ROZENDAAL ENJOYING A KAISEKI DINNER. PHOTO COURTESY THE ARTIST
Ten years ago, digital artwork on the Internet looked like it was going to have a promising future. The Neen movement, initiated by Greek net-art pioneer Miltos Manetas, generated considerable attention, culminating in a show held at Gagosian in New York in the spring of 2000 and a signed declaration of "the end of art, beginning of Neen." The movement didn't stick, but the artists lived on—prominently! Among them is Rafaël Rozendaal, whose persistent web presence has earned him both a huge blog following and two forthcoming shows: at Casa Franca Brasil in Rio de Janeiro starting April 5, and at the Gloria Maria Gallery in Milan in May.
Born in Amsterdam in 1980, Rozendaal is a leading figure of computer art and also the founder of BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer), a series of one-night international exhibitions. "It's just a question of time," he says of art's gradual transition to the Web–which, of course, doesn't require intermediary agents. "I'm not a millionaire, but last year there were 12 million visitors on my website." Interactive bright red Jell-o, a farting hand, and a never-ending toilet paper roll are just three of Rozendaal's creations that can be accessed through his website. "I come up with ideas," explains Rafael, "Make initial drawings and then, with the aid of programmers and sound editors, complete the work before releasing it on my site and one social networks. I'm an Internet addict and I love view counts," adds Rozendaal with a laugh.
Rozendaal first came to prominence in his twenties for www.iamveryverysorry.com (2002), a work he created in animated FLASH that drew thousands of responses. ("At the time, people contacted me mostly over email," says Rozendaal. "Now, it's really via Facebook that most of my exchanges occur.") Among those who responded enthusiastically to this early work was Neen founder Miltos Manetas, who invited Rozendaal to participate in an exhibition in Los Angeles, The Electronic Orphanage, in 2001. "I had just made this one piece," says Rozendaal. "But there I was in Los Angeles, surrounded by plenty of famous artists, giggling because of this very stupid piece of work I did."
This exhibition, his first, led Rozendaal to flirt with the Neen artist movement—though he doesn't consider himself a part of it anymore. "Neen is dead," explains Rozendaal. "It was an attitude which materialized itself through different people...I don't think much about Neen anymore, I only do Rafaël."
These days, Rozendaal's installations involve mirrors and projectors that use moving light to create dynamic spaces. But if you can't make it out to the exhibitions, pictures of these installations can be seen—of course!—on his website.