Artists Talk On Art (ATOA)
Critical Dialog in the Visual Arts

  

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ATOA Panel Transcript

April 20, 2007

Miltos Manetas in Dialog with Flash Light

FL: In addition to painting, Miltos Manetas creates limited edition websites, and video art. He paid $100,000 to Lexicon Branding, a company that named the Pentium and PowerBook, to come up with a name for what he believes is the first new art movement of this millennium. He revealed that name during a presentation at Gagosian Gallery: NEEN. I was scheduled to interview Manetas for an ATOA panel on 2007-04-20, however due to technical difficulties accessing his website art, the panel could not be held at SVA. Never-the-less we conducted the interview online, and our dialog is reproduced here.

FL: Douglas Davis (who had a retrospective at the Guggenheim) spoke at an ATOA panel and claimed to be the first to sell a website as art in 1994 (artport.whitney.org/collection/davis/index.html). This work seems quite different than your animations; what do you think of it? Was he an influence? To sell it he found a collector to put up the money for an endowment so it could be maintained by a university. It's now owned by the Whitney. What does a "limited edition website" mean?

MM: Thank you for the information. I am looking at his piece now. He hasn't been an influence because I just learned about him from you but he becomes an influence now. However, his work is not exactly a website but an artwork hosted in a website. Pieces such as my www.jacksonpollock.org or Rafael Rozendal's www.fataltotheflesh.com are inseparable from their website existance. Anyone can copy the animation from www.jacksonpollock.org but the "work" belongs only to the owner of the website. For example, in the case of www.jacksonpollock.org, the "piece" is a location in the web where you can create Pollocks. And it's unique of course because only one dotcom with that name can exist. The dotcom is like a piece of earth where the artists builds a Universal Sculpture. Because it's made by words, a dotcom can be either a special place -such as "JacksonPollock" or just a not-that- interesting location such as "artport.whitney.org/collection/". More important and significant is the "Land", the better the artwork. It's a type of art that is closer to the LandArt than to Netart..

FL: How do you sell it, and to whom?

MM: A website is sold as both, real estate and artwork combined: The URL is transferred to the collector - who becomes now the responsible of it's maintenance- and he (the collector) also gets a certificate that gives him the property of the artwork. After that transaction, the piece belongs to the collector so the decision to keep the website private via password or to leave it open to the public is his decision. I also incorporate my signature in my websites as well and the info of the collector. There is actually something very glamorous into owning websites, exactly because they exist everywhere. I think that in the future that kind of collecting will be a huge trend and I invest most of my spare money on collecting websites created by artists.

FL: In "Copying from Videogames is the art of our days," you compare video games to the Bible, you also say. "People, made also some serious research and they found that the appearance of the World is nothing but an illusion and that the best way to reveal this fact is to build other 'Worlds' and put them in competition with Godís 'corporate' illusion." You also say, "According to the Christian religion, God was very upset when people discovered how to multiply themselves and even worst, start having fun while doing it." In an interview with Marina Fokidis you say "God is a loser," all of which sounds like the Christian religion is not necessarily your religion.

MM: I don't follow any religion. It's like creating Bits with a hammer: I prefer using a computer, its more fun. But I enjoy religions as entertainment. In my free time I may go to church- any church, Christian, Muslim even a Scientology Church.

FL: I am a member of the Secular Humanist Society of NY because it's one of my favorite religions, but I am also the webmaster for Polytheism.org, so I ask, Growing up in Greece, how much of an influence were the ancient Greek gods? Which is your favorite ancient god, and/or which if any do you hold sacred? How would you describe your beliefs concerning deity?

MM: The concept of God is inseparable from the concept of Death and I find it nonsense to think about Death because we have absolutely no information about it. From a poetic and creative point of view, thinking about Death and God can be very inspiring, at least as much all other nonsense. After all, Art is often generated by idiotic behavior (such as paint dripping) but in terms of thought, logic just dust away all that. When you are alive you are surrounded only from things of this World and when you are not busy or scared and you can afford to think you are also surrounded from whatever you can generate by your thinking. You can't generate Death, (you can kill others or yourself but you will never know what happens to them) but you can generate God, at least as a set of rules, a virtual object. I am interested about that kind of "God" and that's why I like computers, because they let you make a God model while you use them. They also let you feel as God.

There is also the following scenario: People create artificial intelligences with their computers and sooner or later these Intelligences will become the new "humans". In that sense, "people", the way we think of ourselves, will be the Gods of these AI because they have created them. Eventually, the AI will create simulations to have some sense of their creators.

Maybe we are actually those simulations, maybe at this very moment, they coexist into time God and it's creation which means Us and the Artificial Intelligences. They are our God because the produced us (as a simultation) and we are their God because we made them in the first place.

FL: You said, "I am not interesting in Freedom-I could sell myself as a slave -as Diogenes did" I assume you mean Diogenes of Sinope, the cynic who lived in the street as dog might. He ridiculed social norms, and famously was searching for an honest man. You also say, in response to Marina's question: "so you think of your ideas as stupid" Mmanetas: "Socrates was doing such things also." Which Greek philosophers were of greatest influence on you, and why? Which "modern" philosophers, if any?

