Artist Profile: Daniel Bejar


"Get Lost! (Breuckelen)", site-specific intervention, photographic documentation, variable, 2009-ongoing

In your project Daniel Bejar/Destroyer (The Googlegänger) you re-stage pictures of yourself mimicking the the poses of Destroyer’s lead singer who shares your name and a similar likeness. Now your images appear confusingly side by side with those of the famous singer in some of the top Google Image Search results. In describing the project as a “search image intervention” can you say something more about the project’s concept? 

Well, the concept took some time to solidify after intercepting the initial fan mails, but it evolved out of ideas where I saw Google’s Image Search or even the web as a space that Daniel Bejar and I would share for the rest of our lives. There was also the idea that as an artist working in visual culture you would ideally like images of your works to appear somewhere near the top of search results, and with images of the other Daniel Bejar dominating the search results I saw this as a contested space.

This led to the idea of somehow trying to intervene in the search results, so I guess it was technically born out of an effort to alter search results, but conceptually for me the piece really questions the idea of the original and the copy, and if these questions could be applied to one’s identity, personal history, or even a biological name, inside the context of the internet. 

A lot of my work is inspired by Walter Benjamin, in particular his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduciton” and his ideas of the mechanically reproducible image, so I wanted to apply some of these ideas towards the internet, new media and identity and try to blur or weaken the aura of images and identity through the multiplicity of bootleg images.

Additionally I saw Google’s Image Search as an archive, and as long as the images are “live” living in the network of Google’s servers they would be in the archive, and I liked the idea of producing a new search result and corrupting the archive and history ever so slightly.

Get Lost! (NYC) is another piece where you’re playfully changing images to affect the perception of a place. The New York City subway maps, signage, and route change notifications that you install subversively ask people to rethink the history of the city by disrupting everyday informational objects. What inspires you to reveal histories and re-frame the everyday?

I love history and the idea of time travel so I think I’m naturally drawn to origins and histories. I once read a quote about history that stated “history is written by the winners”, this quote really got under my skin and is one thing that inspires me to question and critique histories, in the hopes of revealing alternate realities or possibilities. In “Get Lost!” I saw a similar situation, where there was a history that was buried underneath the contemporary user-friendly maps and signage of the MTA that could be restored.

I wanted to utilize the historical residue of the city to create a rupture inside of the subway system, in turn restoring a history and place that was no more due to the acts of war and colonization...