For the first edition of the Internet Pavilion, Manetas and Aman, decide to invite a number of people involved with the activist website ThePirateBay.org to come in Venice and inaugurate the Embassy of Piracy. But just a few hours after the press statement of PadiglioneInternet was released, the administration of the Venice Biennial start receiving calls from the Berlusconi government asking them to cancel the invitation of ThePirateBay.
"We are Pirates of the Internet
Pirates of the World Wide Web
Nothing that can stop us now
We are here to stay..."
"I start driving all over America searching for something different from what I knew already about the Internet.
Before starting this trip, I spent a sleepless week in Paris during Paris Fashion Week. That years's fashion shows were not interesting, maybe because of the recension or for other reasons, there wasn't anything really memorable out there. At some point, I found myself alone at Le Montana's bathroom, trying to think between lines of exquisite cocaine and semi-naked bodies. Still thinking that I should make some kind of real-space pavilion, I felt the urgency to find an architect who would eventually design it.. Later that night, back at Le Marais, at the apartment of my very smart friend Benjamin Loyaute I wake up Benjamin and asked him if he had any ideas. What about Tadao Ando" Ben said, "I can't really think any architect other than Ando at this hour. I can put you in touch with him through a friend of mine knows him well"
The day after, I wrote to Mr. Ando.
"Dear Mr. Ando.
What's "Internet" in terms of space?
How do we walk in the Internet, how do we even circulate without dying from boredom? We need you to design the first Internet Pavilion. Not complicate Net-architecture, no "Avatars", "Virtual Worlds", or "Second Life" and the such: all this is exactly what we want to avoid. We need something poetic and influential instead, something suggestive, as suggestive as the engravings of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux.
But Tadao Ando wrote back that he had no time to make the Pavilion. At that point, Jan Aman thought of Mia Hagg and of her boyfriend of those days Jean Nouvel.
I called Mia and we agreed to meet them at Le Fondation Cartier where Nouvel was invited to a dialogue with theorist Paul Virilio. The two were conversing in French and I couldn't understand anything apart of a few words. So I sit back on my armchair and I start writing subtitles in my mind, fantasizing about what Nouvel and Virilio were talking about. I had never read any of Virilio's books, but at some point, - "L'écran du Désert"...- I start feeling I knew exactly what he was saying..
I knew nothing about Virilio's ideas, yet his arguments, his obsessions and his paranoia, suddenly start parading around me, circulating me up to the point that I began growing uncomfortable with my very own convictions! Slipping into some kind of "psychoanalysis on speed" I start realizing that I have a big problem, an addiction and that I have become somewhat of a victim, a victim of computers. The last 10 years, I have really become a computer junkie. In addition, my relationship to the Internet wasn't as glamorous as I had convinced myself and others... When finally the talk was over, I had forgotten Jean Nouvel and the reason that had brought me to meet him. I now knew, that the Internet of the Pavilion that I was about to build, wasn't the Internet I really wanted.
"We need another Internet" I kept repeating to myself a few days later while I was flying to New York.
"This network we are using now isn't "internet"enough, its just some kind of "desert". A "Desert of Computer Screens"
Searching for an architect again- a different kind of architect from Ando and Nouvel- I went to visit the office of Christian Wassmann.
I found him at his desk, playing with a little model he made himself by copying Le Corbusier's ‘Philips Pavilion’
This was a happy coincidence because the ‘Philips Pavilion’ was one of my inspirations for the Internet Pavilion (1). The quest of the Philips Pavilion, was to build some kind of "space that HAS to meet with music": A space that “becomes” music...
- I want to turn real space into internet, I said to Christian.. I am dreaming of an Internet Pavilion that's huge and at the same time extremely portable.
- Well, I did something like that when I was still a student Wassmann said.. I made a cube that is a "Liter-that-can-be-turned-into a-Meter". That cube has the volume of a litter and weights a kilogram. When you expand it, it becomes a meter. It is made of a special translucent material and when you open it, it looks like a bridge...
