Winner of the Baloise Art Prize 2012.
Simon Denny’s multifaceted artistic practice reflects the reception of images, or, to put it more precisely, the production, distribution, and consumption of visual media in an age of growing technological obsolescence. He is specifically interested in the evolution of an increasingly mediatized society. His over-arching topic is information. How is it constructed, how does it circulate, and how is it generated in the first place?
As Nam June Paik did in the past, Simon Denny uses the television monitor as a sculptural element. In 2009 Denny’s “Deep Sea Vaudeo” already reflected ongoing technological developments and the ensuing aesthetic transformation of television monitors from bulky cuboids with cathode-ray tubes to flat rectangles with LED screens. The hardware progressively slimmed down, which in turn led to the outer frame being reduced and the screen itself enlarged.
This is the backdrop to the two works by Simon Denny in the Baloise collection. In these, he overlays sculpture with digital prints. Samsung Smart TVs are placed inside Plexiglas and aluminum display cases. In each case a ghostly, translucent photograph—an elderly lady in one and a young couple in the other—obscures the screen, the remote control, and the 3D glasses that create digital illusions. The promise: state-of-the-art technology, easy to use for young and old alike. Denny borrowed both the visual language and the slogans (used as titles) from a Samsung advertising campaign—“Ich brauche keinen Computer. Ich habe Facebook auf dem Fernseher” (I don’t need a computer. I’ve got Facebook on my TV) and “Vernetzt im Hier und Jetzt” (Connected in the Here and Now). Both of these slogans are closely interconnected with the history of our broadcasting companies. They not only allude to the impact that technological change has on our daily lives as individuals, but also to the fact that the society we live in is increasingly dependent on various media. Let us not forget: in 1989 no one had any idea what surprises the Internet would have in store for us, and before 2004 no one had even heard of a future social-media giant called Facebook.
Both of these works by Denny were made at a time when digital TV technology was gaining the upper hand in Europe. Older forms of analog broadcasting were falling into disuse and people were compelled to make massive changes in the hardware they owned if they wanted to keep on watching their favorite series. In these works Simon Denny highlights a phenomenon of our time, as we shift from analog to digital, as television and the internet become ever more closely intertwined, as viewing figures for national public-service broadcasters decline, and streaming services like Netflix are in the ascendant.
Denny demonstrates how much our daily experience as consumers affects our wider aesthetic criteria, and how dramatically the media are taking ownership of “the medium.”