Daniel Ogletree

The Invention of Need

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The made world reflects and directs our deepest needs. You are what you buy. In the rush to embrace the next big thing, we inadvertently become reliant on technologies that change our priorities and restructure our value systems. This happens slowly, by osmosis. Too often, we are unaware of what is happening until it’s too late.

My work critiques a misguided trust in the authority of technology. Implicit in free-market innovation is a barely discernable power structure. Who is engineering our problems? Once we have engaged with a new technology, we are already dependent on its function. Our perceived needs have been altered, and most likely monetized. In a world of superfluous technology, problems solve solutions.

The machines I bring to life justify their own existence by creating a need and then resolving it. Fundamentally flawed design goals are inconsequential, because the logic is internally consistent. The visual iconography of schematics provides a convincing account of each machine’s functionality. It works on paper, and this is good enough for a culture that measures progress in units of technical innovation.

The printmaking process and its place in the history of communication bears witness to this desire for efficiency. Information design is as prejudiced as product design. Forms and diagrams compartmentalize and flatten our understanding of the world around us and in doing so present us with false dichotomies and multiple choice solutions to problems.

Henry David Thoreau warned against becoming “the tools of our tools.” The viewer is invited to reflect on the technologies that we take for granted and to consider the implications of indiscriminately embracing new solutions to problems which might not have existed in the first place.

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Daniel Ogletree
is a part-time adjunct instructor at Lincoln Memorial University and a full-time artist currently living in Knoxville, TN. Raised in a Texas suburb by a family of engineers and programmers, he dabbled in coding at university but fell for printmaking soon thereafter. He utilizes visual imagery to investigate flawed design and broken logic. Daniel earned an MFA in printmaking from the University of Tennessee in 2014 and a BFA from Baylor University in Waco, TX. His exhibition record includes recent awards at the Kraków International Print Triennial and the Pacific States Biennial in Hawaii.