Secret Power

Simon Denny

New Zealand Pavilion Venice Biennale
9 May - 22 November, 2015

Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
Marco Polo International Airport

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NZ at Venice 2015 project

Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa is pleased to announce that Simon Denny will be New Zealand’s artist for the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

“Simon Denny is the most high-profile New Zealand artist in the international art world today. His work is rich, intelligent, and challenging. We are confident it will be compelling in the context of the Venice Biennale.”

– Heather Galbraith, New Zealand Commissioner for the 2015 Venice Biennale

Simon Denny’s project Secret Power will address the intersection of knowledge and geography in the post-Snowden world. It will investigate new and obsolete languages for describing geo-political space, focusing on the roles played by technology and design. The project takes its title from investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s 1996 book Secret Power, which introduced details about New Zealand’s role in international intelligence work to a wider public. Robert Leonard, one of New Zealand’s most experienced contemporary art curators, will be the curator.

“The Venice Biennale represents an incomparable opportunity for New Zealand artists to show their work on the world stage. It is the world’s largest and most prestigious international contemporary art exhibition, attended by key curators, writers, and collectors, attracting enormous public interest.”

– Dr Dick Grant, Chairman, Creative New Zealand Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa

Initiated in 1895, the Venice Biennale is the largest and most prestigious world-art biennial—it has been called “the mother of all biennales”. This huge event has a three-part structure. There’s an exhibition curated by the Biennale’s director, a raft of shows organised by more than eighty invited countries and other collateral shows and events. The Biennale takes over Venice, with contemporary art infiltrating the city’s historic buildings.

In 2013, the three-day opening vernissage drew over 30,000 artists, gallerists, critics, curators, and press from all over the world. More than 475,000 visitors attended the Biennale in total and eighty-eight countries participated—including ten for the first time.

The Biennale’s national representation operates through a government-to-government invitation. New Zealand has been showing there since 2001. Its presentation is managed by Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa, whose financial commitment to Secret Power will be $700,000 over two financial years.

The Biennale is extremely influential—it’s the place for art to be seen. The next Biennale, the fifty-sixth, will run from 9 May to 22 November 2015. Titled All the World’s Futures, it will be directed by the Nigerian-born curator and critic Okwui Enwezor. He has curated many large and important exhibitions, including the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale and 2002’s Documenta 11.

More at labiennale.org

Project team

Commissioner: Heather Galbraith

Commissioner: Heather Galbraith

Heather Galbraith is Head of Whiti o Rehua School of Art, in the College of Creative Arts at Massey University, Wellington. Before that, she was a Senior Curator at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, and at City Gallery Wellington. She was the inaugural Director/Curator of St. Paul St Gallery, AUT University, Auckland. Galbraith co-curated Francis Upritchard’s exhibition for the 2009 Venice Biennale and was New Zealand’s Deputy Commissioner in 2009 and 2013.

Curator: Robert Leonard

Robert Leonard is Chief Curator at City Gallery Wellington. He previously held curatorial positions at Wellington’s National Art Gallery, New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and Auckland Art Gallery and directed Auckland’s Artspace and Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art. He co-curated Michael Stevenson’s exhibition for the 2003 Venice Biennale.

Project Manager: Jude Chambers

judechambers

Jude Chambers joined Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa in 2005. As Manager International Special Projects and Cultural Exchange, she delivers international projects and initiatives. This includes New Zealand’s participation in the Venice Biennale and NZ at Edinburgh 2014, the WW100 Co-Commissioning Fund, and Te Manu Ka Tau (the international visitors’ programme). In her previous role as Senior Programme Adviser, she managed the Visual Arts portfolio and worked on New Zealand’s 2009 and 2011 Venice Biennale projects, project managing Bill Culbert’s Front Door Out Back in 2013.

Other team members

  • Artist’s Representatives: Michael Lett and Andrew Thomas
  • Assistant Curator: Alex Davidson (This role is generously supported by Dame Jenny Gibbs)
  • Audience and Market Development Adviser: Rose Campbell
  • Book Contributor: Metahaven
  • Book Editors: Robert Leonard and Mary Barr
  • Book Essayist: Chris Kraus
  • Communications (Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa): Helen Isbister, Matt Allen, and Sarah Pomeroy
  • Content Adviser: Nicky Hager
  • Designer: David Bennewith
  • Exhibition Co-ordinator: Francesca Astesani
  • Exhibition Manager: Diego Carpentiero
  • Project Administrator: Cassandra Wilson
  • Senior Manager, Arts Policy, Capability, and International (Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa): Cath Cardiff
  • Website Developer: Christoph Knoth
  • With additional support provided by Creative New Zealand’s Business Service team.

