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Simon Denny exhibition puts paradox into play

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Acclaimed New Zealand artist Simon Denny’s latest exhibition explores competing political visions for New Zealand’s future, using the language and logic of board games.

Opening at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o WaiwhetÅ« on 15 December, The Founder’s Paradox features new sculptures and wall-based works developed in close conversation with author and journalist Anthony Byrt.

The exhibition also contains a special selection of works by Michael Parekowhai, whose usage of game formats to explore politics and culture was a significant influence for Denny.

Senior curator Dr Lara Strongman says: "On one side is the vision embodied in individual freedom and monopoly capitalism. And on the other side, the vision expressed through collectivism and ‘group over self’."

The techno-capitalism worldview is examined in world-building fantasy games, in which heroes must accumulate resources, complete quests and eliminate their enemies. Collectivism is put into play via games that involve physical dexterity and a degree of cooperation, such as Twister and Giant Jenga.

A version of The Game of Life, in which players face several forks in the road, bridges the two worldviews, giving players the chance to choose between the path of collective action, or press on towards individual sovereignty.

Rather than tackle these heavy issues in a self-serious way, Denny chose a more mischievous strategy, says Dr Strongman. "The humble board game, with its playful colours and cartoonish artistry, becomes a thought-provoking platform for competing real-world philosophies and commentaries on technology, politics and social relations."

The Founder’s Paradox is accompanied by a publication published by Michael Lett, designed by David Bennewith and containing a major essay by Anthony Byrt.

Simon Denny: The Founder’s Paradox is on display at Christchurch Art Gallery from Saturday 15 December 2018 to 28 April 2019. Entry is free.

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