The capricious churn of internet-charged tradition is producing extra essential characters, apocrypha and relics than we will deal with. Keep in mind when the Canadian musician often called Grimes — former partner of one of the world’s most powerful men, the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk — introduced a sword to the 2021 Met Gala? The picture of a futurist pop star lugging a medieval blade (produced from a smelted AR-15, no much less) down the crimson carpet summed up the mystifying means up to date tradition appears to run in all instructions, chasing myths each new and outdated.

Simon Denny, an artist working in Berlin, creates sculptures, installations, movies and prints impressed by the aesthetics of tech corporations. In two concurrent exhibits in Manhattan he has seized on omens just like the blade to discover the sociopolitical fallout of the know-how business’s style for medieval lore. In Denny’s telling, desires of wizards and blacksmiths, darkish forests and dank castles form the latest digital realms.

“Dungeon,” Denny’s fifth present with Petzel Gallery in New York, contains a type of heaving shrine to Grimes: Puffs from an computerized steamer inflate a black “Recreation of Thrones” T-shirt as soon as owned by the star, put in in a Plexiglas case like a go well with of armor. The sculpture is plugged into an influence strip that Denny sourced from a liquidation sale at Twitter throughout its Musk-mandated transition to X.

Downtown, “Read Write Own,” Denny’s first present with Dunkunsthalle, an artist-run house within the monetary district, provides latest work from his “Metaverse Panorama” collection alongside sculptures made utilizing whiteboards auctioned off by Twitter after Musk took the reins. The work means that web tradition, and by extension our closely networked society, resembles the fantasy landscapes evoked by Dungeons & Dragons, or “The Lord of the Rings.” Tech-augmented life, in different phrases, will be understood as a large role-playing recreation, through which bodily and digital realms merge, and Musk et al. make the principles. (Denny additionally curated a present group present at Petzel that includes like-minded artists exploring fantasy genres with new media resembling 3-D printing.)

“Dungeon” contains a new collection of work of top-down views of assorted role-playing recreation maps — actually digital prints on canvas, smeared with oil pigment, for a photorealistic but decaying impact. In a rendering of a HeroQuest board, grey, blue and inexperienced bricks simmer within the blocky darkness like a geometrical abstraction. Different work deepen the thought of “dungeon”: One smeary determine eight is the board for a Hannah Montana-branded model of the tabletop recreation Mall Insanity. A beguiling iridescent sample on one other portray may very well be ranks of columns or cabinets, however the firm title Nvidia within the nook tells you it’s truly a graphics card of the type usually tailored for dealing with cryptocurrency transactions.

Denny’s skeptical view of the tech business in “Dungeon” is somewhat apparent; it deepens upon viewing the present at Dunkunsthalle, the place the “Metaverse Landscapes” depict digital actual property. One easy earth tone map highlights a “waterfront” lot. Others resemble pixelated blueprints of streets and storefronts.

The concept of metaverse “landscapes” performs on the historical past of panorama work, which in Europe traditionally served as boasts about royal possessions, and in the US as ads for westward enlargement, providing (false, romantic) footage of virgin wilderness for the taking. By together with the metaverse on this lineage, Denny underlines the awful undeniable fact that in the present day’s land grabs usually don’t contain precise land. So many individuals are unable to afford an precise home that the thought of investing in a digital plot is a bitter mockery. QR codes on the works’ sides hyperlink to blockchain entries that observe these weightless parcels’ present homeowners. The visible allure of the work is second to the heady attraction of proudly owning a portray of another person’s digital property, and that, as Denny appears to level out, this canvas picture is, basically, the extra actual of the 2.

Denny doesn’t push inventive type in new instructions a lot as examine the aesthetics of the tech business. A part of his tradeshow-like 2015 exhibition at MoMA PS1 in Queens showcased replicas of objects seized within the spectacular downfall of Kim Dotcom, also referred to as Kim Schmitz, a German Finnish web entrepreneur. Included was an enormous statue of a Predator from the sci-fi action movies. Denny’s earlier present at Petzel, in 2021, handled an Amazon patent for a comically bulbous supply drone.

Viewing these objects within the full gentle of actuality, tech’s aesthetics look somewhat crummy. However the toylike silliness of the longer term shouldn’t make us snicker, Denny suggests — it ought to unnerve us.

There’s a sword at Petzel, too: Throughout the room from the T-shirt shrine hangs a reproduction of Anduril, an Elven blade from “The Lord of the Rings,” which Denny original from resin tinted with espresso. It’s primarily based on the sword owned by Palmer Luckey, the protection contractor and inventor of the Oculus Rift digital actuality headset (he sold the company he founded to Facebook for $2 billion). Luckey as soon as modified a headset — as a joke — with explosives in order that in case your avatar dies in a recreation, you die in real life. He additionally based a protection know-how firm, Anduril Industries. (A number of of his companions in that enterprise got here from the big-data firm Palantir, additionally named for a “Lord of the Rings” treasure.)

{That a} V.R. guru would make very actual navy drones and robotic sentries, beneath the model of an imaginary weapon, doesn’t encourage confidence. Neither does the slogan, emblazoned at Petzel on a shadowy UV print depicting one in every of Anduril’s autonomous fighter jets: “Struggle Unfair.”

Is all of it a recreation to those digital pioneers? Do they know the place digital actuality ends and “meatspace” begins? Denny reminds us that the extra networked our lives grow to be, the extra tech’s guidelines bind our fantasies.


By means of March 30, Petzel Gallery, 35 East 67th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-680-9467,

Learn Write Personal

By means of March 31, Dunkunsthalle, 64 Fulton Avenue, Decrease Manhattan; 917-382-4744,

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