In the modern age of smart phones and constant internet access, we are inundated with data, information and news. We have become addicted to the lure of endless connection, unaware of the myriad ways it influences our lives.
This is the theme of Spanish multidisciplinary artist Daniel Canogar's first solo exhibition in the region — following from his work at Spain's national pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Called Loose Threads, the show at Galloire gallery in Dubai's City Walk opened this week and runs until February 24.
It is an unexpectedly beautiful and ethereal examination of the constant flow of data that we consume through technology. Canogar, who splits his time between living in Madrid and Los Angeles, not only creates data-driven artworks, but uses data as a medium itself.
“There used to be these really specific news cycles,” Canogar tells The National. “You'd buy the newspaper in the morning, then at night you'd catch the evening news. But now it's incessant, it never stops. I'm very interested in trying to capture that incessant flow.”
The show includes a 2016 work called Ripple — a rectangular screen hung in portrait format on the wall. At first glance, the surface looks like a multicoloured, finely woven textile, until three adjacent horizontal lines cascade from the top at varying speeds, leaving behind a striking coloured path.
Each of these moving lines represent a new video being uploaded on to CNN’s website. When a new video is uploaded, a large thumbnail of that clip appears and makes its way down the screen, leaving behind a ripple of colour based on the hues that appear on the video.
Once the video reaches the bottom of the screen, it reappears at the top as a collapsed line trickling down again. These uploads make up the archive of videos from CNN from the past hour, and as new clips come in, the oldest ones are kicked out.
“I’m just creating this algorithm that’s creating this very patterned fabric,” says Canogar. “Somebody told me it looks like a Missoni fabric and I do like that idea that it has pleats and the folds of this fabric.”
Canogar first made the connection between fabric and technology when he saw a private collection of pre-Columbian textiles. “I was just so affected by the beauty and mystery, the complexity of some of these [pieces],” he says.
The artist found himself drawn to how different weaving techniques had different meanings. And while the textiles used symbols to represent different ideas, Canogar observed something beyond that. “The way textile craftsmen and craftswomen were referencing their own medium … that takes a very sophisticated mind, a very modern mind,” he says.
“In a way, you're thinking about the act of making a textile as part of the subject matter of the textile. And that's where I connected to my working with technology and referencing technology.”
For the next few years, Canogar researched the concept and fleshed out the connections he saw between technology and fabric.
He was fascinated to discover that the Jacquard loom, a machine that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles that was patented in 1804, is considered the first computer. Patterns are created on the fabric using punch cards carved with holes, which are inserted into the loom.
Canogar saw these punch cards as a kind of primitive algorithm. He saw how television screens use interlaced lines, as if taken from textiles, to create images.
“I think of screens as a modern forms of textiles, the way we think about screens, the way we use screens to represent our world,” he says. “The way we're beginning to cover buildings, particularly here in Dubai, with screens … it has a membrane skin-like aspect, which is very textile.”
While visually mesmerising, Canogar’s work goes beyond aesthetics. These digital textiles thread different kinds of data together, which also inform the visual quality of the works.
All the pieces in the exhibition, bar one, are connected to the internet and use live data to create digital fabrics of information, resulting in abstract, moving graphic shapes and colours.
One work, Chyron, depicts a collection of entangled, thin ribbons of various colours floating as if in water. Each has a series of words running across it. These are actually the “tickers” seen at the bottom of screens from real-time broadcasts on CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC, MSNBC, Fox News and more.
The most powerful of his works is Tunica. In comparison to the others, it is a much smaller screen, set in a different, darker space in the gallery. Thin, horizontal white and golden threads are woven through with silver vertical ones. They move like a dial, synchronously expanding and shrinking in size.
The vertical lines also represent the names of people who died in Madrid during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the horizontal ones reflect those born in the city during the same period.
Through each work, Canogar takes us out of the minutiae of news and data, which are embedded into our lives and, through the metaphoric and symbolic use of digital textiles, makes us rethink our relationship with technology and news.
“I want to use the news to create art and to see it almost from a different perspective,” he says.
“My works allow me to process the news and to find some kind of mysterious beauty, the inner calmness, within the island storm.”
Daniel Canogar’s exhibition Loose Threads runs until February 24 at Galloire gallery in City Walk, Dubai