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Canary in the coal mine: Simon Denny on his new show about mining data and minerals

Exhibition by New Zealand-born, Berlin-based artist opens at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart

A working drawing of a sculpture and the King Island brown thornbill by Simon Denny © Simon Denny, Mikael Brain.

An exhibition about both the mining of minerals as well as data will open at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) this weekend, a museum which itself is carved into the sandstone of the Berriedale Peninsula.

The exhibition by the New Zealand-born, Berlin-based artist Simon Denny aims to interrogate the business models of both resource extraction and data collection, and their impact on human labour through sculptures, augmented reality and a giant board game. “It’s a theme park to extraction as an exhibition,” Denny tells The Art Newspaper from his studio in the Berlin suburb of Wedding.

Simon Denny in his Berlin studio © Photo: Tim Stone

In conceiving the exhibition, which is titled Mine, Denny was partly inspired by the Tasmanian museum’s subterranean setting and the data the museum collects via The O, a digital visitor guide that tracks engagement across the gallery spaces. “The museum and the medium all came together to present a very particular opportunity,” Denny says. “The O is a huge part of my exhibition.”

Mine is the most technologically ambitious show to date for the 37-year-old Denny, who represented New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 and has had major shows at MoMA PS1 in New York, the Serpentine Gallery in London and Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand.

“All of the objects in the show and all of the experiences are enhanced by the augmented reality”. One of those experiences is a King Island brown thornbill—a Tasmanian bird species facing imminent extinction—that will “live” on The O throughout the exhibition. “[It is] kind of like a canary in the mine of the Anthropocene,” Denny says. The irony of today’s mining for resources that power digital devices is not lost on Denny.

Simon Denny's Extractor 2019 © Simon Denny

“What I’m trying to do in this show is find an experience and imagery that talk to this new paradigm of [resource] extraction.”

The exhibition is curated by Jarrod Rawlins and Emma Pike.

Simon Denny: Mine, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, 8 June-13 April 2020