OCAT Shenzhen / Shanghai
F2 Building, Enping Road, Nanshan District
artist / participant
Opening: March 18, 6:30–7:15pm
Taking Shenzhen’s accelerated production model as its point of departure, Real Mass Entrepreneurship looks at the myth of the small technology hardware business owner as global hero. The exhibition title echoes the timely call for “mass entrepreneurship and innovation” in contemporary China. All newly commissioned for the exhibit, the works on view see a continuation of Simon Denny’s information technology-charged projects. Through his in-depth investigation of Shenzhen’s ecosystem, the artist reflects on the technology industry’s role in reshaping the world’s economic horizons.
Denny visited various types of cultural organizations and tech hubs in Shenzhen, among them the Window of the World (a theme park located in Nanshan District that opened in 1994 and soon became a popular tourist attraction in Shenzhen, squeezing miniature reproductions of cultural landmarks in various countries around the world into a 49-hectare playground) and Huaqiangbei electronic market. The two sites each form a unique image of the history of China’s development: the first one, a theme park, was born out of the domestic need for tourism in the 1990s, then became the window through which Shenzhen gazed at the world and that which provided possibilities for China to measure its place in a globalizing network; the latter is a product of the principle of the special economic zone—to accelerate social development through technological innovation and lax intellectual property conditions.
The various large-scale public sculptures endlessly remodeled, replaced, and reproduced in theme parks precisely mirror the individual entrepreneurs enabled by the incubators and accelerators leading the movement of “mass entrepreneurship.” The artist has rented from a sculpture workshop which produces objects for Shenzhen’s theme parks, several large-scale models made of materials such as fiber-reinforced plastic and wood in the varied forms of various bodies/figures, mushrooms, Greek pillars, arches, and stones. Installed in the exhibition gallery, these objects look at once both strange and familiar; they seem like they could exist in a commercial space of any given city without looking inappropriate and yet, like virus infections, they quietly transform these physical spaces into “non-place”—a term coined by Marc Auge to describe a highly homogenized place for people to pass through, such as an airport. Meanwhile, the artist’s symbolic distillation of Huaqiangbei more explicitly illustrates the technology industry’s relentless reconstruction of the urban landscape. As several tech markets in Huaqiangbei swept out their old display cases and turned minimalist in style, some even equipped with compartments of laboratory aesthetic, Denny scavenges a few of the abandoned glass counters, and replicates them in the same materials and finish as the theme park sculptures he borrows.
For Simon Denny, the notion of “mass entrepreneurship” not only signifies a socio-economic activity, but also alludes to the repeated duplication and subrogation of “individuals” in the system of production. In a globalized network, individual entrepreneurs representative of innovation and advancement are seduced by fabricated myths and plunge themselves into science and finance through ways of incubation and acceleration, eventually becoming part of the masses. As if produced on the assembly line, these individuals are just like the items in those Huaqiangbei counters, perpetuating a cycle of production and consumption of a different nature.