Thirty million unique visitors watched the websites of visual artist Rafaël Rozendaal – 30.730.587 to be exact – in 2014 alone. The number says much about the reach of art in the internet age but it also testifies to the appeal of his work. With Soft Focus, from 13 March to 10 May, MU is showing specially developed new work, projected in a room furnished to draw attention to the soft side of technology.
Digital art is new, light, open, cheep and free. It is everything, always, everywhere. Rozendaal isn’t burdened by history; he has no stress, no boss, no budget, no deadline, no fuzz. Put this way, it sounds wonderfully free of obligations but in the mean time his work can best be seen as a continuous and consistent research into the graphic and symbolic representation of reality. A process of simplification, stylisation and abstraction, of sensing for the essence of things, that shifts from paper to the computer screen in 2001. The screen has been his medium ever since, with all the qualities and shortcomings that come with it. He makes clean, apparently simple animations that seamlessly fit into the browser window at any screen size: through clever programming art work and website always coincide.
As relevant and smart as the websites may be in regard to the art trade and the rapidly developing technology, there is an entirely different reason why they are so popular and why Rozendaal (who was born in 1980) is considered to be a prominent artist at such an early age: his animations are really very good. They are complex ideas disguised as simple images that appeal to the most diverging human emotions and experiences. Life is portrayed as an endless play of repetition and variation, of rise and fall, of being on your way without arriving anywhere. What is being build up in one place is disappearing in another; things move forwards and backwards simultaneously.
The animations also have a life outside the screen: Rozendaal often works with the reflections of images in mirrors and other reflective materials on the wall or on the floor. In MU he will experiment for the first time with more diffuse surfaces like bird sand, ribbons and balloons. Projecting the websites on a web of various materials that visitors can wander around in produces a softer, more agile image. Liberated from the screen the sites become light sources, fragmented impressions of an online world; the work more than ever an immersive visual experience.
Apart from his own work, Rozendaal invented the BYOB concept: Bring Your Own Beamer. Find a space, invite a lot of artists, ask them to bring their own projector and turn them on all at once. Since he organised the First BYOB event in 2010, in Berlin, it has been repeated hundreds of times in cities around the globe.
Still, Rozendaal is not only active as a visual artist. He also writes haiku, from which he composed a special book that will be available in a limited printed and signed edition during Soft Focus. It can also be order online as an (unsigned) print on demand. Like his visual art, they excel in clarity and profoundness.
RR Haiku 057
But what does he eat?