Exhibition Attendants

Attendants will be based in Venice for six weeks at a time to assist the supervision and promotion of Secret Power. More about applying for a position as an Exhibition Attendant (closes 7 Jan)



Simon Denny

Simon Denny

Photograph: Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff

Simon Denny was born in Auckland in 1982 and is based in Berlin. His work has explored technological obsolescence, the rhetorics of Silicon Valley and tech start-ups, and technology’s role in shaping global culture and constructions of national identity. He is interested in the role of design in communication, particularly in user-interfaces. His exhibitions combine sculptures, graphics, and moving images.

Denny studied at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and at Frankfurt’s Städelschule, graduating in 2009. His work is regularly exhibited in New Zealand and is held in its major public and private collections, including the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, and Dunedin Public Art Gallery. His work is also held in major international collections, including MUMOK in Vienna, the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Denny’s solo exhibitions include All You Need Is Data: The DLD 2012 Conference Redux  (Kunstverein Munich; Petzel Gallery, New York; and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2013); and The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom (MUMOK, Vienna, 2013; and Firstsite, Colchester, 2014). These exhibitions were positively reviewed in the The New York Times, Focus, Frieze, and Süddeutsche Zeitung. In 2014, Denny presented New Management at the Portikus, Frankfurt, and showed a new version of The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom at the Adam Art Gallery, Wellington. Denny’s work has also been included in group shows at the ICA, London; Kunsthaus Bregenz; KW Center for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Fridericianum, Kassel; and Centre Pompidou, Paris. He was the only New Zealand artist invited to exhibit in the curated show at the 2013 Venice Biennale. In 2012, Simon Denny won the Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel. A solo survey exhibition at MOMA PS1, New York, is planned for early 2015.

Secret Power was unanimously selected from eighteen high-calibre proposals. Chaired by Arts Council Chairman, Dr Dick Grant, the selection panel included Heather Galbraith, Commissioner; Alastair Carruthers, patron; Anne Rush, Arts Council member; Blair French, Assistant Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; Brett Graham, artist; Caterina Riva, Director, Artspace, Auckland; Dayle Mace, patron; Helen Kedgley, Arts Council member; and Judy Millar, artist.



Venues

The New Zealand pavilion will be split across two sites: one modern, at the edge of Venice and one historical, at its heart.

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Simon Denny will be the first Biennale artist to use the terminal at Marco Polo Airport, designed by architect Gian Paolo Mar. Here, people converge from all over the world. For most visitors, it is their first point of contact with Venice. Extending through the arrivals lounge, Denny’s installation will operate between national borders, mixing the languages of commercial display, contemporary airport interior design, and historical representations of the value of knowledge.

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The other half of the pavilion will be the Marciana Library in Piazza San Marco, designed by Jacopo Sansovino during the Renaissance. Decorated with paintings by artists including Titian and Tintoretto, depicting philosophy and wisdom, the Library is an allegory for the benefits of acquiring knowledge. It also houses historical maps and globes, including Fra Mauro’s early world map, containing information obtained by travellers, merchants and navigators including Marco Polo. It is one of the first European maps to depict Japan, for example. Here, Denny’s installation will draw analogies between this spectacular but obsolete map and the way the world is mapped and managed today.

Location of the Venues



NEWS



PATRONS

Leigh Melville, Head of Patrons, and Heather Galbraith, the Commissioner, invite your support for New Zealand’s presentation at the world’s most prestigious art biennale. For donations of $5,000 and more, you can become a member of an exclusive group, the Patrons of the Venice Biennale 2015. In recognition of your support, you can enjoy a rare opportunity to be part of New Zealand’s presence in Venice.

You will be offered:

  • Two tickets for the three-day Vernissage preview (Tuesday 5 May – Friday 8 May), which is attended by VIPs, media, and arts professionals. A limited number of tickets is available to each participating country.
  • A copy of the Secret Power book.
  • Name acknowledgement in promotional materials in Venice and in New Zealand.
  • Invitations to openings and ceremonies.
  • A limited-edition Simon Denny artwork: Prism Slide iOS7 Redesign, FAZ 2014 (colour photograph, 44 x 31.5cm).

For more information, contact Leigh Melville
+64 (021) 406 678
leigh@nullartandobject.co.nz

Head of Patrons Leigh Melville

Image 4 Leigh Melville

Leigh Melville has worked in dealer galleries since the late 1990s. In 2007, she joined the founders of Art + Object in establishing their new auction house in Auckland and has recently become a director. Melville believes in the power of patronage. She is President of the St Cuthbert’s Old Girls’ Association, raising funds for scholarships for those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the NZ at Venice Patrons.