The Internet has been accepted as part of this year's Venice Biennial but not the Vatican. The Vatican church submitted a request for establishing its own religion-based Pavilion in the Biennial but it was turned down, at least for this year. The Internet was accepted instead via the First Internet Pavilion.
Our intention is to re-define and to we-write everything: all terms should be renewed, all systems should be destroyed and build again.
The internet is cool but its also a nightmare, an empire of psychologically enforced work, really a "desert of computer screens". We have a strong desire for a brand new Internet and at the same time, our desire is also to free ourselves from machines. We want to be able now to send emails without computers. We also want to satisfy the Three Kleinrock Complains:
1. We should be able to connect by any place
2. We should be able to connect by any device
3. The device should be invisible, even immaterial.
Internets today is not some virtual entity but a network that can materialize in everything, from court systems, parliaments and phone networks, to memes, music and art systems. Forget browsers, files and computers, internet is everywhere. It is wherever you are ready to receive it. (Embassy of Piracy, 2009)
"Internets" are those real places or contexts, where it is possible to revert everything just by using the power and the possibilities that a computer and a network connection is offering today to everyone.
(Miltos Manetas, everymanwithacomputerisanartist.com, 2000)
"Internets" is a word first used by the former United States President George W. Bush during the 2000 election campaign. "We can have filters on Internets where public money is spent. There ought to be filters in public libraries and filters in public schools so if kids get on the Internet, there is not going to be pornography or violence coming in".
(George W. Bush, presidential debate against Al Gore on October 17, 2000.)
and on the evening of October 9, 2004, the day following the Bush/Kerry debate:
"I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft. I don't know how many of these Internets are carrying these rumors, but they're just wrong. I think the problem here may be more of a question of getting rid of the bad Internets and keeping the good Internets. You know, 'cause I think we can all agree … there're just too many Internets."
(George W. Bush)
After meeting Leonard Kleinrock at his office in the UCLA, I got again into my car and headed towards San Francisco. Two weeks passed by in a very frenetic rhythm, I remember visiting absurd places at the Silicon Valley where very people live -US misery in all its glory- next to the likes of Microsoft and Apple. Going back to LA to meet Durek Verrett, a contemporary Shaman, I stopped for a night at the Big Sur. I had no idea that Henry Miller used to like it there, neither that there was such a thing as the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Still, that's where I found myself buying a copy of Homer's "Odyssey". I took that book with me in LA and I show it to Durek while he was trying to explain how- according to him- "computer screens are hypnotizing us".
As I was leaving Durek's house in a taxi, going directly to the LA's airport (and from there to my studio in London), I felt my ideas about the Internet Pavilion clearing up.
What was wrong with today's internet and with today's computers altogether, was the fact that everything was based on screens. "Screen" comes from the Middle Dutch "scherm" that means "cover" or from the Frankish "skrank" which means "barrier". As a verb, it means "to shield, to conceal". Screen is a barrier that "covers in order of protecting" but while it does that, it hypnotizes us. There is definitely a great beauty on anything with a hypnotic power, infact, most of the art I like calling Neen, has that power. But what about a network that doesn't depend on screens, a network where nobody is "hypnotized"? What if we"ll start thinking of "Another Internet", start thinking of some kind of SlowNet?
In 1855, the French artist Gustave Courbet submitted his now famous painting "The Artist’s Studio" to the World Exhibition in Paris. Although nobody realised it at the time, Courbet, the prophet of Realism, was making history by calling his painting a real allegory. Instead of the old symbolic figures, he was painting people from real life-not just those writers, thinkers and poets that had influenced him (Proudhon, Baudelaire, Champfleury), but also priests, prostitutes and workers. All of those people portrayed were based on real, living characters, but also carefully chosen to tell a story - Courbet wanted his painting to display his thoughts about society at that time what were the consequences of this new industrial society? And what could art’s role be in it? The painting was refused. But, using his own money, Courbet rented a venue just next to the world fair, and displayed the painting anyway.
