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Finding art in NSA Powerpoints

Molly Wood Sep 29, 2015
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Not everyone is inspired artistically by Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked classified NSA documents. But then again not everyone is Simon Denny, the New Zealand-born, Berlin-based artist, who took the PowerPoint slides leaked by Snowden and turned them into art for his installation show “Secret Power.”

(Courtesy Jens Ziehe)

“The kind of knee jerk reaction from the design community when those slides came out, was to me a little disappointing, because it was kind of like ‘Oh these are really ugly and we are not happy with that,’” says Denny. “To me they contain so much more information.”

Around the same time, Denny came across the work of David Darchicourt, the former NSA creative director of defense intelligence, who had posted material online through Behance. Denny commissioned Darchicourt to make a map of New Zealand, his home country. At the time, Darchicourt had no idea why the work was commissioned or how it was going to be used. Denny also reproduced other material Snowden leaked such as cartoons, illustrations and logos. 

(Courtesy Jens Ziehe)

“Part of what I wanted to do was compare Darchicourt’s creative work for the U.S. government to Venice and Titian, and some of these other artists that worked at a different time making images that related to intelligence that related to knowing things and presenting knowledge to the world.

Although Denny has an artistic background, he is inspired by tech industry and those working in tech. His first major solo show in the U.S., called “The Innovators Dilemma” lived at MoMA PS1 in New York. 

“I’m a fan of these companies and the way that they work and I think the people in charge of tech, the people involved in tech are shaping the way we can communicate. They are shaping and changing all these industries worldwide.”

(Courtesy Jens Ziehe)

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