Tara Donovan Layers 200,000 CDs into Twisting Totems of Physical Data

  • May 10.

Installation view of ‘Tara Donovan: Stratagems.’ All images courtesy of Pace Gallery, shared with permission

Despite claims that CDs are raring back into the zeitgeist, only a small number of people today consume media through the slim, shiny discs. In an exhibition at Pace, artist Tara Donovan presents an ode to the outmoded, if not beloved objects through 11 towering works.

The artist is known for her large-scale sculptures and installations of common, mass-produced objects like pencils, styrofoam cups, and Slinkys that consider accumulation and aggregation. For Stratagems, she bought about 500,000 CDs from eBay, sorted them by color, and glued two together so just the reflective areas were visible. She then layered the doubled components into undulating patterns and twisting helices reaching up to ten feet tall.

Because of their mirrored surfaces, the monumental sculptures catch and reflect light depending on the time of day and confront the viewer with the stunning weight of information. Donovan described the material in a recent interview:

The silver CDs are commercial discs with music, movies, audiobooks, porn, Jesus, Celine Dion. Everything. The green are CDRs, so they’re recordable. They contain whatever people valued enough to put on them, whether it’s a Grateful Dead concert or a mix. The CD is the last quantifiable object of data that exists in the world. We moved from filing cabinets to clouds. These are relics of a very recent past. I remember when the CD became a thing, it was marketed as the future. They made “forever discs” which were gold. When you think about the amount of information that is in this room is staggering.

Stratagems is on view through August 16 in New York, and you can find more from the artist at Pace.


Installation view of ‘Tara Donovan: Stratagems’

“Stratagem X” (2024), CDs, 88 × 17 × 17 inches

“Stratagem I” (2024), CDs, 88 × 14 × 14 inches

“Stratagem VI” (2024), CDs, 88 × 11.5 × 11.5 inches

“Stratagem VII” (2024), CDs, 88 × 16 × 16 inches

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