Daniel Canogar’s Painterly Computing

2020-21 Sherman Fairchild Fellow Ariana Kaye on Daniel Canogar’s Digital Intersections project, Amalgama Phillips.

Daniel Canogar uses digital technology as his artistic medium. According to Canogar, the evolution of technology has left an enormous amount of waste in its wake. He sees himself as an archeologist and as such he goes to recycling centers, junkyards, and even dumpster dives in order to collect old pieces of technology like VHS tapes and Gameboys. Canogar brings them back to life mostly through digital projections. We don’t usually think of objects like VHS tapes as objects that are alive, but they carry personal and collective memories. These pieces of technology are their own vanitas, symbols of the ephemerality of time.

Daniel Canogar’s Amalgama Phillips. Photo: Studio Daniel Canogar

Amalgama Phillips is the second Digital Intersections project curated by Vesela Sretenovic. It was created in celebration of the Phillips’s centennial year. It debuted as a livestream on YouTube, and is now also being projected in The Phillips Collection’s Goh Annex stairwell and also at Phillips@THEARC.

The work, as the title Amalgama suggests, is an amalgamation of 550 artworks from the museum’s permanent collection. The artwork is displayed in a “liquid” state. We experience the work in a viscous state, yet we are reminded of the traditional form of paint on canvas. Despite the digital nature of Canogar’s artwork, he is still very much invested in the painterly qualities of art and cites his major inspirations as Mark Rothko and figures from the Abstract Expressionist movement such as Jackson Pollock. The digital projection of art in a liquid state lights a torch to the future and new forms of art assisted by the endless innovations of technology. Technology will enable artists to create in ways that we do not yet perceive.

Daniel Canogar’s Amalgama Phillips. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

The work does not have an obvious beginning nor end. Instead, it constantly adapts itself according to an algorithm that randomizes the paintings that we see. Canogar is greatly inspired by the work of Zygmunt Bauman and his book Liquid Modernity (1999). The book discusses the liquid state of modernity in which our sense of time and geographical boundaries are liquidated because of our ability to communicate with people across the globe. We are able to shop by going to a large mall or shop online where everything is available in one place and have things delivered to us very quickly—in a liquid fashion.

Today, many people look at art exclusively online and do not visit art museums. This was true before the pandemic but the trend has risen due to the pandemic. When thinking about the future of the nature of human interaction with art, I wonder how online viewership influences artists when they are making art? How does looking at art online change our perception of art and our experience with it? Now, art may become a visual artifact that we can look at online which flows and circulates. Amalgama Phillips represents the development of a new artistic aesthetic, the integration of a human painterly experience and machine life created by algorithms on a computer.

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