Fast-forward to 2009 and our Courbet inspired Padiglione Internet (Internet Pavilion). It digs into a series of contemporaneous issues - threats of political restriction, the future of the internet, copyright, the art world itself; of borders,markets, curators, collectors, city marketing, and artists... the list goes on. It does so because of the fact that it is a virtual art pavilion, and as such the first of its kind at the Venice Biennale. All of this was clear to me when Miltos Manetas, came up with the idea, and it has become more and more evident as the journey has unfolded.
It all began when Daniel Birnbaum offered us the chance to be an official part of the Venice Biennale, but to be there as an independent (although still part of the official structure-a collateral project). Miltos paid for this independence out of his own pocket. The Internet Pavilion therefore had a special position - in Venice, these collateral projects are the official sideshows, evaluated and accepted by the Venice Biennale, but not paid for. To be collateral denotes official status, and comes with a spread in the catalogue, and some promotion. Except for the Internet Pavilion, all the collateral projects are produced either by nations that do not have a national art pavilion of their own, or by large, official organizations.
The rest of the Biennale consists of course of the national pavilions, with their invited artists in the main curated exhibition (this year, under the theme of Making Worlds), all of which is organized on commission and under supervision from the board of directors. So, all artworks at the Biennale have gone through a series of evaluations to become an official part of the exhibition. That’s how it works.
The Internet Pavilion is an outsider by definition - there has never been anything similar at the Venice Biennale before. The Padiglione Internet is a collateral project inside the Venice Biennale, but from the point of view of an independent artist, with an independent curator. Miltos (with me as sidekick) understood the possibility of being collateral - so, I asked my old friend Daniel Birnbaum if it was possible. He was very enthusiastic about the very idea. Miltos paid the fee - and, almost without knowing it, we were a collateral project and an official part of the Venice Biennale 2009. This gave us what we wanted - the opportunity to act in a different way. The internet points directly towards Gustave Courbet and art’s strange relationship with the world beyond the art world, with reality. And that reality is why the internet and art are not an easy match. The internet is fluid, changing, connecting, without borders and not at all tangible. I guess that is why there is so much at stake, globally, regarding the internet at the moment. The internet’s existence is in opposition to a world that relies on industrial control. It is, quite simply, a new global reality, attracting millions and millions of users, and producing more statements per minute than anyone can handle.
The internet is all that the art world claims to be or wishes it was. But the art world is, in reality, small. It is confined. The art world has not changed much since Courbet exhibited that painting in 1855. Its raison d’être is to produce salable, physical objects within a small industry of connoisseurs. But the art world is schizophrenic - it may be confined, but its marketing value is that it promotes ideas of reality, change, freedom, the new, transformation... People go to Venice to experience this freedom of art, and to get a glimpse of the reality from the point of view of the artists... but what is not so evident is that it is all launched from a confined art world and displayed within the walls of controlled exhibition spaces. The art world loves, in the tradition of Gustave Courbet, to embrace reality. In fact, the Venice Biennale could be seen as a huge real allegory, with loads of artworks that claim to show the reality of today’s society but without Courbet’s carefully planned scheme.
Jan Aman, PADIGLIONE INTERNET: Some Simple Starting Points
The Padiglione Internet has its roots in a tiny, confined art world - but it made a connection to the big world. We invited in a virus, something uncontrollable - that energy around the Pirate Bay - just to see what would happen. We did invite others but it was really only the pirates that responded. They wanted to go to Venice. Nobody else cared. Or were too scared. To me, the "Embassy of Piracy" is not primarily about copyright issues. It is about the possibilities of a new world. But it is produced by people that understand marketing - and the issue of copyright is one that gets the attention. In the context of the Biennale, the "Embassy of Piracy" was all about letting in a new reality - one that tells a different story about the future to an art world that is still stuck in 1855.
(Jan Aman, PADIGLIONE INTERNET: Some Simple Starting Points)
Only a week remained before Venice Biennale's opening. And with it the Internet Pavilion, for which Miltos Manetas and myself were jointly responsible.
