Last Wednesday, the IE Arts & Business Club, along with the IE Arts & Humanities Division, had the opportunity of visiting Daniel Canogar’s studio—and sharing the experience with an engaged audience of art lovers—via Instagram Live. With this first episode in the Club’s upcoming series of ‘quarantine-adapted’ virtual events, we have begun reflecting on the relationship between art and technology in its many forms.

Since time immemorial, art has been a medium to reflect the reality we live in. In the age of social media, global connectivity, and most recently lockdown, it is no surprise that art has strengthened its ties with the virtual world. Technology is now a key tool for creating and promoting artwork; it is an opportunity to democratize access to culture. As proven by recent times, it is also an important factor in the development of the Fine Arts industry. In addition to this, technology is the main thematic focus for some of the most interesting contemporary artists of our time: a clear example is Daniel Canogar.

The Artist and His Work

Born in Madrid (1964), Daniel Canogar is a Spanish-American artist, whose work is one of the most promising and prominent contributions to the Spanish contemporary scene. Known for his distinct style and experimentation with digital tools, Daniel’s artwork spans across diverse media and dramatic showcases. He has been exploring the implementation of technology into art since 1993, having used LED-display screens, optic fiber, big data, and even recycled parts of every-day-use electronic devices. This way, his work transcends the aesthetic component of art and consistently explores our contemporary reality—one that is largely shaped by the digitalization of the world.

“As an artist, I’m not so interested in creating pretty paintings or objects to put on top of a sofa (…). I’m more interested in using art as a tool to think of the times we live in” – Daniel Canogar via Instagram Live, 25/03/20

Daniel Canogar’s work invites the viewer to analyze the fundamental changes brought by technology to our relationships, our economies, and our planet. His observations of society’s ties to the digital world and ‘the unknown’ shine through in every piece. While viewing his studio, it is even easier to decipher the artist’s message. When asked about his perception of technology, Daniel interestingly defines his work as a representation of “technophilia and technophobia”.

In the artist’s explanation, we perceive a balance between celebration and criticism of innovation. He talks about the contradictions in his artwork: “I love technology but I’m also kind of angry at it (…) I like to think of my work as a place where I can explore my contradictory emotions towards technologies. I have a tremendous affection for this scanner and for this printer, they’re part of my past, my memory (…) in fact, memory is a very important element of my work”.

In a world that moves at a steadily fast pace, it is interesting to see how our society’s relationship to the past has changed. The digital tools we grew up with are now obsolete historical artifacts for most of us. For Daniel Canogar, however, they are both key tools and subjects of his work.

At the other end of the screen, the artist shows us his collection of forgotten electronic devices. Some are sorted in boxes, waiting to be used for future artworks; others are already exhibited, mostly as part of his “Small Data” series.

While seeing a wide array of his past and present projects, something that stood out was the artist’s ability to touch on several themes of social significance. My personal favorite artworks from Daniel’s studio were those that used big data as a tool to portray a particular vision of reality; an example of this is “Ráfagas” (2018), an installation of four screens.

Each one of them, connected to the internet and updated in real-time, shows excerpts from one of the four principal texts on international environmental protection: the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal Protocol, and the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. The words shown are moved and distorted in a way that resembles the real-time wind force of each city. In the artist’s own words, this represents “a metaphor for the political winds of the moment that are distorting these very texts, which are so fundamental to the survival and health of our planet.”

During the hour-long studio visit on Wednesday, we got to observe Daniel Canogar’s entire workspace and creative process, which led to a series of questions and comments from our audience. By using Instagram Live, we were able to offer a conversational and interactive event, allowing everyone watching to obtain a ‘personalized tour’, and allowing the artist to delve into deeper aspects of his pieces. I asked some of our team members at IE Arts & Business Club to summarize their takeaways from the event, and their responses show the many ways in which Canogar’s artwork can be interpreted.

  • Prerna Mishra, Bachelor in Communications and Digital Media: “Communication is a really important part of Daniel Canogar’s artworks, as he puts a special focus on the ability of technology to have a greater and somehow more profound reach. In a world where the masses have widespread access to information through the internet, people are becoming more opinionated—and in an opinionated world, being ‘politically correct’ with art has become a necessity. Canogar has the unique ability to be politically correct while also being bold in his impact.”
  • Charlene Daniel, Master in Management: “As soon as you enter an artist’s studio, you can just tell that it’s no ordinary space. Creating within the comfort of what becomes your home, artist Daniel Canogar’s studio gave us a luminous feel with its open and bright space. It is like a blank canvas decorated with his artwork! What caught my eye the most was a fully-functioning vintage arcade game stationed in a corner; what was even more exciting was that it was part of an installation that Daniel had just worked on. He also has his work from previous projects strewn across his studio, giving visitors a creative vision of what goes on in Daniel’s mind.”
  • Maria Kostychenko, Bachelor of Laws: “Daniel’s art breaks the conventional standards and conceptions of well-defined artistic styles and motivates the viewer to re-examine the functions of everyday technological objects. The artist introduces the audience to the freedom of creating art out of everything, disregarding the traditional norms and forms. His childlike fascination with technology and his ability to personalize different inanimate objects in his work is infectious, encouraging the viewers to find their own inner child and see the world in a new brighter light. Every one of us would benefit from this consciousness, attention to detail and desire to understand and connect to everything new and unknown. Thus, during these hard times of change and uncertainty, Daniel Canogar’s art teaches us to be flexible, attentive and appreciative of the world around us.”

After opening our archive of virtual events with such a successful, informative and inspiring session, we can confidently say that art remains relevant, now more than ever. Despite living a current reality marked by anxiety and isolation, new technologies provide the best possible opportunity to mobilize resources in favor of art and culture during these times—even if it must be admired from a distance for the time being.

Editorial note: this article was published on the LinkedIn page of the IE Arts & Business Club (link).

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