Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection

Simon Denny. Modded Server-Rack Display with Some Interpretations of David Darchicourt Designs for NSA Defense Intelligence. 2015 678

UV prints on Revostage platforms, powder-coated 19" server racks, Cisco Systems WS-C2948G switches, LAN cables, Bachmann power strips, HP Proliant 380DL G5 servers, steel trays, plexiglass and aluminum model, Maisto Humvee 1:18 model car, vinyl and plexiglass letters on plexiglass, prints on cardboard puzzle and laminated cardboard box, Picard steel tool box, screwdrivers, hammer, painting brush, wrench, socket wrench, bits, saw, UV prints on plexiglass, Tamiya 1:48 U.S. Modern 4x4 Utility Vehicle w/Grenade Launcher model cars and figures, CNC/routed MDF, VisiJet PXL Color Bond 3D print, UV print on Aludibond, Fisso stainless steel spacers, anodized aluminum panel, embossed gilded brass medallion, laser-cut plexiglass letters, powder-coated steel and aluminium components, UV print on sandblasted laminated safety glass, and LED strips, 100 3/16 × 118 1/8 × 39 3/8" (254.5 × 300 × 100 cm). Acquired through the generosity of the Committee on Painting and Sculpture and The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art. © Simon Denny.

Simon Denny: My name is Simon Denny, and we're speaking about an artwork I made called Modded Server-Rack Display with Some Interpretations of David Darchicourt Designs for NSA Defense Intelligence.

These server racks would usually have stacks of computers that hold lots and lots of data, but I've put both computers and graphic rerenderings of David Darchicourt’s work. During the period 2001 to 2012, he was Creative Director of Defense Intelligence. And this work was specifically the work that he'd done for the NSA. So there's a giant, image of a blue-eyed knight which is on a counterintelligence poster that he'd designed for some kind of training about how to keep data safe.  There's also, a number of diagrams in this vitrine, that I reinterpreted, that Darchicourt did, showing how signals get received in the field, from the NSA, from the intelligence officers.

And all of this was spurred by the Edward Snowden releases of a lot of different slides of the NSA. And of course, these were often internal things that were supposed to be secret. One of the most important revelations that came out in the Snowden slides was that the commercial-tech world was very, very close to government, and they were giving them a lot of data.

I thought one way to try and understand what was happening in the Snowden slides was to try and get more aesthetic information from the visuals that were used. The piece was an attempt to present Darchicourt as the official artist of the NSA, as a sort of a master of intelligence imagery, to try and understand the culture of such an organization.

When I first came across these slides, I didn't know how to place the aesthetics. It looked very amateurish, it looked not like you would imagine a very official U.S. high-level security intelligence agency would style themselves. What I learned from Darchicourt and his work was that a snappy visual summary of a very complicated group of technical things could be so important. And that's exactly what we see in meme culture today. You have a very complicated world, but the person who's able to capture that in a simple image is actually a powerful person.

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