Daniel Temkin’s thesis show took place in another dimension

On Monday February 13th around 7:30 pm, after strolling in fascination through the small, winding, bustling streets of Chinatown, I found my destination. Daniel Temkin’s MFA thesis show was taking place down one flight of stairs in an internet cafe on Bowery at the foot of the majestic Manhattan bridge. Upon entering the basement cafe there were three rooms visible. Two were occupied by [mostly] Chinese men chatting and sitting at computers. There was a faint smell of cigarettes. Behind the register were piled numerous small bags of potato chips (I wanted gum, sadly they didn’t have any back there). I felt a little bit out of place, in an exciting way. As one of my peers aptly noted: it felt like being in another time. I made a quick right and found myself surrounded by familiar faces. Suddenly I was part of the underground world. I then picked up a photocopied sheet of paper with a list of URLS and made my way to one of the 16 computers in the room displaying Daniel’s show. Other students and strangers mingled around while finding computers and beginning to explore the task at hand of viewing an MFA thesis show in a totally new way. Then ensued a surprising exploration of coded programs, feigned shopping websites, gifs of piles of discarded computer screens, and of course, some photographs.

The all encompassing show can be experienced (minus the 90 Bowery atmosphere) here: http://dfghfhg.com/dfghfhg/

Daniel Tempkin, Dither, 2011.

And a few words from Daniel reveal how we were led to the Bowery in the first place:

Winona: Tell me about the title of your show:

Daniel: dfghfhg comes from keyboard mashing, running your fingers randomly across consecutive keys. People do it as a placeholder for real text (lorem ipsum), or as a refusal to answer a question. It’s a form of communication that didn’t exist before the web. Like much of the work in my show, it builds on unintended uses and consequences of technology.

WBB: How would you describe the work:

DT: In my photographic work years ago, I created a series of postcards that reflect the generic commercialism that was slowly making NYC feel the same as many other cities. I see the same pattern in the Web, which is becoming increasingly commercial — it can be a boring place to spend time, but it holds the promise of something amazing around the corner which often never materializes. The underlying technology is strange and surprising when misused, something I explore in some pieces. Other pieces bridge online life and the city. My “Meanwhile, in NYC” piece recreates NYC as an endless series of drab backdrops populated by a dispassionate but very strange, aging generation. These scenes are quintessential New York, they couldn’t have been shot anywhere else, and for me there’s a charm both to their monotony and their eccentricities. I present it as an ever-changing collage, using a lo-fi DIY web style, that reflects the same sensibility in the web.

Daniel Temkin, Meanwhile in NYC, 2012

WBB: Why exhibit at the internet cafe in Chinatown?

DT: I wanted to get away from creating rareified art objects, and from making work that spoke too much about art itself. Pieces in the show include ordinary objects: cardboard iPads as frames for my images, a phone directory. If I had been unable to find an internet cafe to work with, I was hoping to show the work in a closed office at night, bring up the work in cubicles. I wanted to avoid the baggage that comes with the gallery.

WBB: What is Speedshow and what led you to show on it, how did you get involved,

DT: A speedshow is just a pop-up exhibition in an internet cafe. It was Aram Bartholl’s concept. He, and Lindasy Howard, who has also curated such shows in NYC, gave valuable advice on getting the show together. Also, Saskia Aldinger helped by promoting the show on the speedshow.net website.

WBB: Tell me about your philosophy regarding modern computer interaction and its
effect on our culture:

DT: It used to be only programmers who had to negotiate with the computer, taking on its compulsive logic in order to communicate with it. We all do this now, as we manage more of our lives on online — sorting our friends into distinct groups that have no meaning off the computer, for example. The web has been great for human communication, but it comes with a price. My programming languages speak to the messier aspects of human communication, those that are harder to represent in a logical system: bodily gesture and nuance.

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