February 2002, a month before the opening of Whitney Biennial. Myself and Peter Lunenfeld,were at the ElectronicOrphanage in Chinatown, Los Angeles, and we were discussing the upcoming Whitney show.


"They aren't going to have any Internet at the Whitney's show. It would be cool to make a show online, challenging the official exhibition" I said.

"What about registering WhitneyWhitney.com ?"

"Why not WhitneyBiennial.com?" suggested Peter.

"It's definitely taken…" I replied

"Don't be so sure, check..” Peter said.

Whitneybiennial.com was available.

"Oh God..” I thought.. "Now, we really HAVE to do it.”

It was one of those rare moments in life, we felt as if we had inherited the ownership of a business in an industry that we never thought we were interested to enter. It was clear that by ignoring their own domain name, the Museum was subconsciously commissioning to us personally to "do something".. Large institutions such as the Whitney, at that point didn't care much about what was happening on the Net. They would consider computers and networks "as just another media", a little more complex maybe from videos and dvd-which they have learned to appreciate very recently. “Computer is just the best invention after the bicycle”, the director of a large European Museum told me once. "Like a bicycle, it can do a lot of transport in a cheap and clean way. But it's nothing really different”.

I wouldn't agree.. I used to think of the Internet-and I still do- as a place. A great, almost empty continent, similar to the American continent, just after it has been discovered. The Internet was our opportunity for a new type of art, theories, and life-style. But because most of the things one finds online are pretty boring and most of the Netart quite "amateur", myself and my friends we were now working on two new concepts, the concept of Neen, and Telic. While Telic is genius but not necessarily poetic and “special”, Neen, is about the most amazing elements of the computer screen-world. I actually believe, that certain websites can be major artworks that people will think of those later as a breakthrough. I felt that the Whitneybiennial.com could be the chance for a frontal battle with the art-of-the-real and that same day, I wrote an email to a number of curators that I knew and respected, including Whitney Biennial's chief curator Larry Rinder,. I was inviting them to propose artists for the first WhitneyBiennial.com. All that the artists had to do, was a Flash animation, it didn't had to be any complicate conceptual work, a cute moving-image would be OK

“Larry, will you please help me to challenge your show?” I wrote to Lawrence Rinder. “Yes!” Larry e-mailed back a few minutes later. And immediately after: “Gosh, but I can't do that. I am the chief curator after all!” “Still, why don't you come to find me in my office and we"ll discuss it.”

Two days later, I was at Larry's office at the Whitney. I had brought with me some stickers that Rafael Rozendaal had designed the night before with the logo of the Whitneybiennial.com on them. When I laid those stickers on his conference table, Mr. Rinder's expression changed, he suddenly became serious and after some silence, he said: “So, you are really doing it”. “Of course I do", I said. " As I am not chosen for the official show this year, I have a lot of free time". “Why don't you take over this empty Chase Bank-Larry shown me a Chase Manhattan building just in front of his window”. "You can put a few computers and some projectors there and make your show". 

I thought about it for a little. It felt some kind of "Salon des Refusés" to me...Internet deserved better. At the spot, an idea came to my mind.

”Well, I am thinking to rent 23 U-haul trucks and to turn them into monitors by replace with a screen their back doors and projecting each website of my show from the inside of the truck. They will surround your Museum the night of the opening..."

”Do you have the budged to do so?” Larry asked, this time slightly alarmed but without showing it.

”Oh, yes, I am selling lots of paintings these days” I said.

"Well, good luck to you then", Larry said, our conversation was over.

I left Larry's office quite entertained. I had no intention of course to turn any U-haul trucks into screens, why should I do that? Internet websites are the new U-hauls, they are invisible, they surround all the museums of the World, they carry information and art to all, everywhere, forever. I would be just doing a very beautiful website, the WhitneyBiennial.com and that was all. Only that just a few hours later, my phone start ringing. Friends and friends of friends would call and tell me to NOT do the U-haul trucks.

" I am not doing it-I would reply- I just said I am to tease Larry". Nobody would believe me.

“You don't want such a great project to appear as an act of criticism against the Whitney”, the ex-director of a well-known American Contemporary Art Museum told me, “The U-haul Trucks turned into monitors can become such a good installation, why don't you just do an one-man show at Deitch or Gagosian and leave Whitney alone?” 

Two days later, NYTimes called.

