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Cory Arcangel, Natalie Bookchin, Heath Bunting & Kayle Brandon, Alan Currall, Graham Harwood/Mongrel, Agnes Hegedûs, Pablo Helguera, Lisa Jevbratt/C5, Lev Manovich, Muntadas, Edward Poitras, Preemptive Media, Thomson & Craighead, University of Openess, Angie Waller, Cheryl L’Hirondelle Waynohtêw
February 10 to April 2, 2006

CURATORS: Sarah Cook, Steve Dietz, Anthony Kiendl

Thursday, February 9, 6:30pm
Preceded by a tour of the exhibition with curator Sarah Cook at 6pm

TALK: DOT TUER: Future Tense: Artists imagine the Archive
Thursday March 16 at 6pm

Inspired by Database Imaginary, an exhibition that explores the cultural form of the database, art historian and media theorist Dot Tuer - Professor at OCAD and author of the recently published Mining the Media Archive - discusses how the embodiment of memory and place is being altered by the mapping of the archive in cyberspace.

Dot Tuer is a writer, cultural historian and theorist whose research focuses on the intersection of technology, memory, identity, and post-colonialism in the art and history of the Americas. She is the author of the recently published collection of essays, Mining the Media Archive: Art, Technology, and Cultural Resistance (YYZ Press). She has published widely and lectured on new media and installation art and is Professor of Art History and Humanities at the Ontario College of Art and Design and Associate Graduate Faculty at York University and the University of Guelph.

“If after the death of God (Nietzche), the end of grand Narratives of Enlightenment (Lyotard) and the arrival of the Web (Tim Berners-Lee) the world appears to us as an endless and unstructured collection of images, texts, and other data records, it is only appropriate that we will be moved to model it as a database. But it is also appropriate that we would want to develop poetics, aesthetics, and ethics of this database.” – Lev Manovich (1998) Database as a Symbolic Form, online at www.manovich.net/DOCS/database.rtf

This presentation* of the exhibition Database Imaginary includes 16 works made during the last decade. It is really only with the rise of computing and widespread access to vast quantities of organized information that the term ‘database’ has come to the fore in the popular imagination. The urge to organize, however, is a longstanding trait of human civilization. In this sense, Database Imaginary is less about databases than about this cultural moment when they have become ever-present.

Databases structure our economy, our knowledge systems, our security. Yet these structures serve and are subject to multiple goals and agendas. Our practical experience of databases in westernized societies suggest access not just to information about the world, but the world’s access to information about us. We are the objects of databases: a phone number to market to, a credit risk, a questionable border-crosser.

As artist and theorist Lev Manovich suggests, for such an ubiquitous cultural form – just as was the case with the automobile, skyscrapers, even perspective – we need to imagine the possibilities of databases; to actively shape them and participate in how they are used to organize the world we live in. The artists and artworks in Database Imaginary warn, astound, and challenge us to understand database culture as a pervasive aspect of our contemporary environment and our lived experience. Databases present us with a series of choices. Artist Edward Poitras suggests such choices involve negotiating missing information, misinformation and new information. It is up to us to choose whether or not ¬and how to engage.

All the artists in Database Imaginary engage imaginatively with the organization of data through their use of aesthetic, conceptual, social and political strategies. As artists Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead say, “By placing the viewer centrally, she joins the pieces together that are often un-related...Our interest is in visualizing things about our experience of such a huge networked space like the web. It’s about bringing some sense of order to a tumbling database for a moment and then seeing it fall back to disarray.”

Sarah Cook, Steve Dietz, Anthony Kiendl

*This exhibition was first presented at the Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre and was co-organized by the Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina Public Library. Further information about the works, including those other works presented in previous versions of the exhibition can be found on the website at http://databaseimaginary.banff.org. A catalogue for the exhibition will be published later this year. Please take copies of the work object labels home with you for future reference.

The exhibition was made possible with funding from The Canada Council for the Arts, the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology, Canadian Heritage (Museums Assistance Program), the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and CRUMB/The University of Sunderland, UK.