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The Internet: The Canvas of the 21st Century

Rafael Rozendaal

THE WORK OF ARTIST RAFAËL ROZENDAAL REPRESENTS AN IMMENSE LIST OF DOMAIN NAMES.1 EVERY WEBSITE IS A STANDALONE WORK OF ART AND, AT THE SAME TIME, REPRESENTS THE TITLE OF SAID WORK. EACH PROJECT EMBODIES A CONDENSED VERSION OF A VIRTUAL IDEA, AND THE THEMES RANGE FROM LAVA-SPEWING VOLCANOES, CHIMING PLANETS, KISSES, MONEY, BLOOD, AND POPCORN TO ABSTRACT TIME TRAVEL. HE’S A SELF-PROCLAIMED ‘URL FETISHIST’ AND HE’S HAD THE WORD ‘INTERNET’ TATTOOED ON HIS LIPS..

Rafaël Rozendaal is a Dutch-Brazilian artist born in 1980 in Amsterdam. As soon as he discovered the Internet, he knew it was love at first sight. His first work is unveiled in 2001, http://whitetrash.nl/: a self-portrait, set against a yellow background, whose moustache, sun glasses, and hairstyle can be changed by clicking on them. It wins him an invitation to Los Angeles to exhibit at the gallery of Greek artist, Miltos Manetas, founder of the Neen movement.2 Their slogan, neen, is a phonetic nod to the word ‘screen’ and actually means ‘right now’ in ancient Greek. Neen art occurs instantaneously, it’s a fleeting moment in the present, resounds globally via the internet, and experiments with new Technologies.

Rozendaal immediately recognises the potential of the internet as a vast Exhibition platform, studio, meeting point and at the same time a storage site for his work and uses it henceforth as canvas for his art. ‘People spend a lot of money for houses with a great view, but they spend a lot of time in front of their screens’, declared Rozendaal, creating one work after the other. His websites attract more than 40 million visitors a year. The incipient stage of net.art artist Rozendaal is characterised by an experimental, playful and at the same time humorous approach with Internet as a medium. net.art is an area of digital art. It’s been around since the creation of the World Wide Web (1994). Rafaël Rozendaal enriches it with a feeling of completion, self-control and complete independence from the usual hierarchies. Another early project is www.iamveryverysorry.com from 2002. Similarly to all his other work, the artist’s aim is to explore the screen as a visual space or landscape, offering a farther reach than that of one’s actual gaze through a real window. He believes his world to be connected formally with paintings, only that his pictures move and can start an infinite independent life in public domains. He moves in the world of binary code with an eye for detail and plenty of humour.

The http://www.papertoilet.com/ (2006) website unites aesthetic and nonsense. It showcases an interactive rolling toilet paper roll. The idea may appear simple but to actually achieve the feat, i.e. making the roll convincingly smaller until it fades away into nothingness, is a long and well-thought process which the artist developed with his programmer. Reinier Feijen. The biggest challenge for the artist is to find the perfect form for an idea. The first step is represented by the drawings he makes of the roll. After that come complex and time-consuming codes. The result is an interactive work of art, which transforms the humdrum user and mouse interaction (click, drag & drop) into a natural experience. As of 2009, Rafaël Rozendaal has shown a stronger interest in the perception of space, both in terms of installations in the real exhibition room as well as the increasing possibilities within a browser window.

With www.fromthedarkpast.com (2009) he creates a mountainous landscape based on a purely geometric page made of black, white, and grey triangles which the viewer can gaze at in eternity.  The URL is always title and at the same time the location of each individual project. Domain names are unique and cannot be forged. They’re the seal of genuineness of the work of art. The source code of each project contains the name of the artist, title, year of creation as well as the data of the programme, i.e. everything a collector would expect and demand of an original.

When a collector buys a ‘digital work of art’, then he also purchases the domain name and source code. Rafaël Rozendaals’s domains show that even with minimal programming knowledge, net.art can create worldwide fame and recognition. He counters the hype around his art with the humble argument that he does nothing differently from other artists, who painted using colours and shapes. He does the same using the new technologies at his disposal. 3 He’s convinced that, ‘had Leonardo da Vinci known that in the future we’d possess a magic box to modify colours, sounds, and movement, and that everyone could look at an interactive image for free whenever they wanted to, he would have been ecstatic.

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The development of the digital leads to permanent changes in society! Like my 11 years old nephew asked my father in 2012: „Grandpa, back in times you had no computer. How did you went to the internet?” Dr. Annette Doms is an independent Digital Media Evangelist, Keynote-Speaker and Expert in the field of digital arts. She is Co-Founder and Artistic Director at UNPAINTED art fair, Owner of the agency ICAA Strategists GmbH and Founder of the ARTWARD Prize for talented young artist.

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