The Flow of Data, the Flow of Myths

Daniel Canogar, “Billow,” Installation at Bitforms, April 22 – June 3, 2020

Daniel Canogar’s “Billow,” is currently on exhibit at Bitforms in New York City. The installation captures the flow of data that drives the narrative of contemporary life:Bitforms’ exhibition press release

The data-sphere is a driving force of society and the economy, despite its invisible nature. This lack of visibility can make it difficult to comprehend how information affects daily life. “Billow” attempts to expose the hidden threads of data networks.

Artists have long been tasked with manifesting the intangible. Myths, for example, carry cultural information from generation to generation.

I was reminded of this when I visited Torcello’s Church of Santa Maria Assunta a few months ago. Various aspects of the church are a thousand years old. Its mosaics are the oldest in Venice, Italy.

The depiction of Jesus’ Crucifixion, The Harrowing of Hell, and The Last Judgment on the west wall are particularly striking. Sunlight shines in through the top windows to illuminate Jesus watching over the world’s end.

Church of Santa Maria Assunta Church of Santa Maria Assunta’s west wall via Mike’s Travel Blog

These stories are familiar to millions of Christians and non-Christians. Poets, preachers, and artists have propagated them from generation to generation. In the case of the Torcello cathedral, the stories were literally assembled bit by bit - one stone at a time.Details of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta’s west wall from The Mosaics of Torcello via Ricardo Blanco’s Blog

Today, a single .jpeg image is fractured into dozens of packets and sent across the network at the speed of light. It’s re-assembled on your screen at the blink of an eye. It seems like magic, but it’s governed by physical law. Those laws end when the image touches our eyes. The image may be meaningless and ignored, or it may be a religious experience. The person viewing makes that decision.

Canogar doesn’t actively pass judgment. He allows Google to assert meaning and manifests it for our consumption:Bitforms’ exhibition press release

Canogar’s exhibition consists of six sculptural LED screens that depict abstract animations developed with data from real-time Google Trends. Colors within the animation are determined by how “hot” or popular a specific topic becomes; the more viral the search is online, the warmer the tones become. Popular queries from each day appear momentarily as overlaid text before dissolving into a smoky abstraction.

“Billow,” is not a myth. It is metadata about the myths we consume and how we consume them today.In a world of corona virus lockdowns, Bitforms’ exhibition eMail announcement asks questions about installation work and art openings: Director Steven Sacks and Art Technician Scott Neal used extreme caution to coordinate with Daniel Canogar and his studio, exchanging virtual advice from New York to Madrid, to make this exhibition possible. Now, we find ourselves faced with a new set of questions: how can we effectively share a physical installation in the middle of self-isolation?