Complex Computational Compositions at Upstream Gallery

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COMPLEX COMPUTATIONAL COMPOSITIONS
RAFAËL ROZENDAAL
UPSTREAM GALLERY AMSTERDAM
3 SEP – 8 OCT 2016
Photos by Gert Jan van Rooij

Complex Computational Compositions is the second solo exhibition by Rafaël Rozendaal (1980) at Upstream Gallery. In this last decade Rozendaal has made name with his artworks in the shape of websites through which he reaches an audience of over 60 million unique visitors a year. Since a couple of years he also produces physical works – in which the internet is however never far away. During Complex Computational Compositions, Rozendaal shows new works including tapestries and sculptures. A recurring theme within his body of work is to limit the influence he has as an artist on the final composition of his work.

Abstract Browsing tapestries
In 2014, Rozendaal developed the plug-in Abstract Browsing. Its code alters information from websites: images, advertisements and text fields are transformed into brightly colored geometric elements. This way, the narrative of the Internet makes room for an abstract composition that reveals the underlying structure of websites.

Rozendaal collects thousands of screenshots of Abstract Browsing generated compositions. A number of these are then selected by him to be produced as tapestry. Rozendaal: ‘I look for compositions that are the least picturesque. Painting is about a concentrated view, about beauty rather than utility. Websites are built exactly the opposite: developers are constantly looking for new structures that entice users to click somewhere, generating the highest advertisement revenue. Websites are created from necessity and efficiency, not beauty. I select compositions that are a bit awkward, unlike classic abstract painting that is about tranquility and contemplation.’

Artforum wrote about these works: Rafaël Rozendaal’s tapestries materially fix the Internet’s fleeting forms into pulsing, vibrant abstractions. […] Rozendaal’s pieces suggest a conflicted modernist hybrid of painting and tapestry—its historically intertwined relative—echoing works by Anni Albers.

Internet art and the loom are less far apart than one might think. Rozendaal: ‘It feels natural to work with this technique. The loom stood at the beginning of the industrial revolution; the punch card for mechanical looms was the first form of digital image storage. Not all output of computer art finds its manifestation on screens.’

The websites that served as the basis for the tapestries are still recognizable. The Google homepage, the Twitter feed. The floor sculpture that is also on show is constructed in the same way: the composition consists of mirrors, based on the layout of Pinterest.

Haiku
Another ongoing project of Rozendaal is his series of Haiku, short poems inspired by the Japanese tradition. “In Japanese art, the idea applies that the physical entity of a work of art is not essential. I find it interesting to distribute my work in different ways. When you scroll past a Haiku on Instagram, your concentration is very different from when you read them bundled in a book, or view them in a gallery as an isolated wall painting.’

Shadow Objects
The Shadow Objects series consists of aluminum plates with laser cut geometric shapes. For this, an industrial algorithm is used to calculate the composition that delivers the most efficient use of materials. Just like Rozendaal’s earlier series of lenticular prints, the composition is further influenced by its illumination and the point of view. With an emphasis on the dynamic potential of shading the series can be seen in the tradition of artists like Lucio Fontana and Jan Schoonhoven, translated into the twenty-first century.

The Internet versus the gallery
‘When people asked what I did in the past ten years, I had a simple answer: I create art in the form of websites. ‘ Nowadays, Rozendaal does much more: his physical and digital works emerge simultaneously and influence each other. Within that fluid practice, exhibitions constitute important moments: ‘Because I do not have a studio, I almost never see my physical works; in that sense they are more virtual to me than the websites that I can watch at any time. I see gallery exhibitions as an opportunity to examine the materiality of my work and to experience it with a different concentration. Where the Internet is about distraction, art in a gallery is about introspection, calmness and tranquility.’ Moreover, Rozendaal sees no hierarchy between his websites and physical works. ‘The experience that you have when you are at home using Abstract Browsing on your computer is as authentic as viewing one of the tapestries in a gallery. From my point of view: the Internet is like a waterfall, an exhibition more like an aquarium’.

 

RR haiku 230

fridge full

kitchen clean

laundry done

 

RR haiku 229

when what

who how

why now

 

Websites 2001 – 2016 (director’s comments)

This is a 2-hour film of all my websites up to now. It is a screen recording of a browsing session. I visit these 103 websites and talk. I talk about making the websites and how they should work, as a reference document for future preservation.

