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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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