7 Questions for Artist Daniel Canogar, Whose New Work Teases Out the Connections Between Textiles and Technology

Multidisciplinary artist Daniel Canogar’s (b.1964) work centers on—and is often made of material from—the technology we interact with every day. The artist’s solo show, “Daniel Canogar: Loose Threads,” opened this week at Galloire, Dubai, and is on view through February 24, 2023. Using the history of textiles and fabric as a starting point, Canogar has created a body of work that highlights the parallels between these mediums and digital technology. Screens have become a near omnipresent facet of contemporary life, and Canogar employs them as a core medium in his work, not simply as a mount or framework for digital projects. In his most recent works, some screens have even come off the wall and into three-dimensional space, entering viewers’ physical space in a way not commonly associated with digital or projected works. Overall, Canogar’s oeuvre proposes a new way of understanding art and technology.

We reached out to Canogar to learn more about how his practice developed and his new show at Galloire.

Daniel Canogar, Abacus (2022).  Courtesy of Galloire, Dubai.

Daniel Canogar, Abacus (2022). Courtesy of Galloire, Dubai.

Early in your career, photography was your primary medium, and today you largely engage with digital art and other forms of image-making. Can you tell us about the evolution of your practice—was this shift more pragmatic or intuitive?

In the beginning, my interest in photography had more to do with the experience of being alone in the darkroom, with the red light and the enlarger projecting an image onto the photosensitive paper, with the sound of water from the chemicals, and with the radio always playing quietly in the background. The ritual and absolute enjoyment of the experience is something that, in a way, is still part of my practice today. That early fascination with creating and seeing images appear magically on photographic paper is reflected in my recent work, which is also about light, very often in dark environments—a dialogue between light and space. When I talk about my origins with photography, I see light as a recurring theme, even in my current work with digital art.

What does your artistic process look like, where do you start? What is the most important tool in your studio?

My artistic process usually starts with reading, taking notes, researching, and remaining open to what inspires my imagination. This often comes from very simple things, such as a passage in a novel, a scene in a film, or an essay on a historical painter. Eventually, some of these ideas evolve in my journal. I also find that certain artworks inspire me to explore their evolution and development, which then leads me to start new projects. It’s almost like a feedback loop, where I’m already thinking about the next project while completing the current one.

The most important tool in my studio is my team. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I do. We are a very interesting and diverse group of individuals including engineers, programmers, art historians, lawyers, artists, and media specialists. Together, we brainstorm new ideas and projects.

Your solo show “Loose Threads” premieres in Dubai at Galloire this week. Can you talk a bit about the exhibition, and the inspiration or the themes behind it?

I have always been interested in textiles, but when I realized that there was a connection between textiles and digital technologies, I immediately knew there was potential for an exhibition on this theme. I discovered that the first Jacquard loom, created in the early 19th century, is considered by many historians as the first computer because it used punch cards to link patterns into the loom. This historical connection has brought us to the present day, where screens have replaced fabrics as spaces of representation, allowing us to weave both personal and collective concerns. The relationship between digital technology and the history of fabrics was the starting point that inspired me to create the exhibition.

Daniel Canogar, Plexuz (2017).  Courtesy of Galloire, Dubai.

Daniel Canogar, Plexus (2017). Courtesy of Galloire, Dubai.

Plexus is the only work not connected live to the internet. How does this piece fit within the conversations around AI today?

Plexus questions the hand of the artist in the creation of the artwork. For example, traditional painters have a very direct, physical impact on the canvas; they leave an imprint on it. However, what happens when an artist uses digital technologies to create art, works with a team such as myself, or uses real-time data that constantly changes and is ephemeral? Who is the author of the artwork? Is it the computer, the algorithm, the data that is activating the artwork—or is it me? These were the questions that I had in mind when developing Plexus. The artwork is created with videos of my hand multiplied infinitely in an industrial choreography that resembles a billowing fabric. The piece ultimately questions the role of AI for creative individuals, in a world where apps like DALL-E or ChatGPT are creating remarkable images and texts. What role do artists have in a post-human world? I’m challenged, and simultaneously fascinated by, the implications of these technological developments.

What do you think the role of art is in society right now?

Art is a tool that allows us to process and psychically digest our reality. Artists have always had a need to respond to their times, but I personally use my art to process the vast amount of information that is constantly been thrown at me and try to make sense of it. I want to dive into this constant flow of data that we process daily and create hypnotic generative animations as a result. I’m trying to discover the inner calmness of the eye of the storm, finding a sense of meaning and purpose in the tumultuous times we are living through.

Where do you find inspiration most?

Traditionally, I have been an avid follower of contemporary art and the issues of the moment. Living in New York for 10 years, during a period when the city was the capital of the art world, greatly influenced my work. Many artists have been my spiritual teachers and have guided me in finding my own voice as an artist. However, art history has recently become a much more interesting source of inspiration. There is something about the distance of time, of discovering creative individuals who were working under very different circumstances yet addressing very similar themes and dilemmas to the ones I am facing now. Recognizing and discovering that connection through the distance of history is incredibly inspiring and powerful. It also grounds me as an artist, as it reminds me that despite all the crazy significant changes in our culture, as individuals we may have not changed that much.

Daniel Canogar, Billow III (2022).  Courtesy of Galloire, Dubai.

Daniel Canogar, Billy III (2022). Courtesy of Galloire, Dubai.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on several commissions for both public and private spaces. I continue to explore the creative potential of screens as sculptural elements. I have always wondered why screens have to be flat and rectangular, and why not explore them in their three-dimensional potential, opening up an interesting dialogue with the space and architecture that contains them. I am also eager to work more directly with AI and not avoid this new challenge but to embrace it and perhaps humanize it. I want to understand what I can do with this new technology that has taken the world of content production by storm in the last few months. I find machine learning, which allows artworks to have their own behavior, to be a fascinating progression in recent years. To think of these artworks as a form of performance art rather than something that belongs to the tradition of the moving image, and to set the stage for them to enact their own behavior, is a fascinating challenge that I will continue to explore in the close future.

“Daniel Canogar: Loose Threads” is on view through February 24, 2023.

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