Everything, Always, Everywhere

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I just finished Rafaël Rozendaal’s new monograph “Everything, Always, Everywhere” and I am baffled that this book exists as a traditional paper art book from an small publisher. On paper. Like a cave painting.

The book includes a number of critical essays, an interview, photographs of gallery installations and other physical works, and also screen prints of many of his websites.

How is this not an app? Why is this not an ebook? Such a wasted opportunity! I can imagine an ebook where one page is a scrolling essay accompanied by audio of the author reading aloud. I can imagine turning the page to reveal a video of a net-art-website in motion. But no, it’s paper.

My favorite essay is by Kodama Kanazawa entitled “A hint of Japan in the works of Rafaël Rozendaal”. The essay is written first in English, followed by a translation in Japanese. It’s interesting to flip through the Japanese text to find a URL in English or one of Rozendaal’s off-kilter haiku. It’s the visual equivalent to hearing your name uttered from across the room.

The worst essay is by Christine Paul, “Remotely Distant Never Nowhere: The art of Rafaël Rozendaal”. It’s tedious museum-speak. It lost me particularly because of this passage:

“The simultaneously cartoonish and painterly language of Rozendaal’s net art projects is created through his use of vector animation, which allows for a cleaner, smoother, motion than moving pixels since images rendered and resized using mathematical rather than stored pixel values.”

This is both false and wrong. How are pixels “moved” if not mathematically? By nudging them with a pencil? Vector graphics are geometric shapes defined by points and mathematical curves and lines, yes. This much is true. But vector graphics (and video and 3D graphics) they are converted to 2D pixels to appear on a screen. Remember - “pixels” is short for “picture element”.

That is why it was wrong. It is false because while Rozendaal’s early website projects used Flash, which was a vector animation tool for the web, his current work utilizes the HTML5 canvas element which is a programmatic drawing surface for pixels.

I may have unrealistic demands on an art critic, but I think if you’re going to discuss the technical underpinnings of an artist’s work and how it relates to their influences, you should probably get the facts straight. It’s like saying Andy Warhol was a lithographer.

The book itself is a joyful object, full of different weights and textures of paper. The cover is a reproduction of his popular site http://www.muchbetterthanthis.com/. It has a subtle relief that is pleasing to hold and run your fingers over…which is probably why the monograph is paper and not electronic. It’s a work of art like Rozendaal’s textiles and lenticular prints. But still. I’m disappointed I can’t carry around a portfolio of Rozendaal’s sites on my iPad.

Michael Barrett

Tacoma, WA 98402