Simon Denny

An anonymous man—or group—managed to hijack the airwaves of two different Chicago television stations and broadcast a makeshift version of the pre-CGITV personality and New Coke spokesperson Max Headroom (himself an image of a dystopian media-infiltrated future). Man poses as man posing as computer clone posing as product salesperson. Denny considers the prank an early hack, and memorialized the event with three shows at the end of 2010, at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Art Basel Miami Beach, and the Halle für Künst Lüneburg. Installed differently in each iteration, “Negative Headroom” includes newsreel footage of the hack and images of the original, cartoonish character made-up for TV appearances.

At 29, Denny is the expert artist-as-archivist of corporate jargon, technophilic mania, and the rhetoric of self-help. Take his recent show at Michael Lett in Auckland, New Zealand. Called “Corporate Video Decisions” after a trade magazine published during the financially turbulent periods of the late ’80s and ’90s, the gallery was made over into a board room with canvases dressed up like computers, their frozen “screens” showing images of the magazine’s cover in low and high resolution.” Of this ominous capitalist environment, Denny says, “A recession is exactly when you want to advertise confidence in your project.”

Part two of the exhibition, at New York’s Friedrich Petzel this past November, involved a video invented by Denny that suggests corporate interfaces designed so that upper-level management can make paperless decisions. Why turn all these tedious business strategies into art works? “It’s easier to see a structure in a medium other than itself,” he explains. The fact that Denny was born in New Zealand but lives in Berlin, after studying at Frankfurt’s influential Städelschule, gives his entire output a floating, rootless, global quality—which is a fine description of today’s economy itself.

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