In this new commission, Berlin-based New Zealand artist Simon Denny (born 1982) continues his exploration into the frontiers of technology. Focusing this time on the space industry, Optimism, 2023 foregrounds the popular fascination with space, including the technology that might enable a future in which we inhabit and travel beyond Earth.
Each of these ‘megastructures’ are variations of patent diagrams filed by American New Zealand company Rocket Lab in the last 10 years for rocket engine parts. Denny is interested in the business of patenting because of the way companies use it to speculate on the needs of the future, sometimes years ahead of manufacture.
Coincidentally, Rocket Lab’s diagrams have an uncanny association with imagery of UFOs and space craft that have occupied public consciousness throughout the 20th century. Fabricated using large-scale 3D printers, Denny’s sculptures interpret these patent designs in three-dimensional sculptural form, offering what the artist describes as ‘an object-based portal between the digital world and the built environment’.
Each sculpture is activated by a stream of augmented reality (AR) available to view through your iPhone or the iPads on site. Narratives of fictional and intended space colonies and futuristic living from the 1960s to today are collaged onto the objects in real time.
The installation weaves together imagery extending from Trek culture, to SpaceX, virtual societies, private space programmes, existing terrestrial successionist movements and frontier narratives. Creating an unsettling galaxy for a new age within Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Optimism asks where future innovation resides – whether in the imagining of individuals, public governance, or in private enterprise.