MM: Plato's Socrates was the character who influenced me the most. He is a virtual character, created by a writer and Plato makes a point to remind us so everytime he starts telling us about him. His books always open with "I met someone who told he that he heard that Socrates said so and so.." From the Moderns I like Jean Baudrillard who wrote the only book that makes sense about contemporary art "The Conspiracy of Art".

FL: Jay Milder, the founder of Rhinohorn, said at an ATOA panel that two of the greatest disasters of art history were the move from Platonic to Aristotelian philosophy, and the development of perspective. (The latter because it moved art away from expression toward illustration.) If playing videogames is not what you consider the great advance in art, what is, and conversely what do you consider the greatest regresses in art history.

MM: The dictatorship of the Exhibition, the fact that an artist in order to be considered as such must regularly exhibit his/her work in a real space, the gallery or museum. That's what I found the most pathetic of the art rituals. Very few great artists are good exhibitionists and many mediocre artists are really great in putting together entertaining visual ideas. But we shouldn't talk much about that anyway, thanks to the Internet that state of terror is now over. Anyone with a website can become a Star overnight, maybe not an Icon for the Artforum crowd but a Star in my World.

FL: There's an ancient Egyptian tomb inscription, "There is no limit to art, neither is the greatest artist master of his craft." Does that apply to Telic vis. NEEN?

MM: Absolutely. What about this; "There is no limit to Craft, neither is the greatest Craftsman master of his Art".

FL: In "Happiness is Heavy," you describe happiness as a burden which videogames can protect life from. When Jens Gebhart asked, "Do you like painting?" You replied, "Actually I hate painting myself." Many artists, myself included, are happiest when they're making successful art. Which came first for you, hating happiness or hating painting?

MM: I can give you the number of my analyst and you can ask him if you wish..

FL: In the interview with Marina you said, "Art is the formal stuff that the execution of ideas happens to output." Andy Warhol said: Art is anything you can get away with. Do you agree with Andy? Are you getting away with something when you sell a loop of a videogame screen, or is that the output of the execution of the NEEN idea?

MM: Well, you never get away.. Look at "Andy", people re-animate him and re-invent him constantly. When you are an artist, you simply destroy your life in a magnificent way. If the Buddhist re-incarnation exists, Art is the safest way to lose your place and start again from the beginning. It's sad.

FL: Picasso is reputed to have said, "Art is a lie that reveals the truth." You've said, "There is nothing really real in life : everything is a simulation" Is then, your art a truth that reveals a lie, or a lie that reveals a truth, or a lie that reveals a lie? Or what?

MM: My Art is the name of the Rose. A rose is a rose..

FL: In an interview with Daisuke Nishimura you said, "Good art is always defined by the same factor: "Good" are the art works- paintings, photos, movies, design and fashion- that stuck with us. Pieces we remember for some specific reason but also for no reason at all! Nobody controlled that factor in the past or does so today because it belongs to a very deep layer of the karma of Western Civilization: the layer of reality that is not "realized" yet."

Others are more cynical and believe the entire art market is the product of market manipulation. Rembrandt was reputed to bid on his own works at auction to keep his prices up. Tom Finklepearl, currently director of the Queens Museum, said at an ATOA panel, "The market value of an artist's work is directly proportional to the amount of money invested in the artist's career." Tery Fugate-Wilcox, the founder of Actual Art, said at an ATOA panel, "The price of an artist's work depends on the income bracket of his social circle." Why do think your attitude is so Beige by comparison?

MM: I don't believe that such a think as the "Art Market" exists. To have a Market, you need a seller and a buyer. Nobody is really buying anything in the Arts. Things (the Artworks) just rotate between people, organizations, countries etc and they get value by their resistance to oblivion. It's like a company that doesn't sell anything to the outside. There is a lot of activity between it's different compartments though. Think of a phone company where the cable department sells cables to the mobile division, the mobile division sells calls to the cable department etc. People involved in the Art business have absolutely no power on the evaluation of Art. We are simply buffoons who play the businessmen and we live on margins. That's why many real businessmen become collectors: it's the only way for them to redeem themselves.

FL: There's a story that a collector came to visit Picasso and showed him a painting signed, "Picasso," asking if it was genuine. "No," replied Picasso, "it's a forgery." The collector thanked him and took a picture of Picasso before he left. Years later he returned with another painting and again asked if it was genuine. Again Picasso replied it was a forgery. The collector then took out the photo and pointed out the painting was in Picasso's studio at that time. "Yes," replied Picasso, "I often paint forgeries." Do you ever look back on works and think they're forgeries? If so, which ones and why?

MM: Can't answer this question, I am not authorized.

FL: Alex Melamid, of Komar and Melamid spoke at ATOA and said, "The least important thing about a work of art is what it looks like." Here's proof: A famous forger created original paintings in the style of Vermeer. They were hailed as great discoveries, and praised by critics. People lined up at museums to see them. He was caught, and at his trial he said that after the paintings were revealed as forgeries, no one liked them or was interested in seeing them. The appearance of paintings hadn't changed, so what had, he asked? Melamid says the most important thing about a work of art is what it smells like. I say the most important thing is the myth that surrounds the work. What do you feel is most important, what least important about a work of art?

MM: The least important thing about an artwork, is to know who actually made it.
Miltos Manetas, 2007