Produced by LIMA, August 2016, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Recorded and edited by José Biscaya

 

RR haiku 228

staring gazing

looking watching

viewing seeing

 

RR haiku 227

i feel at home

when i’m

not at home

 

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crispy salty

crunchy

creamy

 

RR haiku 225

time passes

until

time ends

 

RR haiku 224

i should be

i’m not

why not

 

RR haiku 223

that looks

so good

i love it

 

RR haiku 222

hot day

blue pool

dog barks

 

RR haiku 221

nothing

really

makes sense

 

RR haiku 220

what’s better

views

or likes

 

My talk at SDF2016 Korea

 

Notes on Abstract Browsing

abstractbrowsing-notes

Abstract Browsing is a project that consists of both software and physical objects.

The browser plugin is a free software that anyone can install.

When you turn it on, you can surf the web but all web content is reduced to colored rectangles. It shows you the skeleton of the web. It’s like seeing an X-ray of a building, showing the structural elements.
Web pages are built of many smaller elements, information is organized and categorized. Text, images, tables, things we use every day but are not aware of.

I’m interested how our eyes move across the screen, how websites adapt, learn from your behavior, and change over time. Optimized to grab your attention, to never get boring, to tempt you to click and click and never leave.
Websites are constantly maximizing their efficiency, separate from aesthetic concerns. Websites learn from users by trial and error.

Technology asks new questions about composition. I’m looking for unusual compositions. Anti-compositions, unhuman compositions, compositions that humans would not have created on their own.

Abstract Browsing 15  05 02 Gmail

I surf the web every day using the plugin. Whenever I find a composition that strikes me, I take a screenshot. Just like digital photography, I take way too many images, thousands and thousands. The real challenge is editing. Making tapestries out of these compositions forces me to choose. Out of all the files I have, I have to choose which ones become objects.
The physicalization (weaving) brings focus. The software is fast and fluid, textile is expensive and slow. It slows me down, it helps me to pause and reflect.

I’ve tried to spend less time on the computer
turning procrastination into productivity
finding beauty in utility
abstraction => removal of information
from natural perception to material reduction
distraction based compositions
infinite information – infinite compositions
the aesthetics of distraction
abstraction is an escape
appropriated abstraction
weaving => mechanical painting

From Wikipedia
“The Jacquard head used replaceable punched cards to control a sequence of operations. It is considered an important step in the history of computing hardware. The ability to change the pattern of the loom’s weave by simply changing cards was an important conceptual precursor to the development of computer programming and data entry.
Charles Babbage knew of Jacquard looms and planned to use cards to store programs in his Analytical engine. In the late 19th century, Herman Hollerith took the idea of using punched cards to store information a step further when he created a punched card tabulating machine which he used to input data for the 1890 U.S. Census.”

 

In defense of the silly

To defend the silly is a paradox: when you explain something it stops being silly.

Serious thoughts are serious. The more the thoughts are researched and defended, the more robust they become. They will be scrutinized and attacked and considered and researched and over time they become more and more solid. They are important because many people discuss them and the shared energy gives the thoughts weight.

Silly thoughts appear and leave quickly. It is the mind being relaxed and asking you what you care about when all problems are solved. When there is nothing to worry about.

What do we do with silly thoughts? Are they unimportant? Or are they the most important, because when the mind is relaxed, you can really be yourself?

Thoughts you cannot explain, defend, research, elaborate. These thoughts are considered unimportant, because we cannot explain their value. We cannot point out why these thoughts exist and why they keep popping up in our heads. But they do, they are there and they keep coming back.

 

Appropriation

ap·pro·pri·a·tion
əˌprōprēˈāSH(ə)n/
noun
the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.

Is appropriation a form of bullying?

Instead of making something, taking something.

The appropriated one is usually not happy.

The villain is more interesting than the hero.

What does contextualize really mean?
– to bring focus
– to isolate
– to show something that is not art to an art audience
– to present something you did not make in an empty room

Appropriation deals with intellectual hierarchy.

Creation seems naïve next to appropriation.

 

studio

RR-studio-699

 

RR haiku 219

paint drying

grass growing

sun shining

 

RR haiku 218

dear computer

show me something

something cool