In Search of an Infinite California: Simon Denny's 'Optimism' | Insight

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article - https://ocula.com/magazine/insights/simon-denny-optimism/

Simon Denny’s augmented reality installation at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki presents possibilities for life beyond Earth.

In Search of an Infinite California: Simon Denny's 'Optimism'

Simon Denny, augmented reality experience screen-grab from Optimism (2023). Courtesy the artist.

What might the extraterrestrial future look like? Since the advent of space exploration in the 1950s and ’60s, the possibility of extraterrestrial habitation has seeped into public consciousness—a fixation spurred on, in part, by the works of U.S. artist Donald Davis, who was commissioned by NASA from the 1970s to produce paintings of the company’s spacecraft and imagined space colonies.

Donald Davis, Stanford Torus (1975). Oil on board. Commissioned by NASA Ames. Public domain.

Donald Davis, Stanford Torus (1975). Oil on board. Commissioned by NASA Ames. Public domain.

In Davis’ 1975 painting Stanford Torus, this space colony takes the form of a futuristic toroidal ecosystem complete with mid-century modernist architecture. Tropes that recur across such images—cylindrical forms and endless horizons, for instance—are a point of fascination for Berlin-based artist Simon Denny, who further prospects for interstellar futures through augmented reality in his new commission Optimism (2023) at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

‘I think they’re things that have been digested over and over again, in movie imagery and other spaces,’ Denny said of these tropes in a talk at the gallery in December, bringing up a still from Star Wars showing the Galactic Empire’s capital, Coruscant. Further references presented include The Line—Saudi Arabia’s under-construction desert city—and a New Zealand government press conference announcing the newly established portfolio of Minister for Space last year.

Exhibition view: Simon Denny, Optimism, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland (2 December 2023–27 October 2024). Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

Exhibition view: Simon Denny, Optimism, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland (2 December 2023–27 October 2024). Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

Hanging from the lofty ceilings of the gallery’s North Atrium is a pair of large-scale, 3D-printed renders of cylindrical structures. They are variations of patented diagrams by U.S. aerospace company Rocket Lab, whose operational base is some 15 kilometres from the gallery, and whose launch complex is further afield at Māhia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

Retaining their rudimentary white plastic state, these sculptural prototypes become blank slates for augmented reality space-worlds. Using iPads, which are docked in suspended whiteboards sourced in an auction from Twitter’s former offices in San Francisco (and shown in a previous iteration at Altman Siegel last year), viewers can direct the cameras towards the looming UFO-like structures to see AR vignettes materialise on-screen.

Exhibition view: Simon Denny, Optimism, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland (2 December 2023–27 October 2024). Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

Exhibition view: Simon Denny, Optimism, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland (2 December 2023–27 October 2024). Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

These idealistic vignettes, deliberately clumsy with their imperfect, cardboard cutout aesthetic, comprise mashups of multiverses derived from what Denny describes as ‘infinite California’, TrekCulture (a reference to media related to the Star Trek franchise), Blue Origin (the aerospace tech company founded by Jeff Bezos), and Elon Musk’s outline for a colony on Mars, among others.

‘This notion of living beyond Earth is not led by a national conversation but rather it’s led by companies, and companies’ visions of what it could be. That to me felt significant, when that became so prominent, and Rocket Lab is, I think, a part of that,’ Denny said.

‘The idea of living in space, and the fantasy of being able to go elsewhere, off-planet, is something that I think resonates a lot with this particular community,’ he said.

It’s contestable how well Optimism handles propositions for aerospace exploration and extraterrestrial habitation—increasingly unjustifiable as they are in the era of climate catastrophe—and whether it does more than elicit nostalgia for the latent vistas of Donald Davis. —[O]

Simon Denny: Optimism, curated by Natasha Conland, is on show at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki until 27 October 2024.

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article - https://ocula.com/magazine/insights/simon-denny-optimism/