PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN, Q&A with David Hanes

by Jennifer Chan

PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN, Q&A with David Hanes

I met David Hanes in 2009 although I had seen him at many Toronto art openings before. Standing over 6 feet, clad in tattoos and never a bad hair day, I knew him to be a free agent artist-curator with a “Hardcore til I Die” outlook on art and life. I caught up with David in a spare moment after exhibiting his web-based photo works at Scope NYC recently and preparing for an upcoming solo show at Birch Contemporary in Toronto on April 17, 2014. His photography was also recently featured in "Pics or it didn't happen" at Pari Nadimi Gallery in Toronto, where "the art 'documented' does not exist", according to its curator Sarah Friend

Known as “Sun_and_Cave” on flickr and echolessness on tumblr, Hanes, like many internet artists, employs the performative fluidities of the internet to share his work with online and offline art audiences. Along with Jon McCurley, Hanes started as an informal online space for sharing underrepresented time-based media with friends and the larger art community. Hanes has previously worked with a handful of Toronto-based artist-run and DIY organizations from Vtape to VS VS VS, Double Double Land, and The White House Studio Projects. With a practice that spans performance, video, installation, sculpture, and photography in online and physical exhibition spaces–and a heavy involvement in curation too–it’s no surprise that Hanes’ work plays with the displacement of art objects and the way they’re documented in traditional gallery spaces.



Jennifer Chan: “pics or it didnt happen” is a common adage for witnessing a social event in the post 2.0 era; Ann Hirsch has famously said “I am watched, therefore I am” to imply that every post, and video of herself on networked media would attest to her existence online and offline –however different she behaves in those contexts. tumblr and flickr has enabled art documentation to be seen more than the “original” art objects. Does this dichotomy of viewing and experiencing work bother you? Do you make work with one mode of distribution (online or the gallery) primarily in mind?

David Hanes: The dichotomy doesn’t bother me. I make my work with both modes of distribution in mind, as I enjoy the process of taking images and ideas from the Internet, using them and distributing them online or attempting to fabricate them IRL, which then ends up becoming a new image I put online. I’m still figuring out how I want to approach another step to that recycling process. I plan on using the images of work I’ve already made and channel those to residual sculptures or new images from the old.

JC: I became aware early on that you use flickr to share your work. Why, and how do you think flickr-based practices have changed photography?

DH: Flickr was a place I uploaded images to early on…in 2006 i uploaded lots of shitty black and white photographs and bad collages. I still have some of those online and I leave them there to remind myself of my roots as a creative daydreamer, even if it is a little embarrassing. Flickr was the place where I seemed to find random users who would give me feedback online… it was also a place for me to upload images and share them with peers who wanted to know more about me.

Flickr is quite different now and I spend far less time there.

JC: Most viewers tend to think any mediated image has possibly undergone some degree digital manipulation these days. Works like Aware no. 38 (sunk plinth) quotes photo-editing software effects such as the clone and heal stamp in Photoshop. The renderings aren’t accurately representational to real life experiences of art.If I'm not wrong, "over-retouching" is a trope that seems to recur in photographs such as Aware No. 35 (pink room) and Aware No. 325 (witch room). Why do you choose to employ these tools to excess?

Hanes aware no38sunkplinth

Aware No. 38 (sunk plinth)

Hanes aware no35pinkroom

Aware No. 35 (pink room)

Hanes aware no325witchroom

Aware No.325 (witch room)

DH: My work offers a variety of approaches to transforming art documentation’s original function of representing art in physical space. Some of my images are about erasure and others are not; the commonality all the images share is the tools I use and the processes by which I use those tools. I don’t believe the final result to be the most satisfying but it is the cumulative process of transforming the image that fascinates me.

JC: "Post-internet" is a term that has become popular in the past few years to describe the internet as a necessity in everyday life. Do you think it is necessary to use social media platforms to promote and share art? Is there such thing as “postinternet photography”?

DH: Promotion goes hand-in-hand with the post-internet condition and I think those artists whose work is considered “post-net” reach far larger audiences than traditional methods of promotion. The internet is a necessity if one who wishes to reach out beyond their immediate followers but I think that, as time goes on, artists are promoting themselves less and less as art galleries take on the role of promoter.

So yes, post-net photography is real.

JC: What is your relationship to art documentation and working within the gallery system?

DH: My relationship to art documentation is one of emulation. With the gallery system, I’m a participant.

JC: What are you influenced by on a daily basis, and what are you excited about in art and online right now?

DH: I am always re-assessing that but I’ve always loved a good google search result–that sense of immediacy in online networks inspires me and influences me.

I am excited about Rachel De Joode and how she works with images as sculpture… how relaxed the work feels to me is refreshing. I’m also excited about Github and how unpretentious the community is regarding coding and web design.

JC: You also DJ. Does it relate to your art practice?

DH: I’m #dove on soundcloud. It’s also the name of my band. It relates to everything for me as I have a slightly negative outlook and music brings me strength. There’s a constant struggle between happiness and sadness that I try to work through in my practice, both as an artist and as a musician.



David Hanes’ website:

More images from Hanes’ Aware series can be found at

Follow him on Instagram: @idkdavidhanes

David Hanes b. 1987 in Toronto, is a visual artist and curator whose post-digital practice explores the space bridging lived experience and art that exists online and in mediated society. His work describes a personal relationship to a visual culture that is immersed in media hybridity and is linked to the illuminated screen. Exhibiting in both offline and online communities, David currently lives and works between Toronto, ON and Baltimore, MD.