesn’t encourage confidence. Neither does the slogan, emblazoned at Petzel on a shadowy UV print depicting considered one of Anduril’s autonomous fighter jets: “Battle Unfair.”

Is all of it a recreation to those digital pioneers? Do they know the place digital actuality ends and “meatspace” begins? Denny reminds us that the extra networked our lives turn out to be, the extra tech’s guidelines bind our fantasies.


By March 30, Petzel Gallery, 35 East 67th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-680-9467, petzel.com.

Learn Write Personal

By March 31, Dunkunsthalle, 64 Fulton Avenue, Decrease Manhattan; 917-382-4744, dunkunsthalle.com.

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