Jo and Alastair Blair
Chartwell Trust
Anne Coney
Sue and John Coutts
Mary Crooks
Paul and Christelle Dallimore
Ross and Josephine Green
Jane and Neil Haines
Carole Hutchinson
Jane Kominik
Dayle and Chris Mace
Peter Macky and Michael Best
Leigh and Donald Melville
Ian and Susan Parton
Stephanie and Sjoerd Post
Carolyn and Phillida Reid
David and Libby Richwhite
Richard and Angela Seton
Jenny and Andrew Smith
Gabrielle Tasman and Ken Lawn
Jenny Todd
Rebecca and Lyn Turner
Jan Warburton
Roger and Reydan Weiss
Anthony Wright and Selene Manning





History of NZ at Venice

New Zealand has exhibited at the Venice Biennale since 2001. Previous artists were:

  • Bill Culbert (2013)
  • Michael Parekowhai (2011)
  • Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard (2009)
  • et al. (2005)
  • Michael Stevenson (2003)
  • Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser (2001)

For all of them, it has increased their profiles nationally and internationally and led to greater opportunities.

2013 Bill Culbert Front Door Out Back

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Bill Culbert, Level, 2013, photo: Jennifer French

Since the 1960s, Bill Culbert has explored the optics, phenomenology, and semiology of light, particularly electric light. His installations in La Pietà were made from fluorescent tubes and recycled domestic objects. In Daylight Flotsam Venice, glowing fluorescent tubes and coloured plastic bottles were dispersed evenly across the floor, suggesting both purity and pollution. This work and Drop were acquired by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Bebop by Christchurch Art Gallery. / Commissioner: Jenny Harper. Deputy Commissioner: Heather Galbraith. Curator: Justin Paton.

2011 Michael Parekowhai On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

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Michael Parekowhai, Chapman’s Homer, 2011, photo: Michael Hall

Michael Parekowhai’s exhibition centered on He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand River, a red grand piano carved in traditional Maori style, which was played throughout the show. It was accompanied by two life-size bronze sculptures of bulls standing and reclining on grand pianos; Officer Taumaha, a security-guard sculpture; and Constitution Hill, two small bronzes of olive-tree saplings. The work toured to the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, Christchurch Art Gallery, and Te Papa, who acquired the carved piano. / Commissioner: Jenny Harper.

2009 Judy Millar Giraffe-Bottle-Gun and Francis Upritchard Save Yourself

Judy Millar placed massive canvases of photo-enlarged brushstrokes (on shaped and sculptural supports) in conversation with the architecture of La Maddalena, Venice’s only circular church. In the period rooms of the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana, Francis Upritchard arranged Lilliputian figurines on tables, suggesting psychedelic imaginary landscapes. Both shows were later re-presented at Te Papa. / Commissioner: Jenny Harper. Deputy Commissioner: Heather Galbraith. Judy Millar’s Curator: Leonard Emmerling. Frances Upritchard’s Curators: Heather Galbraith and Francesco Manacorda.

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Judy Millar, Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, 2009

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Francis Upritchard, Save Yourself, 2009

2007

There was no official New Zealand show, however there were two self-initiated projects. Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena’s Aniwaniwa was a Biennale collateral event. Housed in an ancient salt warehouse, the project offered submersion as a metaphor for cultural loss. The book Speculation showcased work by thirty New Zealand artists selected by eight curators. Copies were distributed during the vernissage.

2005 et al. the fundamental practice

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et al., the fundamental practice, 2005

Presented at La Pietà, et al.’s the fundamental practice explored ideological systems—religious, scientific, military, and political. Computer-generated voices articulated extremist texts from within crudely constructed APUs (autonomous purification units) resembling outhouses or sentry boxes. The project was rethought for the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, and Artspace, Auckland. Et al. went on to present altruistic studies in Art Unlimited at Art Basel in 2008. / Commissioner: Gregory Burke. Curator: Natasha Conland.

2003 Michael Stevenson This Is the Trekka

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Michael Stevenson, This is the Trekka, 2003

Michael Stevenson investigated New Zealand’s attempt to create its own car industry in the 1960s and 1970s, which involved trade with communist Czechoslovakia at the height of the Cold War. Stevenson’s exhibition at La Maddalena teased out the idiosyncrasies of this particular story and paradoxes of globalisation generally. This Is the Trekka was acquired by Te Papa and shown at City Gallery Wellington in 2005. / Commissioner: Jenny Gibbs. Curators: Boris Kremer and Robert Leonard.

2001 Peter Robinson and Jacqueline Fraser Bi-Polar

Two artists were exhibited at the Museo di Sant’ Apollonia. The sleek sculptures and digital prints of Peter Robinson’s Divine Comedy were based on concepts of existence and nothingness drawn from various sources, including Dante and Stephen Hawking. In Jacqueline Fraser’s A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched, a fabric maze housed female figures drawn in wire. The work grappled with themes of cultural dislocation. It was the first in a trilogy of Fraser installations presented that year, the others being shown at the Yokohama Triennale and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Both artists’ works were later shown at City Gallery Wellington and Fraser’s Demure Portrait was acquired by Te Papa. / Commissioner: Jenny Gibbs. Curator: Gregory Burke.

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Peter Robinson, Divine Comedy, 2001

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Jacqueline Fraser, A Demure Portrait of the Artist Strip Searched, 2001



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