Secret Power, Simon Denny, New Zealand Pavilion at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana 

New Zealand - Biennale Arte 2015

9 May - 22 November 2015 The New Zealand pavilion is split across two state buildings: the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Marciana Library), in Piazzetta San Marco, in the heart of the city, and the terminal at Marco Polo Airport, on the outskirts.

Secret Power 
In recent years, Simon Denny’s research-based art projects have explored aspects of technological evolution and obsolescence, corporate and neoliberal culture, national identity, tech-industry culture, and the internet.His Biennale Arte 2015 project, Secret Power, was partly prompted by the impact of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks of PowerPoint slides outlining top-secret US telecommunications surveillance programmes to the world media, which began in 2013. These slides highlighted New Zealand’s role in US intelligence work, as a member of the US-led Five Eyes alliance. Now in the open, the slides have come to represent international surveillance work and its impact on individual privacy.The New Zealand pavilion is split across two state buildings: the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Marciana Library), in Piazzetta San Marco, in the heart of the city, and the terminal at Marco Polo Airport, on the outskirts.  
In the Marciana Library, Simon Denny has installed a server room, with server racks and a workstation. In addition to holding computer equipment, the server racks and workstation double as vitrines, displaying a case study in NSA visual culture, consisting of sculptural and graphic elements based on the work of a former NSA designer and Creative Director of Defense Intelligence David Darchicourt and the Snowden slide archive, suggesting links in iconography and treatment. The server room resonates with the Library’s decorated Renaissance-period interior, with its maps and allegorical paintings—Denny’s inquiry into the current iconography of geopolitical power being framed within an obsolete one. This half of the pavilion is in the Monumental Rooms at 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. 

Secret Power in the Monumental Rooms at the Marciana Library.

David Darchicourt is an illustrator, graphic designer, prepress designer, and marketing consultant based in Maryland, in the United States. He worked for the NSA as a graphic designer from 1996 to 2001 and as Creative Director of Defense Intelligence from 2001 to 2012.

GCHQ slides, ‘The Art of Deception’, published by The Intercept, 24 February 2014. An internal training presentation for online covert operations aimed at intelligence gathering by human contact and social network analysis.

wizardwonderland.com: An online club for the mystic arts featuring Merlin’s Mystical Magic Tour, Merlin’s Message, Ask Merlin, and the Creating Camelot Club. The image of Merlin used to illustrate the NSA’s MYSTIC program is from this site, with a flip phone added to the head of Merlin’s staff.

MYSTIC: NSA codename for a voice interception surveillance system. It can record and store a country’s entire telecommunications and review them for up to 30 days afterwards. The countries targeted are under dispute, but Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Iraq, and Mexico have been named.

TREASUREMAP: NSA codename for the NSA/GCHQ capability to ‘map the entire internet—any device, anywhere, all the time’. With TREASUREMAP, Five Eyes intelligence agencies have a bird’s eye, 300,000-foot wide view of global data traffic in real time.

T_800 Endoskeleton: In the Terminator films, the Series 800 Terminator is a cybernetic organism combining living tissue with a metal endoskeleton. Its skull contains a neural net processor making it a learning computer and an efficient killer of the human race. A similar skull is used in the TREASUREMAP logo. The main antagonist in the series, and master of the T_800, is Skynet. This synthetic intelligence is often cited in debate about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the end of the human era.

Detailed images of the works 
Simon Denny - New Zealand’s artist for the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015
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.  
Credits: Story

Project Leader: Creative New Zealand, Arts Council New Zealand Toi Aotearoa
Key Partner: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Supporting Partners: City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi and Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa
The initiative is also generously supported by the NZ at Venice Patrons, Galerie Buchholz, Michael Lett, Petzel Gallery, T293, Arounder.com/Vrway communication, Save S.p.A Group (Marco Polo Airport), and from Liv Barrett, Lonti Ebers, Danny and Lisa Goldberg, Friedrich Petzel, Jackson Tang, and other private donors.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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