In 2013, former United States government contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents regarding global surveillance programs run by the government in cooperation with telecommunication companies. The leak included PowerPoint slides, indicating that the NSA, like many entities, uses imagery to internally communicate its ideas, goals, and methods. Artist Simon Denny makes use of the slides in his art, arguing that they “have become retroactively some of the most important artistic images created today.”
In this work, Denny also incorporates the presentation tactics of government and corporate trade shows. Raised up on a platform, the structure’s main frame is built from computer server racks. Inside, Denny has arranged a series of printed signs and three-dimensional dioramas, bringing together graphics, charts, and language borrowed from the NSA’s internal marketing. All of the imagery has been appropriated from the website of the graphic designer David Darchicourt, who worked as creative director for the NSA from 1996 to 2012. Denny hopes that by bringing these communication tools into an “art context, where we are used to looking at images and unpacking them,” we might better understand why and how such visual methods were employed by the NSA in its treatment of classified information and gain insight into the culture produced by this powerful government organization
Gallery label from Unfinished Conversations, March 19-July 30, 2017.