I had just arrived in Venice. I had had time to meet Chiara, our local hostess and her friends. I had visited S.A.L.E., where Marco had offered us his beautiful old salt warehouse. I had been out with Nik, Helga and Daniel from AIDS-3D. I’d been out drinking wine with Jan Håfström and Lotta Melin.
But I hadn’t really done anything. I spent my days mostly wandering around by myself. Which admittedly is one of the things Venice is best for. But the reason I was there – Miltos – was nowhere to be found. He didn’t answer my calls. He didn’t respond to emails. It wasn’t like him. Miltos is always wired up, always online. Always reachable. But now, when we were to meet in Venice to finalize a project which was essential for both of us, he seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth. Why?
Without Miltos, there wasn’t much I could do. Not of what I had intended to do, anyway. The Internet Pavilion was the result of a dialogue between the two of us. Miltos is not an artist who needs – or can even abide – a curator. And I’m not sure I’ve ever understood what curators are meant to do either. But I knew Miltos needed someone to ping-pong ideas with. So did I.
On paper I was the curator of the Internet Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. But in reality, or in my view at least, the Internet Pavilion was an artwork by Miltos Manetas. I doubt if he would ever accept that description himself – but it was the logical continuation of everything he has done since the end of the 1990s.
Without really being able to put it into words, I have always been stimulated by spending time with Miltos. He annoys most people. And he trips himself up. If he hadn’t had his vanity to carry along with his intuition, his road might have been easier – but not necessarily.
Miltos sees – and sees through – contexts, and makes demands both on himself and on the system in which he operates. He is incapable of doing anything only for himself. He is incapable of doing what others are doing or what has already been done. He is incapable of adjusting to any market or system. Which is the same thing as not making things easy for yourself.
That’s why Miltos needed Venice, just as Gustave Courbet needed the World Fair in Paris 1855. Venice confers status because it is a symbol of that which is accepted, of that which ‘the system’ has to offer.
Miltos was far from being the first artist to use the internet. On the contrary, there was a whole cadre of artists who launched so-called internet works at an early stage. Which created a sub-genre in the art world – technologically clever, but hardly art.
Miltos has never been interested in either technology or new forms of communication. But he has been interested in new patterns of behavior. Or not even that – his interest in the internet is an interest in what it symbolizes, or what it has symbolized. A symbol of something new – or something he could use as leverage against the structure he wants to mess with: the art world. A world which has consisted of and still consists of the selling of objects, pretty much as it did in Courbet’s day.
Miltos and I have been exchanging ideas about this for many years. We’ve managed to carry out a number of projects together. But we have planned even more. The most important of these had so far been stuck at the idea stage. But then the Venice Biennale turned up as an opportunity.
And that’s where we were now. A few blocks from the Academia. Or rather, where I was. Alone.
Miltos and I had been in contact almost on a daily basis over the past few months. We had spoken on the phone, but more than anything we‘d got used to sitting and talking for hours via Skype. It struck me that he might have hinted at something to do with his disappearance during our latest phone conversation. Just before hanging up he had mentioned, cryptically, that he might be undertaking ‘a secret journey’ before the opening of the Biennale. He hadn’t specified the destination. But we had quite a lot of work left to do. Not least Miltos. So I assumed that he had retreated to some farmhouse somewhere in Italy to work in peace and quiet.
But no. Three days passed. And no Miltos. When at last he stood there he was pretty exhausted. He’d lost weight. His cheeks were pale and drawn despite the tan. He didn’t say much about where he’d been or what he’d experienced. Instead he sat in the dark at S.A.L.E. with his computer, working hard and drinking Coca-Cola. He was fastidious about keeping regular mealtimes.
It wasn’t until the following afternoon that it emerged that he really had been on ‘a secret journey’. It was as if he wasn’t sure whether he dared tell me. Maybe he was afraid I’d think he was mad. At least that’s what I thought when at last I heard what he’d done.
We were sitting in a small café not far from S.A.L.E. Miltos ordered me coffee and Coca-Cola for himself. Then he began to speak, slowly. He said that he’d been to Egypt. He’d made his way down through the villages south of Israel. He’d spoken to nomads and conversed with priests. And finally he’d made his way to Mount Sinai. And there he had spent a few warm days and cold nights.
