Petzel and Altman Siegel Gallery are pleased to present Simon Denny’s Virtual Property in this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach Meridians sector. Denny’s new installation stages a dialogue between the various realizations of virtual property that technology platforms have attempted to advance, questioning how claims to ownership are made in the digital and physical worlds.
The wall works included in the installation are part of Denny’s new series, Metaverse Landscapes, and are linked to NFTs, exploring questions of property in the metaverse. Each gridded landscape painting depicts a Decentraland parcel: a unit of “real-estate” from a metaverse project that experiments with digital property traded on the blockchain. A corresponding Title Deed NFT is issued alongside each painting. The Title Deed points to the owner of the metaverse property token, the owner of the physical painting, and the holder of the NFT. The paintings take visual cues directly from the pictorial conventions by which Decentraland parcels are represented on NFT platforms like OpenSea—conventions that also resonate with art-historical antecedents in both modernism and landscape painting. These movements, each with their own relationships to naturalizing ownership claims, are, in Metaverse Landscapes, brought into dialogue with the new possibilities of property—or downsides of imposing digital scarcity—created by emerging technological developments like metaverses and NFTs.
Sculpture: Powder coated aluminum, steel, fibreglass, resin, paint, iOS Augmented Reality interface
Paintings: UV print and oil on canvas, wood, MDF, plexiglas, ETH paper wallet, dynamic ERC-721 NFT
In the center of the installation, Denny further explores questions of ownership and intellectual property in the digital realm through his sculptural work, Amazon delivery drone patent drawing as virtual Rio Tinto mineral globe (US 10,246,186 Bl: UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE WITH INFLATABLE MEMBRANE, 2019). The sculpture is a realization of a patent drawing filed by Amazon in 2019 for a drone that would replace delivery workers. Denny has taken the hot air balloon featured in Amazon’s original design and employed AR to transform it into a photorealistic terrestrial globe inspired by advertising material distributed by the multinational mining company Rio Tinto—one of Amazon’s most prominent data services clients. This rocky earth is revealed when the sculpture is activated with a smart device, facilitating a series of brief performative group experiences. Each viewer’s device produces a low “humming” sound, and as more viewers engage the experience, a growing sense of the devices “harmonizing” with each other emerges. This intervention casts a connection between the value of “mined” data and the extraction of natural resources. Between patents and metaverse real-estate, the installation investigates notions of virtual property both predating and bolstered by blockchain, along with the consequences these ownership claims bear on the physical world and its finite earthly resources.
Simon Denny (b. 1982 Auckland) lives and works in Berlin. He makes exhibitions and projects that unpack the stories technologists tell us about the world using a variety of media including installation, sculpture, print, painting, video and NFTs. He studied at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland and at the Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main. He is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Heidelberger Kunstverein, Heidelberg. Other recent solo exhibitions include Gus Fisher Gallery at the University of Auckland, New Zealand (2021); Petzel Gallery (2021 and 2011); K21– Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2020); the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), Tasmania (2019); MOCA, Cleveland (2018); OCAT, Shenzhen (2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017); WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2016); Serpentine Galleries, London (2015); MoMA PS1, New York (2015); Portikus, Frankfurt (2014) MUMOK, Vienna (2013); Kunstverein Munich (2013). Denny has also curated significant exhibitions about blockchain and art such as Proof of Stake at Kunstverein in Hamburg (2021) and Proof of Work at Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin (2018). He represented New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. His works are held in many private and institutional collections globally, including Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, (Düsseldorf), MoMA (New York), Walker Art Centre (Minneapolis), Kunsthaus Zürich (Zürich), Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Berlin) and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Wellington). He co-founded the artist mentoring program BPA//Berlin Program for Artists and serves as a Professor of Time-Based Media at the HFBK (University of Fine Arts) Hamburg.