Expo 2020 artist Daniel Canogar uses technology to dissect modern reliance on data

In the modern age of smartphones and constant internet access, we are inundated with data, information and news. We’ve become addicted to the lure of endless connections without realizing the myriad ways it impacts our lives.

This is the subject of Spanish multidisciplinary artist Daniel Canogar’s first solo exhibition in the region, following the work of the Spanish Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. The exhibition, Loose Threads, opens this week at Galloire Gallery in Dubai City Walk and runs until February 24.

It’s an unexpectedly beautiful and ethereal examination of the constant stream of data we consume through technology. Canogar, who splits his time between Madrid and Los Angeles, not only creates data-driven art, but uses data itself as a medium.

“There used to be these very specific news cycles,” Canoga told the whole country“You’d buy the paper in the morning and watch the evening news in the evening. But now it’s constant, it never stops. I’m very interested in trying to capture that uninterrupted flow.”

The show includes a 2016 entry titled ripple — A vertical rectangular screen hangs on the wall. At first glance, the surface appears like a multi-coloured, finely woven textile, until three adjacent horizontal threads cascade from the top at different speeds, leaving a striking path of colour.

Each of these moving lines represents a new video being uploaded to the CNN website. When a new video is uploaded, a large thumbnail of that clip appears and moves down the screen, leaving a ripple of color based on the hue that appears on the video.

Once the video reaches the bottom of the screen, it reappears at the top as a fold line that drips down. These uploads make up CNN’s video archive of the past hour, with the oldest clips being phased out as new clips are added.

“I’m just creating this algorithm and it’s creating this very patterned fabric,” Canogar said. “I’ve been told it looks like Missoni fabric, and I love that it has pleats and pleats of this or this fabric idea.”

Canogar first connected fabric to technology when he saw a private collection of pre-Columbian textiles. “I’m just struck by the beauty and mystery, the complexity of some [pieces],” He said.

The artist found himself drawn to how different weaving techniques could have different meanings. While textiles use symbols to represent different ideas, Canogar observed something beyond that. “The way textile artisans and women artisans refer to their medium…requires a very mature mind, a very modern mind,” he added.

“In a way, you’re thinking about the act of making textiles as part of the subject of textiles. That’s where I relate to techniques and reference techniques.”

Over the next few years, Canogar worked on the concept and fleshed out the connection he saw between technology and fabric.

He obsessively discovered the Jacquard loom, a machine that simplified the textile manufacturing process and patented it in 1804, and is considered the first computer. Create patterns on fabric using punch cards with holes cut into them and insert them into a loom.

Canogar sees these punch cards as a primitive algorithm. From there, he saw how television screens used interlacing lines taken from textiles to create images.

“I think of screens as a modern form of textile, the way we see screens, the way we use screens to represent our world,” he said. “The way we’re starting to cover buildings with screens, especially here in Dubai…it has a membrane-like appearance, very textile.”

While visually mesmerizing, Canogar’s creations transcend aesthetics. These digital textiles string together different kinds of data, which also affects the visual quality of the work.

All works in the exhibition, except one, are connected to the internet and use real-time data to create digital information structures, resulting in abstract, moving graphic shapes and colours.

a work, Chiron, depicting a series of thin ribbons of various colors intertwined as if floating in water. Each has a series of words running through it. These are actually “codes” seen at the bottom of live broadcast screens from CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, MSNBC, Fox News, etc.

Tunica (2022) by Daniel Canogar. Photo: Pawan Singh/The National

The most influential of his works are tunic. Compared to the other screens, it is a much smaller screen set in a different, darker space in the gallery. Thin horizontal lines of white and gold are intertwined with vertical silver lines. They move like dials, expanding and shrinking in size in tandem.

The vertical lines also represent the names of those who died in Madrid during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the horizontal lines represent the names of those born in Madrid during the same period.

Through each piece, Canogar takes us out to the minutiae of the news and data embedded in our lives, and through the metaphorical and symbolic use of digital textiles, makes us rethink our relationship to technology and news.

“I wanted to use journalism to create art and look at it almost differently,” he said.

“My work allows me to deal with the news and find a certain uncanny beauty, inner peace amidst the storms of the islands.”

Daniel Canogar’s exhibition Loose Threads is on view at Galloire Gallery in Dubai City Walk until February 24

Updated: January 29, 2023 at 4:04 AM

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