Saturday, April 19, 2008

Inward Capture/Outward Projection

Last week I went to the Art Paper's sponsored talk of Madrid artist Daniel Canogar. It was an excellent talk and Canogar showed a large progression of work spanning more than a decade.

All of the work dealt with a merging of photography, technology, and viewer interaction through an evolution of installation methods. I hesitate to form a solid opinion on the work without experiencing an installation first hand because the viewer's reaction to moving through these projections (and being projected on/seeing others projected on - becoming "screens") seems to be Canogar's main fascination and purpose. Nevertheless, I felt these three elements of his work did not always cohesively work together.

Canogar worked for three years with a manufacturer to develop a fiber optic cable capable of projecting enough light to transmit an image onto a wall or floor (or person). The fiber optic projection sculptures are fascinating in themselves. The cables are blood red, with a multitude of cables looping in and out of one another, that Canogar called "psychosexual - penetrating dark spaces." Its an aesthetic I find incredibly appealing and would enjoy the sculptures even if they transmitted nothing but white, or colored, light.

In fact, I may enjoy them more. The disconnect for me lay between the images and the projection device. These elements seem to derive from very different intentions. While the images were chosen by Canogar to relate 1)to the place it is installed 2) to the viewer interaction/reaction to the projections, the projection sculpture itself resulted from Canogar's own fascination with cables and a desire to create a projection device as fluid and organic as fiber optic cables allow.

I also wondered if the viewer would necessarily have the intended response to the images. Using planetary images to evoke the immensity of space, images of bacteria to turn the microscopic into monumental monsters, and images of the internal body to bring the inside out for an uncomfortable queasiness. Again, I haven't experienced these first hand and so I can't say for sure, but in an age of image overload and Corbis, would these images penetrate the viewer's toughened psyche? Do the fiber optic projectors begin to resemble an alien organism transmitting data on human beings or a futuristic camera presenting symbolic language?

In Canogar's earlier works (pre-fiber optic technology) I liked the more simple aesthetic and less tech-savvy works.

This piece, his first using fiber optics (that would actually burn up within a few days), was, as my four-year-old niece likes to say when standing back to admire her latest crayon on paper family portrait of Sponge Bob shaped people (and princess and fairies and rainbows, and ponies) is "soo booti-ful." Part of my attraction lies in the simplicity that is lost in Canogar's later works, as they become more advanced, larger in scale, and attempt a greater universal commentary/connection.

Canogar also has a series of monumental photographs of trash, creating geological landscapes with inserted figures. The scale and technical mastery in these images is amazing. The viewer is surely overwhelmed when confronted by the mass of broken computers, toys, or other trash - which is Canogar's point. I found the inclusion of figures into the work a bit too literal, as the viewer will undoubtedly feel like they are drowning in waste to simply be standing in front of such a large and detailed image. I would love to see these in person. Also great, but I failed to photograph, was his installation "Clandestinos".

Luckily, you don't have to take my word for it as Canogar's talk has been extensively discussed by other Atlanta bloggers here and here.

The next day Art Papers hosted a luncheon at Solomon Projects for artists to meet and have discussion with Canogar (I actually had the opportunity to meet him the previous night, sometime around 1am at the Clairmont Lounge, but that's a different story) and the Editor of Art Papers, Sylvie Fortin.

It was a great move by Art Papers to give local artists more interaction with an international artist. Instead of focusing on Canogar's work once more, the discussion quickly turned into a very lively talk about the Atlanta art scene, the idea of community, and what is lacking. While the discussion tipped dangerously a few times towards becoming my least favorite past time; complaining complaining complaining about the dismal state of things in Atlanta and the terribly under appreciated plight of every artist living within the perimeter, the conversation would luckily be brought back to focus by Canogar and Fortin. Canogar, being incredibly modest and friendly, made many interesting comparisons between Madrid and Atlanta (population size, available support for artists, etc) and talked about the proactive steps artists in Madrid have made towards improving their community. Canogar pointed out that "artists know best what is needed to happen - there is too much silence among artists."

When discussing visibility, Canogar pointed out that there is a "freedom in the periphery." By being in Atlanta, (instead of an art mecca like NYC) artists are more free to experiment, more free to pursue original ideas.

When discussing community, Canogar said "the creation of community does not happen naturally." Fortin pointed out that what is needed is to have "brutal honesty internally but put forth a unified front." By groups of artists getting together for critiques and sharing of ideas, the work will get stronger and conceptually tighter. But most importantly, this sharing of opinions must be done with absolute respect. I thought that was an excellent point, critiques are an important part of art making that is often overlooked once out of school.
Artists Danielle Roney, perhaps to redirect all the chatter about community, pointed out "the work comes before you." I think that's a good motto to keep in mind.

It was a very inspiring two hours, with a buzz of energy in the room that was almost palpable. I left feeling a great deal of gratitude towards Art Papers, inspired by Canogar, and motivated with a new found enthusiasm - great things are brewing.


Miss Darrow said...

Thanks for posting a run-down of the discussion at Solomon Projects. I was really disappointed that I couldn't get off work for that. Sounds like it was a productive talk for Atlantans.

Jonathan said...

The focus of the talk was really unexpected - it's unusual for a group of people to get so vocal during a artist's discussion but it was apparent the issues being talked about hit a nerve with local artists, Canogar proved to be the ideal moderator (when he wasn't being drown out by a few louder lcoals)and I feel that some solid, important ideas were shared. One of the more constructive artists "talks" I ever been to.

Cinque said...

I think Sylvie rightly set it up as more of a round table than an "artist talk" exactly. Remember how she asked the artists to start off the discussion rather than Canogar?

Fifth said...

That talk sounds great - wish I could have been there.

Inter-artist critique is an interesting idea, though I have trouble getting past the difficult technical aspects of putting that sort of thing together. I'd love to see it happen, if only for the chance to see and write about the experience.

Jonathan said...

Small critiques between artists (usually friends) happen constantly in the privacy of studios - it's a vital part of the art making process. My interpretation of Fortin's comments is that this dialogue needs to be kicked up a notch, raise the bar on artists holding one another accountable for the conceptual aspects of their work and give constructive criticism, not bashfully, but with much thought and vigor. By doing this, artists will help one another create stronger work, which will in turn benefit the larger art community.