Websites Are The Art Of Our Times | MILTOS MANETAS
Websites are today’s most radical and important art objects.
Because the Internet is not just another “media”, as the Old Media insists, but mostly a “space”, similar to the American Continent immediately after it was discovered – anything that can be found on the Web has a physical presence. It occupies real estate. To encounter a logo, a picture or an animation in the Internet is a totally different experience than to find the same stuff in a magazine or on the television. “Things” in the Internet exist in a specific location, while in magazines and on TV contents are mostly bullets of information. Online they constitute a body: they are parts of a new genre. They are Web Entities.
These “creatures” are sometimes a mix of humans and software -such as Google- but sometimes are made by information only such as in the case of Googlism.com, a website that is able to make a portrait of anything by collecting descriptions about that subject from Google itself (1) .
Most Web Entities are social entities. They get in touch and advertise their existence to each other. Similar to human beings, they will evaluate, criticize, “link” to each other, and ultimately, they develop a “taste”. Bob Dobbs (a friend of McLuhan) said: “advertising is communication between machines”. He also suggested that machines came alive in 1967 and that “now they are in an angelic state”. According to him, “advertising is communication between Angels”.
Well, some of these Web Entities – or shall we simply call them “Angels”? already communicate in a “pretty” way. As a result, a new type of “Art”, or better yet, what- may-later-become-Artcan be found in certain websites. But where exactly?
The Telic spirit.
The Web is nothing more and nothing less than what the World has always been: unvisited and unfriendly territories that are gradually transformed into a domestic landscape. From the Alps to the Japanese garden, this is the scenario: the illusory promise of order and system. But still, the simple rocks and sand in the well-arranged composition of a Japanese garden, for a better-trained intellect, are black holes and chaos.
The Web came from this chaos; in a certain way it came directly out of the Trojan Horse described in Homer’s Iliad and now we are all Ulysses, lost in the ocean all over again. But we are not traveling alone: there is a special spirit that helps us navigate and that is the spirit of Telic.
Telic is our relationship with the tools that help us to design the World and to see things in a perspective. It is in mobile phones and computers, but it’s even in the way our houses and clothes are made. Our times are Telic.
Telic means “something directed or tending towards a goal or purpose; purposeful”. For example “I am driving my car to Los Angeles” is a Telic statement. “I am driving my car” is not. Telos, in Greek, means “the end” or “the purpose”. Telic firmly believes that it is Telic. (You may never arrive to Los Angeles; you may crash into a tree or something). Telic is super creative, often in a paranoid way. It is serious. It wants to explain every little detail. It will submit footnotes and references. It is “open source” and it accepts updates from anyone. Telic doesn’t have a taste; it can be as ugly as an IBM computer. Telic authors and artists usually have jobs in the tech industry or are teachers in Universities.
They survive thanks to the grants that other Telic people are managing and they avoid the Art World, which in return ignores them.
But Telic shapes the World. As J.G. Ballard wrote, “Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extend they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages or we remain mute”.
Telic is making sense from these languages. But then again, do we really want to make sense? Why shall we be so domesticated and so productive? You wish for there to be a secret society; some people who know how to give you the feelings directly and who will keep you thinking, even after you quit browsing. You wish there were some websites to offer you the metaphysical suspense of a painting. You wish for Neen.
Neen is a frame of Mind.
“I actually know for sure that there are scenes on the Internet that nobody knows about and nobody cares about, and within those milieus, very specialized sensibilities are evolving”. (William Gibson, 2003) (1)
Neen is the crazy little brother of Telic. It owes its existence to the realization that certain ideas or animations, certain sounds, words or behaviors are indeed Neen. In 2001, a group of people from all around the planet started talking about Neen. These people eventually met, some online and some in the real world, and started exchanging their experience. A new art movement was born, the first of the 21 Century. But still, Neen is mostly a concept and as such it has its own life, one that is independent from the activity of people who practice it.
A person who thinks about Neen is a Neenster, while one who actually does Neen is a Neenstar. What a Neenstar does may sometimes seem silly, but only because it is easy and amazing.
A Neenstar is not trying to make sense; he/she doesn’t suffer from any stress of production and doesn’t respect a pattern. The dream of a Neenstar is to become an Icon but a special one, not the type of Icon you usually find in the glossies and in the Art Magazines. A Neenstar starts his career by becoming the Icon of his own imagination. Then he projects that Icon to the outside as if it were fact.
Identity is not a priority for a Neenstar, but one will fetishise oneself anyway and use that as a style: it’s a fast way to produce content. But in contrast with contemporary artists, a Neenstar will change identities often, according to the situations: Neen is ultimately a state of mind. People such as Lucio Fontana, who were doing painting by simply slashing a canvas, were Neen before Neen.
Because the Internet is the best place to exercise your inertia, Neenstars spend a lot of time online. They are Friends of the information and not Users, as the Telic people. They are also obsessed with names. They will run a search on the Internet to see if the domain with a new name they’ve envisioned is available. If it is, they will register it. Immediately after, they’ll do something fresh and put it online: it will be something minimal, strange, and romantic. Neenstars will make webpages that are what we are looking for when we surf on the Internet: a new Art Object.
“It’s really interesting… (Is it Jeffrey?) (2)”
“Contemporary Art”, the Art of the Past Century, was based mostly on the following principle: “if you put something in an empty room, it seems strange and significant”. A variation of that was: “if you take something out of its context, it seems strange and significant”. Another was: “if you change the scale of something, it will seem strange and significant,” and a last one: “if you multiply something, it also becomes strange and significant”.
But after 80 years of different combinations for any kinds of objects inside the hopelessly empty spaces of our art institutions, nothing seems really interesting. We see clearly now, that the supposed “art” is simply a bunch of trash, just some products bought in a mall.
Outside of the Internet there’s no glory. Non-Internet artists are freelance employees of other employees (the curators of the exhibitions). Institutions bestow curators with confidence and power. They are not supposed to look for any unseen objects but for some evidence of human expression which they will bring back to their commissioners, the way a well-trained dog would do with its ball. Exhibitions are identity-control tests. They are not creating anything new, they are just sampling stories.
No wonder then that any top-level art exhibitions, such as the Whitney Biennial, the Documenta in Kassel, the Manifesta, and the Venice Biennial, look like Graduation Day for students of Anthropology. In these “shows”, any realistic representation could as well be used as an illustration for the National Geographic, while any abstract piece becomes mere decoration.
The Art World is relaxed and open to anything just because it knows that nothing peculiar will ever happen. Even if the gallery is left empty, the public will search for the label with the name of the artist who did the “work” and they will find satisfaction in one way or another. Beds, balloons and chickens: real Space has lost its emptiness. But on the Internet, where space is created by software and random imagination, an empty webpage is really empty. People and Web Entities (“Angels”) can still invent unpredictable objects to put there.
(1) William Gibson interview by Eric S. Elkins.
(2) Jeffrey Deitch, “Everything That’s Interesting is New”, 1996
Miltos Manetas, 2002-2004