Notes for the Second Season of Daata Editions
by Anton Haugen
In approaching a platform like Daata Editions, one searches for an apt way to describe the experience of screen-based works. In the past, too often have the gallery and its spatial metaphors been invoked to falsely characterize the experience of artwork on the internet, reducing the medium to a mere extension of the gallery structure. This glaring lack necessitates born-digital platforms like Daata Editions and, importantly, new contextual frameworks that can provide ways of understanding these works. However, it’s so easy to forget yourself on a screen. While dependence on mnemonic aids does leave private memory to falter, users are known to experience difficulty in locating the mental faculty to fully separate from the digital networks within which they exist; these networks, in turn, are all too often a systemization and amplification of offline social strata. Where in the past there seemed an unmediated flow of time, there is now an interconnected superfluity of images, capable of simultaneously enveloping and further segmenting any possible interval of a day. Art, once delineated to studios for production and to controlled environments for preservation and reception, finds itself liberated, only to be subject to the comingled flows of content and time. Although there once was the hope that the global village would provide the conditions to transform each person into an artist who would see contemporaneity as a task or an environment to be discussed, to be analyzed, and to be coped with, increasingly, we find this work performed and prepackaged for us: the auxiliaries meant to allow us the tools to cope with the present algorithmically derive their means through the data from ourselves as well as the data from human and nonhuman others, placing us further under the gaze of power and perhaps further from the means to clarify the future. Coping becomes a hyper-individuated task: a task that approaches the apex of a drive towards what can be described as a bureaucratic and alienating specialization.
In its presentation of content by decentralized and reversible analogies, hypertext and its non-linear organization can be seen as indicative of this societal abandonment of culminating narratives. Content and this self-referential nature of its context have altered the ways in which artistic production occurs and is received. Cameras are omnipresent; their images are perpetually in post-production and often possess more apparent value in their metadata than in their content. Scroll bars and load times have supplanted past narrative structures, and with its schizophrenic switching between texts, images, and videos, the internet, at its utmost, has made the mind more malleable to erasure and new traces — the screen is a place for forgetting. Like the impossibility of imagining the platonic ideal of a photograph, the screen finds its definition in its capabilities as a displaying mechanism. The screen and its contents may gather attentions but remains a terminal locus.
Through itself and its architecture, the web uniformly characterizes digital content with the attributes of a performance: each act of downloading or streaming reawakens and performs the apparatuses, both technical and textual, that had laid behind the content’s initial production. With this performativity, screens lend themselves to the blending of manifest ephemerality with invisible permanence, despite these qualities’ diametric opposition. Though one often finds within digital content an appeal to difference within the quotidian, materially, what often occurs is a willingness to deny space in favor of digital content. Spaces, whether within an arts institution or not, begin to slowly transform in order to best invoke that private, half-dreaming denial found in the darkness of a cinema.
Digital memory’s infinite capacity for retention and invocation often leaves one with the feeling of cold feet, considering the oceanic dimensions of the concatenations, both material and immaterial, within this Borges-like archive of digital traces. As content has drastically changed, this context has accordingly resulted in a different impetus towards art curation and viewership. The role of the curator seems less a declaration of a definition of historicity or of belonging to a certain encompassing narrative than an assertion that nears breakage of this type of digital memory’s associative capacities: becoming less a gate and more of a node or transitory centering within the pareidolic fissures that this digital mentality creates. As it is now where the majority of monetary and bureaucratic transactions take place, the internet perhaps no longer possesses its former glean of subversion or utopic transformative visions, but, in the way that documentation generally precedes the presence of the object, the immateriality of the file could be said to possess more of “the real” than the material art object due to digital dissemination’s access and sometimes chaotic democratization.
In a gesture that can be seen as reactive to the general reticence to fully embrace this state of affairs, Daata Editions sees the fertile ground within this immaterial context. Daata is a simple solution, among an infinite number of possible solutions, to a difficult problem: how to promote the production of works that are made to exist for and accordance to the web. Placing artists at the center of its platform, Daata Editions shows how digital dissemination can be a sustainable distribution model for art. In a manner that echoes photographic editions or an artist book, the commissioning platform issues numbered editions of each new work for purchase, demonstrating an understanding of how artistic production can exist empowered rather than destabilized by its digital mass reproducibility and accessibility.
Daata’s curation promotes a certain type of work that considers how medium and content function within the web’s immediate and immaterial context. Typified by their employment of the vernaculars of the web, the works do not seek recourse in the label of art but are instead mindful of how one would produce works targeted to the multi-faceted audiences of the web where there is often the collapse in the distinction between producer and consumer. In a way, artistic work has already become part of the ceaseless flow of content found on any newsfeed. Through Daata, this form of work becomes viable. By allowing users to purchase art in the same way one can buy content from distributors like iTunes, Daata forgoes the model of a gallery in favor of a platform reminiscent of a digital auction to reflect the nuanced mentality of art viewership on the internet: one doesn’t stroll but scrolls.
Now in its second season, Daata Editions furthers its reach, commissioning new works by forty-two artists and expanding its collection to include a poetry tranche. In its navigation of market viability and discursive substance, Daata Editions continues to set new paths for the intersection of art and the web, promoting work that weaves this interstice into the flow of digital content.
Anton Haugen is a writer from Silicon Valley. His texts have frequently appeared in Rhizome and Arachne.
Michael Manning is represented by Gavlak Gallery