As a final preparation for the Internet Pavilion in Venice, Miltos Manetas had quite simply followed in Moses’ footsteps. No wonder he was reluctant to tell me about it. No wonder he was afraid I might think he was mad.
From "On Miltos, Moses and Marcel" by Jan Aman
I arrived in the UK on May 20th 2009. Only ten days were left for the opening of the Biennial, I should be doing some last duties in London and depart for Venice. But for some reason, I wouldn't buy my ticket, something inside me was telling me that I should be going somewhere else instead. But where?
As the Internet Pavilion was officially part of the Venice Biennial, the Italian Vogue had arranged an interview and photo-shoot at my studio in HighGate to be included in its traditional Biennial Issue of Uomo Vogue. The interview was conduced by Angela Maria Piga and as I was replying her questions, I had a revelation.
Angela Maria Piga:
Paul Vilirio has defined as Dromology the logic of Speed. Such Speed has alternate our perception of time as well as space: in some way, a monk of the Dark Ages, who would wander around the globe in conditions we can't even start imagining, was more conscious of geography and history that what we are today. As for communication, Internet was supposed to bring us closer, instead it only gave us permission to disappear, to isolate ourselves at home and to become more static than ever. Is this the desert you are talking about? A lonely person in front of a laptop, sending messages everywhere, looking at worlds he will never really come to know?
This is certainly another aspect of the desert: contemporary man's misery, the fact that we have become some kind of a puppet, cables hanging all around us, cables that are lose, disconnected. What really interests me though, is the metaphysical aspect of the desert, the desert intended as a place of learning and revelation. Remember Jesus? He also went to the desert and he spend a bit of time there.. If any contemporary prophet will ever show-up, he/she will be coming from the desert of the computer screens.
I never belied a God existed, I still don't. Its not a logic argument, I don't say that God "doesn't exist" or "God is dead" etc. I just know, that I never believed that "He exists". But to not believe in someone isn't a problem where you actually need Him. There was no way to come with a "New Internet" or a "SlowNet" in just ten days, there was no way to invent "another internet". But my wisdom for it was so very strong and also my desire to never again look at yet another computer screen...
I didn't believe that God exists, still, the very last time someone is reported received something from "Him" was in Sinai! Moses and his "Ten Commandments".. That's where I had to go and ask for the SlowNet. I checked EasyJet's flights and there was one flying to Sharm El Sheikh. From there Sinai was just a few hours by taxi.
I arrived at the Mt. Sinai on May 24, 2009.
Miltos really had climbed Mount Sinai. He had walked up the mountain. He had climbed it despite his fragile legs (he has a disease which makes his skeleton very brittle). Just as Moses had once climbed Mount Sinai to meet God and from his hand receive the stone tablets with the ten commandments, Miltos had now climbed it too. While Moses climbed, the people of Israel waited in their tents at the foot of the mountain. When Miltos made his way up the mountain, the ground below had been quiet and empty of people. His people were perhaps in Venice.
As Miltos described his journey, things got increasingly lively around us. It was as if the Venice Biennale actually got started as we sat there. People literally dropped in on us at the café: artists, journalists, curators. People we knew or who recognised us. They sat down and began to talk to us about what we were doing or about their own doings during the Biennale. They bought us wine. The conversations continued – conversations that became increasingly intense and increasingly devoid of meaning. Conversations that turned into dinners and parties. And soon enough openings and press conferences. Since the pirates were there, interest focused on them. Which was precisely our calculation. Everything went according to plan.
But we never had a chance to finish the conversation about Moses and Sinai. And it was never restarted again, either. As a result I have never really talked to Miltos about what happened on Mount Sinai. Or about what was going through his head when he undertook the journey. And we have not spoken a great deal since Venice.
When we started out, Miltos didn’t do what most other artists would have done. He didn’t set about making any new works. He wasn’t bothered with any works at all. Or even with contacting those it would have been interesting to include in a digital pavilion.
