Every Day Data Diaries: Cory Arcangel’s hypomnemata

As Minus Plato continues on its daily posting schedule, I will be comparing how artists take up the task of creating work as or about daily activities and ancient philosophy as a way of life. As Pierre Hadot has discussed throughout his work,  ancient philosophers wrote ‘spiritual exercises’ which acted as hypomnemata (memory aids) – journals where thoughts, ideas and experiences could be recorded for later reflection. Perhaps the best known of these is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, which was an ongoing commentary on his daily Stoic practices and which he would keep always at hand, and whose production and rereading was recommended as a means for to keep alive at all times the key Stoic principlesWhile the emperor’s handbook has become an important ethical guide through the ages, it was written independent of whether anyone else should read it.

Hymomnemata as personal works of daily life, memory, reflection could be a generic title to attach to Cory Arcangel’s 2003 work Data Diaries. The work was commissioned by turbulence.org and here is their description on a series of archive videos that you can find here;

DATA DIARIES is 11 hours of video footage which was generated by tricking Quicktime into thinking the RAM of a home computer is video. This was done once for each day in January 2003. Watch as Cory’s emails, letters, webpages, DSL data, songs, and anything else he worked on that day float by as a totally-psyched attention deficit disorder 15 frames per second video experience.

While this description claims that it was Arcangel’s memories we’re watching in psychedelic abstraction before us, as Alex Galloway writes in the introduction to the archived (and sadly non-functioning) Data Diaries site, it is the computer’s, and not Arcangel’s, memory that we are watching:

Lots of artists talk about memory. But for artists working with computers, memory has a very specific technical definition. If ever computers had a subconscious, this is it. Cory describes it as “watching your computer suffocate and yell at the same time.” They look like digital dreams–the pure shapes and tones of real computer memory. Each video documents a new day, and each day the computer offers us a new set of memories.

In two classes this coming semester, as well as in the exhibition Come Along With Me, I want to keep thinking about memory in terms of this tension between ethical lessons, lives and community, for both ancient philosophers as well as contemporary artists. For now, here is a little film I made from the non-functioning site of Arcangel’s Data Diaries.

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