"at least i tried"
Poetry relies on connections between the artist and their audience simply through text. Artists have been attempting to exhibit emotions and feeling through language and have built upon this concept for centuries. Within the context of net art, which provides audiences and artists with instant access and interaction to art, poetry seems fitting and unfitting. Fitting in that the art style of net art by being simple yet meaningful, mirrors poetry and unfitting in that poetry is an old medium and is traditionally very refined. However, this concept also exemplifies how technological advancements change and do not change art, and how art is shared in the technological age. Net artist Rafael Rozendaal has created over 100 websites that offer the users experiences based on their involvement with the page.
Rozendaal has written many haikus, but not in the traditional Japanese style of five syllables on the first line, seven in the middle, and five again on the last. He has adopted a more Americanized style, also used by Kerouac in the 60s that is better suited for the English language. This style has no syllable restriction to allow for the writer to focus on a complete thought conveyed in only three lines. These haikus read as something profound that one might say in relaxed conversation or something ignorant one might say with complete seriousness. They are not too polished.
Based on Rozendaals background in creating quick yet meaningful experiences with simple snippets of code presented as websites, the short yet loaded form of haiku lends itself to his creative process. Atleastatried.org is a collaborative project between Rafael and five writers in the field of art journalism, who wrote individual pieces on their reactions to the five haikus featured on the page, and Rafael's larger body of haikus. The web page composed of five blocks of pastel colors, each featuring a white box on the right side containing a three-line poem, selected from a larger body of Rozendaal’s work. The intentionally barren space on the webpage leaves room for the reader to place themselves within the work and creates an unavoidable dialogue.
These poems have a strong, contemplative impact on the reader. They invoke feelings of trying to rationalize reasons behind one’s actions. The user can only view one poem at a time no matter how large they make the window. If the user clicks anywhere inside a block of color, an essay written by one of five journalists or critics in the art field in response to the website comes up in a pop-up window. This interaction adds a lot of depth and a feeling of connection to a world outside of Rozendaal's head. Some of Rozendaal’s website urls could also be read as poems; it all depends on the context of how they are presented.
Conceptually, viewing this work evokes feelings of vulnerability, simplicity, communication, and slight moments of comedy. There are two ways that people will view this piece, as the haikus alone or with the accompanying essays that pop up upon clicking on each haiku. This piece has been shown online, in books, and in the gallery space at the Boniners Konsthall Gallery in Sweden. The simplicity and accessibility that Rozendaal strives for is present in this work. The idea of basing a websites layout on the content it houses is very contemporary. Rozendaal has composed this online piece to reflect the simple yet effective format of his haikus in minimal stripped aesthetic and large boxes that are home to his haikus.
This work speaks to being an artist as well as an average person living in the contemporary world. There are notions of self doubt and questionings of motives that most people have gone through but are especially true for artists. The haikus speak about gray areas in between what is and isn’t art and what is and isn’t work, drawing attention to spaces that people usually don’t pay attention to. This leads well into the essays which thrive upon the reflectivity of the collaborators and the unique connections they draw from Rozendaal’s work. These haikus would not be the same if they weren’t composed in and referring to the digital age and weren’t collaborative works.
The possibilities presented by simply clicking on each haiku are reminiscent of digging deep into an online forum and reading someone pour their heart and opinions into a post about their favorite album or treasured work of art. It harks back to these connections that can be possible across long distances and through anonymity over the net.
Rozendaal’s other works speak to his poetic interests in alternate, displaced ways. Open that Window is another net art piece by Rozendaal. The webpage, www.openthatwindow.com, is composed of a blurred red, blue, and grey gradient pattern. The blur is caused by an opaque window which the user can interact with. Opening and closing the window toggles audio which reflects a busy city scene. The tendency is for the user to want to keep the window closed, the gradient pattern is prettier and the audio is harsh on the ears. The inclusion of this interaction adds depth and makes the user a part of the piece, more so then in atleastitried. Rozendaal creates a quick and relatable, abstracted experience through this simple interactive page. The similarities between Rozendaal’s haikus and his web pages are especially noticeable in this piece. The simplicity of his work is a defining point, no matter the medium. By sticking to minimal content that can be interpreted a number of ways, Rozendaal creates poetic works that are contemplative, self reflective and speak to our contemporary human condition.
Rozendaal is certainly not the only artist who has realized the potential of the internet as a medium for poetic communication through simple words, images, and interactions; Another work in a similar vein to Rozendaals haiku series is Emily Horne and Joey Comeau’s, a Softer World. Since 2003, the duo has been posting short poems overlaid on panels of photographs. Each piece reads like a short comic. Much like Rozendaals work, the writing is short, profound, and looks like it could have been pulled right out of someone’s personal notebook. The photos add to the narrative of the poems and sometimes create an interesting dissonance. They aid in creating more context and content than Rozendaal’s haikus, but the work still remains slightly ambiguous. Similar themes of gray areas and in between spaces are at play in both works. A Softer world is less minimalistic but the poems also reach a humorous sarcastic tone at times.
It is important that artists continue to experiment and push expectations of the spaces in which different where forms of art can exist. By pushing boundaries we see forms of art grow in previously inconceivable ways. It is truly wonderful to see poetry grow and expand to incorporate new mediums; interaction, images, video, etc. The simplicity and emotional impact strives in these previously unrealized mediums. Through bringing poetic moments and experiences to the internet, these artists suggest that emerging technologies can be used as a medium for content that holds more cultural importance than gathering information and online shopping.
Text found on Artists website:
It's Nice That Article:
A Softer World Emily Horne and Joey Comeau:
Open that window by Rafael Rozendaal