At the opening for Simon Denny’s latest show at Petzel Gallery, “Blockchain Future States,” a colleague and I stood in front of a vitrine devoted to the tangled origin story of Bitcoin. My colleague read the first few lines of text UV-printed onto it and gave up. “I feel like I’d have to read about this forever to understand it,” he told me.
It’s an apt comment, since seeing a Denny show often feels like a crash course in Silicon Valley culture, without anyone to explain the technospeak. Emulating the mise-en-scène of product launches and tech stores, his installations rely on screens, collected data, and text-ridden sculptures. Words like “blockchain,” “API,” and “cryptocurrency” are thrown at viewers, as are dioramas, games, videos, economic charts, emails, inspirational quotes, and various doodads. Denny’s exhibitions are exhausting, but they aren’t tiresome — his shows consistently feel fresh, as though the young Berlin-based artist were tearing open digital technology’s clean exterior and, each time, revealing something new about the people who control it.
Denny takes Bitcoin as his subject in a mostly smart look at