Rafaël Rozendaal / Automatic Books


Rafaël Rozendaal / Automatic Books

The internet has caused a bouleversement of culture faster, stronger and more far reaching than any similarly disruptive advent in history. The printing press, the pony express, radio, the telephone – all molasses-slow minor changes in direction. But in the past decade, media giants have been brought to their knees, music has been revolutionised, and our social networks made uncomfortably literal. But art, that last bastion of mysticism once so far removed from popular understanding, has been changed most profoundly of all. This is, of course, both fortuitous and unfortunate. On one hand, awareness of art and general notions about its roles have skyrocketed – previously obscure talent has been lifted to prominence through democratic media, and there has been a veritable renaissance of creativity from music to fashion to literature to all types of design.

But for all its equalising power, this wholesale democratisation has somewhat sullied the creative waters by empowering some who probably shouldn’t be artists in the first place. Quite simply, when the snobby art world was authority, that which was considered art was well considered at the very least. Today, all it seems to take is a narrative and an ego. And now, beyond legitimate art, a rubbish heap of amorphous and glitzy sub-artistic ideas have become trendy. We’re talking mass-market, Wal-Mart trendy. The amount of peripheral noise has become arduous to sift through. And when bubblegum-popping little girls no longer vapidly aspire to pop stardom and wish to become artists instead… where does culture go from there?

Clearly, art has some major branding issues to overcome as it screeches awkwardly out of post-post-modernism and onto the screens of seven billion humanoids, but I have faith in its eventual sorting out of the mess. In the midst of the chaos, paradoxically, is the glaring fact that the internet itself as a medium for art has remained widely unexplored. It has, however, been quite fortuitous as a platform for spreading hype.

As a most excellent counterpoint, enter the work of Rafaël Rozendaal, a Dutch artist who has been on the vanguard of internet art for the past decade. A deceptively simple practice, Rozendaal buys up vacant domain names and fills them with provocative and engaging content, then sells them. The work’s positioning is conceptually highly sophisticated, and opens a can of art theory worms hotly contested from the advent of reproducible art: the work remains public, but the propriety does not. Where does it originate? Who truly owns it if everyone has access to it? Where will it end up?

Beyond the deep questions the work incites, it is in and of itself cheeky, involving and disorienting, and definitely worth pondering on your next coffee break.

Automatic Books, the Venice-based indie publishing house run by our good friends Elena Xausa, Tankboys and Tommaso Spretta, have teamed up with the artist to produce Domain Names 2011-2001, a nifty limited-edition book of the works, to be printed in an edition of 150 copies.

Gloria Maria Cappelletti, of the always brilliantly curated Gloria Maria Gallery where the book is being released next week, said in a short conversation with The Blogazine that, “We are facing down a new revolution in the art system. Rafael makes websites as art pieces, the pieces are sold to an owner yet the work remains public, with the name of the collector in the title bar. This is contemporary to me. Everything else is an old paradigm.”

You hit the nail on the head, Gloria Maria.

Links to some of Rozendaal’s works:

Release on March 16th at Gloria Maria Gallery, Via Watt in Milan, from 6 to 9 pm.

Tag Christof – Images Gloria Maria Gallery and Automatic Books – Special thanks to Gloria Maria Cappelletti and Lorenzo Mason