Notes on Abstract Browsing


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.”



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 looks naïve next to appropriation.


at least i tried

at least i tried website

at least i tried .org is a website with essays related to my haiku,

written by

Kayla Anderson
Haley Berkman
Margaret Carrigan
Marvin Jordan
Forrest Nash

curated by Seth Stolbun.

thank you all!


interview at DIS magazine

RR dis magazine

I was interviewed by Marvin Jordan for DIS magazine. We talk about the social, economic, and aesthetic conditions that characterize the landscape of internet-based art.

Very happy about this text, read it here.


Human Being Journal

photo by clement pascal

This is an archive of an article in Human Being Journal #5.
Text by Tag Christof, Photography by Clement Pascal.

In the early 1980s, Sherrie Levine gained notoriety for her groundbreaking exhibition After Walker Evans. She had photographed a number of the FSA master’s Great Depression-era photographs (notably all taken before she was born in 1947) and then hung and presented them, in all seriousness, as her original work. She had shot and developed the actual photos on display, so in a strictly ontological sense, the work was hers. But unlike earlier appropriation work, Levine made no attempt to disguise or alter the source. Instead, she made a game of subverting originality by calling it out in the exhibition’s title. The art world bristled. Was it still life? Was it original? Was it just shameless, lazy theft? And what did any of this mean for the value of a photograph as a piece of art?

Fast forward a few decades and art history has sided squarely with Levine. But the work of a new generation of digital artists is begging a similar set of questions around reproducibility, value and ownership. Rafae?l Rozendaal is among their foremost pioneers, having worked on the web prolifically since around the turn of the millennium. He trained as a conventional artist, but since 2001 has been buying up clever domain names on which to set up interactive artworks. The sites are singular — each contains one engaging scenario rendered in bright and proudly RGB palettes, and invites the user into a bit of unexpected usability. Among them are whitetrash.nl, pleasetouchme. com, jellotime.com, hotdoom.com, beefchickenpork.com and several others.


The irony of efficiency

kauai beach

Someone finds a trick to simplify a task. This person finishes the task faster and has more time to relax.

Once everyone starts using the same trick, there is no time to relax any more. You have to use the trick. What used to be normal is now slow.


Texts from Spheres book (Random Thoughts)

spheres rafael rozendaal

This is a selection of texts from my Spheres book, in collaboration with Philippe Karrer.

When we stare at the ocean, we can’t see that far because of the curvature of the earth. Clouds are not that far away either. Stars can be very far away, but a lot of stars don’t even exist any more by the time their light hits our eyes. The further something is, the longer it takes before you see it.

People always emphasize it’s good to grow and innovate, but it’s also good to repeat and refine.

In the future, people will not carry around devices to access the internet. Instead, with a pocket knife, they will cut a rectangle out of thin air, right in front of them, and there the internet will be. Unfortunately, many people will leave pieces of sky on the floor which might be dangerous.


A life without objects

RR iceland

I cannot explain why, but one of my favorite activities in the world is throwing stuff away. After graduating, I started moving to different countries, so I had to. I could only take so much with me. Possessions restrict movement. I don’t need much.

I love the idea of empty spaces. I love visualizing an empty home with big windows in an empty landscape. I imagine windows opened on either side of the house, the wind blowing from miles away entering the house and leaving quickly, hardly obstructed.

Emptiness is very elegant. It is luxurious.

The reality is that I am never in an empty house in an empty landscape. I am always in very crowded places. I live in Chinatown New York which is dense with tourists and garbage. I travel in crowded airplanes and eat while my elbows touch the passenger next to me. I sleep in hotels packed with people and their luggage. I swim at crowded beaches and walk through crowded museums and sit in crowded subways.

Emptiness seems beautiful yet I hardly ever go there. I hardly make an effort. I could take a bus to the countryside and sit in an empty field for a few hours. I could but I don’t.

I like the idea of emptiness more than the reality of it.


Why I love making websites

it’s fun
it’s new
it’s light
it’s open
it’s cheap
it’s free
it’s everything
it’s always
it’s everywhere

no history
no stress
no boss
no budget
no deadlines
no hassle

blank window


Austin Lee interviews Rafaël Rozendaal for SFAQ magazine

Austin Lee - Dropsy

Austin Lee interviews Rafaël Rozendaal for SFAQ magazine.
New York, February 2014.

AL: Your artwork has strong ties to both painting and animation. How do you think about time in both mediums and how does it function in your work?

RR: I’m interested in movement, and I’m interested in staring. That means I want to make moving images that don’t have a beginning or ending, no specific duration. The computer makes it possible to create images that run infinitely, always a bit different but also kind of the same. Think of a fountain: it’s in motion, it’s moving, but it’s not going anywhere.