Simon Denny’s new body of work for Portikus ranks among the most ambitious the artist has developed to date. Over the period of one year, the artist researched and developed an intricate project that has grown to considerable dimensions – both physically and in terms of its critical content. For two months, the monumental gallery space is turned into an homage to technology, communication, and the relentless need for innovation. Simon Denny has produced an embracing and multi-faceted installation that functions as a documentary of the South Korean technology giant Samsung and its global success story. The exhibition’s title, ‘New Management’ refers to the legendary management philosophy that Lee Kun-hee, Chairman of the Samsung Group, infamously introduced in the early nineties. “The New Management” principle was first proclaimed in 1993 at a high-level executive meeting at the Kempinski Hotel Frankfurt Gravenbruch near Frankfurt am Main International Airport. Lee flew in his entire top management from around the world for a three-day conference, emphasising the need to globalise and preparing his employees for a new philosophy of change he was going to introduce in order to turn Samsung into a global market leader in all its sectors. This seminal meeting became known within the company as the “Frankfurt Declaration.”
While the market success of Samsung that Simon Denny retells is well-known, recontextualising it in this way highlights its currency and raises questions about globalisation, economic dominance, nationalistic aspiration, and expansion. “Change everything but your spouse and kids” and “Change begins with me”, slogans coined by Lee Kun-hee that can be found on Denny’s sculptural elements, have become directly associated with the idea of success in South Korean corporate culture.
In the introduction to the publication, Simon Denny writes: “In Portikus one sees a fantastic conglomeration of material that tries to monumentalise [Samsung’s] powerful cultural message; arranging imagined and remade objects around excerpts from Lee Kun-hee’s texts and Samsung’s history. I’ve tried to stay close to the context it describes: the global material language of corporate pride and presentation.” In commissioning two different English translations of New Management, a publication in Korean about the philosophy and history of Chairman Lee’s legacy, Denny investigates existing hierarchies. On the one hand, the material carries with it extremely specific cultural and economic meaning and value, and on the other, it forms a part of global culture and public information. The same goes for Samsung’s comic version of New Management and the inclusion of Sam Grobart’s article on Samsung that originally ran in Bloomberg Businessweek. Denny levels the role of the artist with those of the professional from a tech company, a journalist, an independent contractor hired through freelancer.com, and finally the viewer of the work.