"We know you are preparing a U-haul truck response to the Whitney show, would you please tell us about it?", " I don't, I said, I am just doing a website, the WhitneyBiennial.com. My intention isn't even criticising the Whitney show, I like them, they do great shows, I am part of the same industry. I just want to use them, use their Museum show, to put in front my ideas about Neen and Telic.” 

“But you are sending 23 U-haul trucks around Manhattan don't you?” “No I don't", I would say but after they would insist, "If you say so, you must be right, after all, you are the Press and you probably know better”. " Great, would you care for an interview to tell us how will it all happen?"

Soon, everybody in NY was asking me about the Whitneybiennial.com surround performance and I confirmed to all that we are working on it. “After all, a chair painted inside a picture is not a real chair”.  But since most people in the artworld never look on websites, I decided to make something happen in the real space anyway. 

So I contacted Miuccia Prada, and asked her to use her new shop in Soho. That's a location designed by Rem Koolhaas in such a way that it can be used as a temporary theater for events, a kind of sidewalk become plaza. My idea was to get a bus and bring people from the opening of the Whitney to the Prada Store for a Demo of the Whitneybiennial.com. But Prada refused... So I contacted Rem Koolhaas and explained the project to him. Koolhaas immediately liked it. “Don't worry, we will get the store”, he said. 


It was now a week before the opening of the Whitney. I was putting all my efforts to create a beautiful website together with the artist and designer Carbonated Jazz, the architect Andreas Angelidakis and artist-Neenstar Angelo Plessas. Carbonated Jazz, drawn for it's splash page the face of an old man, with his glasses breaking into pieces. The British composer Mark Tranmer, (GNAC) wrote a melody for the website. 122 creators, not only artists but architects, designers and programmers, invited by different curators including Jan Aman, Andreas Angelidakis, archinect.com, Stefano Chiodi, Joshua Decter, Laurence Dreyfus, Alex Galloway, Paul Groot, Patrick Lichty, Peter Lunenfeld, Lev Manovich, Magda Sawon,newstoday.com, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Marisa Olson, Michele Thursz, Roosavelt Savage,Philippe Vergne, Olivier Zahm and Purple Magazine submitted up to five animations each. Artist Michael Reese offered a “Turntable”, which is a flash application that you can use to mix not only sound but also Flash movies. With this tool, all the pieces of the show became samples and the user had now the ability to visually “DJ”, making his/her own composition online. The viewer could change the colours of the background, make the animation larger or smaller, transparent or opaque, etc. For the very first time, artworks in an exhibition could exist as both: samples and stand-alone pieces.Lev Manovich wrote a beautiful theory called: GENERATION FLASH and Peter Lunenfeld, wrote a text called “Flash is Poptech”. 


While I was doing the website, I would constantly calling Rem Koolhaas, waiting for news about the Prada store. “They haven't agreed yet, but call me back in a few hours, I am sure I will succeed to get the place for you”, Koolhaas would say. But Prada kept refusing. The morning of the opening, I called Koolhaas for the last time. “I am embarrassed, I take it as a personal defeat”, Koolhaas said. “I don't understand why they don't give you the shop. I designed it just for such events!” 

Then, the day before the opening, on March 4, the New York Times had published an article written by Matthew Mirapaul. Most of the article was dedicated to the Whitneybiennial.com – it's artists, and the promised U-haul trucks. There was some small paragraph talking about the official show, but the picture illustrating the article was from an animation by the Whitneybiennial.com. It was David against Goliath and everybody was talking about it so I decided to keep the fiction of the trucks going until the end and I just reserved Bungalow 8, for the artists and the guests of the Whitneybiennial.com. The trucks would not be there, but the exhibition was real, anyone with a computer could visit it. The idea of the trucks was just a metaphor: “The U-haul trucks would be there but they would be invisible These are the websites where the whitneybiennial.com is hosted and they are everywhere”. 

That night, at the opening, which was invitation only, dozens of people who were not invited showed up, waiting for the U-haul trucks. Some people had been coming from other nearby cities; they were the Internet crowd who probably read about the event in a newsletter.  Also, many of the guests of the Museum, would leave the Whitney and search for the U-hauls. Some of them would return later and say to their friends: “I've seen the U-Hauls, they are not big deal”, causing a performance that was never suppose to happen to actually register at the imagination of the public and initiating an urban legend. 

Some months ago, I had a drink at Joe's Pub in NY and I overheard the conversation of three young people. “The Police had put barriers on Madison Avenue so the U-haul trucks would not pass”, one of them explained to the others. “I've seen it: I was there!”


Miltos Manetas, NYC, 2003