Notes on the Work of Daniel Kingery
By Balazs Bognar
Portrayal of self is by nature personal, revealing facets of ourselves, with the most enlightening ones a reflection of the world as we—not just the author—see it. If lucky, we might even be able to see ourselves in the eyes of the artist.
The work of Daniel Kingery circumnavigates this by alluding to himself, by capturing a moment representing and represented by a piece of music. That is, we never see Kingery’s face as we would have expected in a more traditional portrait. We do, however, receive hints and clues about a highly intimate interior world, given in a set of coy cues or moments. The more moments we see, the better we get to know him, by suggestion and negation, almost as though René Magritte would have uttered the phrase “ceci n’est pas Daniel.” It is him; it is not him, simultaneously—maybe you (don’t) see him.
As with a nostalgic mixtape from days of old, capturing the essence of one’s feelings and moods with a personally selected set of songs, Kingery chooses to show us who he is in series, by way of other people’s work. And yet, it’s not the actual song itself, but its artwork, and not the artwork itself but Kingery’s analog depiction of the digital reproduction of the artwork, through his eye and hand. Replication has taken place through several layers, having wandered well away from the original song to the original moment. These autobiographical moments are similar to the way in which John Cusack’s character organizes records in High Fidelity (2000), though with far more interactive suspense.
The portrait is a specific circumstance, one that carries meanings for Kingery. Our confrontation with the artwork takes on our emotions and associations with that song. Or, if we do not know the music in question, looking it up adds a step closer to understanding him: if David Bowie and M.C. Escher have been jammed together in an emotional labyrinth, then Kingery is our guide to dreaming some ways out.
It is a playful avoidance, a dance with familiarity, a personal meditation that is both vulnerably out in the open and almost guarded and secretive, with meanings only unlocked by way of interpretation, question, and individual mystery. Layered with handwritten text, digital cancellations and pop cultural allusions, all through over-scaled handmade expression, the meanings swing wildly between clarity and opacity. There is no correct answer and no one complete picture. We have to make sense of it in order to truly see the portrait—and instead of knowing him fully, we instead come face to face with ourselves. And, perhaps because of this, the meaning of “Daniel Kingery” is only made possible by us.
Notes by Balazs Bognar, Architect
Partner, Kengo Kuma & Associates, Tokyo