Interview with Miltos Manetas
by Valentina Tanni
A big contemporary art show in a very unusual place, with an impossible budget and many big names.
These are the ingredients of the first Tirana Biennial, organized by Flash Art’s director Giancarlo Politi in response to the Venice Biennial, considered obsolete and unable to deliver a convincing portrait of today’s visual arts.
In this attempt to give a complete outline of contemporary , couldn’t miss a space for the Internet. The Web section, which includes over 40 projects, has been curated by the volcanic Greek-born artist Miltos Manetas –now working in USA- involved for many years in a stimulating investigation on the world of the computer screen, which includes paintings, digital prints and web projects.
V.T : One thing about the Tirana Biennial , catches our attention: the number of international artists participating as curators. Is , an artist, in any way ,a different kind of curator?
What effects can be produced by this contamination of traditional roles?
M.M: There are no differences between artists and curators. They do both do the same job: they select and they show images. Some of them may produce their own images; others, will find them already made. It’s the same. Even curators sometime have to build their images , through their specific requests to their artists they invite. If it happens then, that we recall Francesco Clemente’s paintings more than the exhibitions curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, it’s because Clemente is a better artist than Oliva.
For Tirana’s Web section you selected 43 projects. Did you use a particular standard of judgment?
I invited the best computer screen-people (neensters) that I could find. Some of them are professional artists; others are designers, musicians and people who work with the Web or they produce software without caring about being a member of a specific “society”. My standard of judgment is concerned with the visual beauty and the novelty of the works. Another important thing is that they don’t look like “museum” or “gallery” art. In some cases I chose existing projects, in others I commissioned new ones. We could say that if the Biennial were a sort of an “Art City”, I would be the one who opens the doors to the barbarians. Some of them don’t even know what it’s all about…
I also invited Experimental Jetset (one of the most important international graphic design studios) to design my section in the catalogue. They didn’t use any pictures and they designed the pages in horizontal instead of vertical. In this way the biennale.net section is in contrast with the rest of the catalogue and my selection seems much more like a "guest".
Is there any “web specific” art? Or do you see these projects in a wide context including design, electronic music, and activism, sometimes contaminated?
Music-design-art are different things, they’ve always been different. If I invited designers and musicians it’s because I saw in them potential “visual artists” or because I believe that they have something important to “show”. But a “web specific” art doesn’t exist. The fact is that today the most interesting and beautiful discoveries come from a computer screen, because it is new and its language is still “virgin”. Like installations and happenings in the 60’ and 70’. Now, this kind of art is for old people. As well as painting is art for the “dead”.
Net Art is always difficult to place in an exhibition context. What’s your idea of “showing” net art?
The way you show artworks is not important anymore. Anything is ok. It only depends on the budget. If you use 46 computers and 46 projectors, or just a little black and white TV, it doesn’t make a difference. Nowadays exhibitions are “demos”, the real artwork can be seen in the museums, or in collector’s homes or over the Internet.
Anyway, for Tirana I sent 3 of my people of the Electronic Orphanage, with computers and a projector.
If everything will work right they will make a 10 hours presentation showing all…Unfortunately I can’t go to Tirana because I’m waiting for my Green Card and I have to stay in USA. But virtually I will be there through the Internet with my Avatar, ready to answer to any question of the audience, and of course to direct the presentation. There will be also performances and surprises… I’m still working on it…
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