Neither did he speak to any sponsors. We decided to forget about all the things you usually build an exhibition with. Miltos, instead, headed for California. He was gone for a couple of weeks in order to meet with, as he described it, some of the pioneers of the internet.
That kicked off a journey, which is equivalent to a story. That’s why I knew that the pavilion – the physical space at S.A.L.E. which had been added at a late stage and was mostly a meeting point for the pirates, but also the virtual pavilion on the net – wasn’t the point of our adventure. Instead the story was. And it fitted this logic perfectly that Miltos should conclude by traveling to the mountain on which Moses received the laws for a new community.
I could never let go of that image of Miltos on Mount Sinai. What was he actually doing there? What did Moses have to do with the internet? And why go on this journey immediately before the opening of the first Internet pavilion at the Venice Biennale?
On the one hand it was obvious that he was poking fun at his own pretensions. But on the other it was equally obvious that he was serious. Moses and Venice. Internet and art. The ten commandments and the flow of the internet. The Doge of Venice and François Pinault. Gustave Courbet and the Venice Biennale 2009. Different quantities. In a way that could only bear Miltos Manetas’ signature, they’d been tied together.
The Internet pavilion was created for the Venice Biennale, but it was far from being a commission. Miltos Manetas had paid for our presence there out of his own pocket, just as Courbet had for his presence at the 1855 World Fair. I too had paid for my work and travel out of my own pocket. We hadn’t received a cent from sponsors or public purses. But we had received the Venice Biennale’s official approval – thanks to Daniel Birnbaum.
In order to fire up the discussion we started a dialogue early on with the people around the Pirate Bay. I have known Palle Torsson and Tobias Bernstrup for years, and I knew they were leading figures in Piratbyrån. They in turn contacted Rasmus Fleischer and Kristin Eketoft.
At this time – not quite six months ago – the Pirate Bay was an incredibly strong brand. The mere rumor of their presence in Venice reportedly got Rome (for which read Berlusconi) to phone and ask what was going on. It provoked a much-needed discussion in Venice, and the pirates’ attitude – collective, mischievous, outward-looking – was also much needed in Venice. We dragged in a virus that spread through the reception rooms and palazzi. A virus that released balloons at all the art parties, so that in the end the whole art world was dancing the pirate dance.
The pirates thereby also served as a form of distraction. They diverted attention from our digital pavilion. Which was exactly what we wanted. We could step back – and ponder what everything was really about.
From "On Miltos, Moses and Marcel" by Jan Aman
Arriving at Sinai it was already late. I asked the taxi driver where I could spend the night and he suggested "The Desert Fox Camp", located at a short walk's distance away from the Monastery of St. Catherine and right at the foot of the Mt. Sinai massif. Managed by Faraj "Fox" Mahmoud, the camp was a magic place and even more, for some reason, I happened to be their only guest!
"We are going to the desert to play some music" Faraj "Fox" Mahmoud, had told me as he was offering me some tea.
"Do you want to join us?"
Looking at him and his friends I could see they were all Beduin men. But there was also a female between them, a British girl, the wife of Faraj. "Beduin women aren't allowed to going around with men, they spend most of the day at home doing jobs. Because of the internet though, these women are today very well connected and they are actually controlling and managing everything from a distance." she told me .
I decide to join them and a while later, I found myself at a very lonely place in the middle of the desert. I watched the bedouins preparing the necessary for their improvised rave-party. They had with them their traditional shabbabas, a length of metal pipe fashioned into a sort of flute, and their rababas, a versatile, one-string violin. Soon all of these instruments were lying on the desert's floor as the men were installing a few huge speakers on the top of their Hyundai cars. Before start playing though, they produced their smartphones- they all had very contemporary smartphones supplied with strong internet connection.
"Network is not a problem, we have very good connection here in the desert" they told me, "A strong connection is necessary to share this moment with our people at home".
