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Simon Denny’s new installation at AKL Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki puts spotlight on space industry

Internationally acclaimed New Zealand artist Simon Denny continues his work on the frontiers of technology with a powerful new installation referencing the space industry.

Opening Saturday 2 December at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Optimism 2023 explores the popular fascination with space, including the technology and companies that might fuel a future in which we live beyond Earth.

Optimism centres around two large suspended ‘megastructures’ each measuring over five metres in diameter. The sculptures extend upon Denny’s interest in the business of patenting and the way in which technology companies use patents to speculate on the needs of the future, sometimes years ahead of manufacture.

The 3D-printed ‘megastructures’ are sculptural interpretations of patent diagrams for rocket engine parts, filed by American New Zealand company Rocket Lab founders in the last 10 years for rocket engine parts. Their forms coincidentally resemble familiar images of UFOs and space craft.

Optimism asks where future innovation resides – whether in the imagining of individuals, governments, or in private enterprise.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, Auckland Art Gallery Director Kirsten Lacy says, “Optimism offers an immersive art experience and opportunity to imagine a future where we live in outer space. The Berlin-based artist has been working on Optimism for over a year and it will be his largest public commission since he represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2015.”

The sculptures are integrated with augmented reality (AR) technology that can be viewed through an iPhone or iPads on site.

Artist Simon Denny’s new installation at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki puts a spotlight on space industry

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Simon Denny, Augmented reality experience screen grab from Optimism, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

Visuals of space colonies and futuristic living are composited onto the objects, weaving together imagery from sci-fi culture to SpaceX, private space programmes, and other terrestrial imagery.

Denny comments, “The scale of this project and its location in New Zealand’s leading art gallery allows me to bring together many of my interests into one multifaceted experience. These include the nature of future speculation, start-up culture, exit narratives, and fantasies about technology”.

Gallery Commissioning Curator, Natasha Conland says, “Optimism combines historic associations between utopian thought and design, as well as questions about our ethical impasse regarding how to live and care for the planet. This project shows Simon Denny’s capability with sculptural form, mass culture narratives and his ongoing research into the impact of new tech and its associated ideology for living.”

Simon Denny, Optimism, 2023 is supported by Auckland Contemporary Art Trust (ACAT) and the Contemporary Benefactors of the Auckland Art Gallery.

Exhibition details:



Saturday 2 December 2023 – Sunday 27 October 2024

10am-5pm daily


Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Cnr Kitchener and Wellesley Streets

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand



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About Simon Denny

Born in 1982, Auckland, Simon Denny lives and works in Berlin. Denny is an artist whose work explores the cultures and values behind some of the new technologies that are changing the world. In recent years, Denny has looked at the use of information in data-economies, using his work to visualise systems of competing political and economic visions, interrelationships of developments in technologies, and their impacts on the world.

Denny graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland, in 2004, and completed his Masters in Fine Arts at Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt am Main in 2009. Denny was winner of the prestigious Baloise art Prize 2012, has twice been nominated for the Walters Prize, 2012 and 2014, and he represented New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale, with Secret Power 2015. He is a University of Auckland young alumnus award recipient, and currently Professor of Time-Based media at the HFBK Hamburg.


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