This week PHOTOFAIRS spoke with David Gryn, founder and director of Daata Editions. A platform dedicated to commissioning artist video, sound, poetry and web. It is a unique platform that offers a new and innovative way to collect art and is designed specifically to be a native platform to a new generation of artists who work with moving image and sound.
Daata Editions was founded partly because you saw an urgent need for artists working with the immaterial to have a platform to showcase their works. After four years, is the art world finally catching up by giving artists a physical space at fairs, etc.?
In fact, when I first started working with analog and digital media around 20 years ago - I thought we were definitely on the cusp of it being the normal/everyday experience of art exhibition then. I still think we are on the cusp. The art world knows it needs to catch up, but its reluctance is to do with the value chain and as yet the market in general needs to work that out first. Once people know how to make money from something - then they make a concerted effort to doing the most to show and sell that thing. The creation of Daata Editions was to say here is one way of doing something to address the needs of artists and their artworks, and my hope is that one day soon there will be plethoras of companies like Daata, whose aim like most galleries is to empower, exhibit and support artists and their output.
"The art world knows it needs to catch up, but its reluctance is to do with the value chain and as yet the market in general needs to work that out first. Once people know how to make money from something - then they make a concerted effort to doing the most to show and sell that thing."
Have you always been drawn towards the immaterial - readings, performances and digital art?
I am drawn to the digital immaterial of music and film, that fact that I can own or experience these art forms without a physical object to hold. But I also value the physical experience too and see the importance of all media working in conjunction and with a chemistry to each other.
Of course, the notion of the copy has a strong presence when dealing with digital art and ultimately makes a work more difficult to sell. What is your take on this subject? Does an original even exists or is everything a copy of a copy?
I am a strong believer that the copy is the original work when it comes to digital art media. The artist makes a work and sends it to me, the copy of that work that I distribute and share with people all around the world is virtually the exact same thing, as that which I received. However, as an example, if I took a photograph of a painting - it is a copy of the painting and not the painting itself, which is not the same with digital media copying.
One of the fears people have of digital media - is that of copying as an act of stealing an artwork. My angle on that is that in 20 years - no one has ever copied or stolen anything I have shown and if they were to do so - there is intrinsically no value in doing it - as the work would be deemed as copied and stolen - so no one is going to announce that they own a stolen artwork. However if they do, it would be a sure sign that there is a very strong market and value around the artwork - so I would be rather excited for that to happen.
The recent announcement that Daata Editions is partnering with the auction house Phillips is an important step for artists working with the digital in giving the medium its deserved value. What was the key reason behind the partnership and what are your main goals for it?
Phillips and Daata came together to ultimately and simply commission artists. But as Phillips has a huge audience of active art collectors it is a partnership where I anticipate the voice of the auction house will speak to its constituent audience and impart the notion that artists digital media has a value and its importance to buy and collect in much the same way as traditional art media is.
With Daata Editions but also working as the curator of Film & Sound for Art Basel for 8 years you have worked with an incredible roster of artists. What is your most memorable moment?
There are many moments, but one that comes to mind most vividly is a screening of Ragnar Kjartansson’s film Bliss. It is 12 hours long and was playing through the night in Soundscape Park, screening on the 7000 sq ft wall of the New World Symphony. When the program started at 6 pm there were crowds of artworld people watching, through the night audience ebbed and flowed until near the end at around 6 am in the morning, I overheard 2 homeless men, amongst many others, who were watching in the comfy huge bean-bags, discussing the work with its repetitive playing of the last aria of the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, and one turned to the other and uttered “this was the music my mother played to me as a child”. I suddenly felt I had arrived, and that something I was involved in had an immeasurable value to someone else. It is also very rare at art events to see people actually engage with work and discuss it - and the luxury of screenings is that if they are managed right - they usually provide a platform for audiences to truly look, digest and interrogate artworks and for a considerable time - this idea always excites me.
What will your next commission be and how do you normally discover new artists and works?
There are several upcoming collaborative commissioning projects. The Phillips x Daata commission is coming up soon - so that is of paramount excitement. The current and next project is always my most exciting project. My satisfaction is always delivering the project and not on artist discovery. But awareness of artists comes through other artists, galleries, curators, seeing exhibitions, word of mouth, social media and generally getting a sense of the artists work over time and then establishing a relationship and mutual trust and the ensuing chemistries of working together.
Do you have a favorite artist and who do you think we should watch for the future?
My favourite artist is always my wife Jane Bustin, but she makes painitngs, ceramics, sculptural groups of works and therefore I do not show her work. I have other favourite artists such as Goya, Guston, Vermeer, Ryman, but in terms of artists working with digital media, I also ways love the work that has yet to be made. There is one video artwork that I truly love and it is Turbulent by Shirin Neshat, it entrances and captures me whenever I see it and its Iranian music soundtrack - fills me whenever I hear it.
"There is one video artwork that I truly love and it is Turbulent by Shirin Neshat, it entrances and captures me whenever I see it and its Iranian music soundtrack - fills me whenever I hear it."
With the increased presence of technology in our lives, how do you see the future role of artists evolve?
Artists are needed ever more urgently to maintain our balance from the commercial realms we live and operate in. They create a balance, reaction and respite from our day to day world. We all need to find ways to support artists and their art-making, we all want cultural experiences, but not usually with us considering how those experiences are made and how artists sustain themselves.
Although I work with digital technologies, I think that all mediums are equally valid and that with the rise of total emersion by us all in technology - we need to be surrounded by artists making works that explore the tactile, craft and aesthetics.
"They [artists] create a balance, reaction and respite from our day to day world. We all need to find ways to support artists and their art-making, we all want cultural experiences"
Part of your role involves traveling to many different and exciting places. What is your favorite city to return to?
I love returning home to my family, we live in a beautiful part of London, called Highgate, but wherever my family are - is my home. I was born in NY, so whenever I go there, I feel I am in a very familiar place, I feel it is filled with ‘my people’. I usually find something magical and unique wherever I travel. I am not a tourist traveller - so my travels are usually work related - so the project I am there to do, is always my main focus. I generally get excited when I go somewhere that seems to be confident and proud of itself, its own heritage and experiences and isn't trying to emulate somewhere else.