"Websites Are The Art Of Our Times"
Websites are today’s most radical and important art
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
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
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
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
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