How SIMON DENNY Hacked a TED Conference to Present an Art Exhibition / TEDxVaduz Redux!

Installation view, TEDxVaduz redux, 2014. Courtesy the artist and T293, Naples & Rome

Installation view, TEDxVaduz redux, 2014. Courtesy the artist and T293, Naples & Rome

TED is the strongest brand for spreading ideas on the planet and a format-defining benchmark for tech-economy communication forms like pitches and conference talks. Founded in 1984 by architect and designer Richard Saul Wurman, it stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design.” The more-than 1,600 TED talks that have been made available free online have been viewed by more than 1 billion people. In 2009, TED began licensing third parties to stage conferences modeled after TED all over the world, called “TEDx.” There have been TEDx events in over 130 countries and 1,200 cities as far ranging as Bagdad, Nairobi, Sao Carlos, and LA’s skid row. With its dramatically increased visibility, TED has attracted huge amounts of praise and more recently some scepticism and criticism. There are conflicting views on TED—none of which really capture its cultural complexity. Some have criticized it for being too corporate and others for having a liberal bias. Some consider that TED’s method of making complicated ideas accessible goes too far by potentially oversimplifying scientific concepts to pure rhetoric and conversely it is accused of elitism for only reflecting the biases of the technorati.


Simon Denny, 2012. Photo: Derek Henderson

Artist SIMON DENNY’s exhibition TEDxVaduz redux at gallery T293’s Rome space is a collaborative show featuring artefacts from TEDxVaduz, which Denny co-organized with artist DANIEL KELLER at the Kunstmuseum in Liechtenstein in December 2013.  The event was conceived to be in direct dialogue with TED and to reconsider the cultural implications of the conference in a moment when strong voices from within the tech community like Balaji Srinivasan, Larry Page, and Tim Draper are calling for different forms of separate societies run by Silicon Valley. For this outing TED is also then nominally and geographically tied to Lietchtenstein, a country with the highest GDP in the world and one of the few with more registered companies than citizens. It has been referred to at times as a tax haven.

Below are six elements from the exhibition TEDxVaduz redux for your learning entertainment

1. With increasing concern about money laundering, Liechtenstein’s reputation as a tax haven had started to limit its future prospects. Like a luxury brand, the government went to a corporate brand consultancy to transform its image. In her contribution to TEDxVaduz, artist EMILY SEGAL discussed the rise of information-based luxury and the “sweatshop sublime.” For TEDxVadux redux, Segal produced an MA-1 bomber jacket branded “Liechtenstein Original.”

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2. Artist PETER FEND’s TEDxVaduz talk introduces four technologies based on high art to improve Liechtenstein’s energy independence.

3. In a sculptural summary of TEDxVaduz, Denny has produced a series of wall-mounted vitrines that focus on key moments in the talks. Imagery and quotes from the event encase a special series of display cakes, iced with the successful application from TED. The series is titled “TEDxVaduz atmospheres.”

4. DANIEL KELLER’s sound work pieces together the most common words used at TED talks. In the show, the piece plays out of a coconut.

5. For her TEDxVaduz talk, designer FEMKE HERREGRAVEN discussed the history and present conditions of tax havens. Taxodus is Herregraven’s serious web-based game that teaches us how to manage assets and avoid taxes.

6. Did you know that when the British Empire laid its telegraph lines throughout the world in the 19th century to better control its colonies, the same electronic system was used to map the infrastructure of global mobile capitalism in the 1970s, creating the jurisdictions of what we today consider hardcore tax havens? Many of these are islands. For the stage of TEDxVaduz, Denny and Keller produced a visualization of Vaduz as a tropical island to orient the speakers onstage.



TEDxVaduz redux opens February 27 at T293, Rome, and is on view until April 01, 2014.

TEDxVaduz was produced by Simon Denny and Daniel Keller with Christiane Meyer-Stoll, Thomas Sorapperra, and Denise Rigaud from the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein and Pamina Gerhardt and Alessa Rather from the Kulturkreis der Deutschen Wirtschaft in BDI.



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