They start playing and singing and at the same time, they would Skype with their relatives and friends in Nuweiba. Their friends and relatives from the village, were Skyping back to us sounds and songs which my new friends would amplify through microphones they had brought with them for that purpose and send them to the speakers they had installed on the top of their cars. A long-distance connected improvisation was taking part in the desert, music arriving from everywhere, a mystical "Other Network" was established! Filled with amazement, I was paying no attention to the food that they offered to me and I consumed a large quantity of their bread. As I happened to be in a strict no-gluten diet for my Crohn's disease, I wake up the next day with a very strong fever.
"Can you please bring me to San Catherine?" I asked the Beduins. I knew that at this old Greek Orthodox monastery, build sometime around 548, there was a guesthouse and I figured that it would be a better place to recover than "Desert Fox Camp's" cold rooms made by concrete . I spent the next two days there, shivering and vomiting, with my only company a book I found there. It was a book about Moses and about his quest of pulling his Jew out of Egypt. I learned from this book, that after Moses returned from his first visit at the Holly Mountain, he put 3000 people-some of them children- to their death for worshiping a new God-the Golden Calf .
“Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men” (Exodus 32:26-28).
In his anger, Moses also broke the Commandment Tablets that God had given him... Only later, when his good God gave him two extra tablets- to replace the ones that he had smashed- the Commandments were finally given to the Jew.
I had no idea-at that point- what to do with that information.. I didn't care about Moses, I just wanted to check if I could have from God- if He even existed- a new internet to bring to the Venice Biennial. At that point, my collaborators and guests have already arrived in Venice and I kept receiving messages asking where I was, what was to be done, where shall we meet for dinner etc.
" I am here but I am very busy" - I would wrote back- I still need to be meeting the sponsors and with the people of the Biennial, I will contact you tomorrow..
I also received a message from the administrators of the Venice Biennial who wanted to make sure that the PirateBay wasn't anymore involved with our Pavilion.
"Of course they are NOT", I would write back, "we will not hosting any pirates, we will be hosting only artists". The theme of the Internet Pavilion of this year, is "The Second Wave of Internet"- I lied- "its all about Digital Art and New Media culture, nothing really offensive, just art.."
It was all part of a benign lie, before leaving London, I had received an invitation by "S.A.L.E, Magazzini del Sale", an alternative space located at Dorsoduro, near the Fondamenta delle Zattere, overlooking the Canale della Giudecca. S.A.L.E was occupied over by a group of anarchists and social agitators headed by Marco Baravalle, a friend of my friend curator Riccardo Lisi. Ricardo had talked to Marco about the Internet Pavilion and about the Pirates of thePirateBay.org and Marco had offered to host everyone at S.A.L.E.
I had a very clear idea about the fact that the Internet Pavilion should NOT occupy any physical space at all but I accepted that offer, it was the only way to involve the Pirates and realize their "Embassy of Piracy" without getting sued by the Venice Biennial and the Berlusconi Government. To make things look even more convincing, I had put together- at the very last moment- a virtual exhibition called "New Wave of Internet Art".
A number of second-generation internet artists such as Petra Cortright, Martijn Hendriks, Harm Van den Dorpel, Sinem Erkas, Elna Frederick, Parker Ito, Oliver Laric, Guthrie Lonergan, Rafael Rozendaal and Pascual Sisto, Scott Kildall, Nathaniel Stern, Aleksandra Domanovic were included in that show, all of them totally unknown to the Art Worlds back in 2009..
Finally, I had arranged for a performance of the "Network of Love"- the latest work by AIDS-3D.
Now, after learning that there was a physical location in Venice, all these artists were getting excited and many of them decided to "bring their own beamers" to Venice and to showcase that way their work...
I wasn't paying that much attention to them at that point, I was thinking that - once in Venice- I would calm them down and I would convince them that the Internet Pavilion should have its presence only online.
I was wrong..
And the question remains, what was Miltos Manetas doing on Mount Sinai?
The image of God’s hands reaching down through the clouds to the lone Moses on top of Mount Sinai is etched in the minds of most of us since childhood. Few symbols – even in the symbol-laden Bible – are as powerful. Moses was given a slice of eternity. God’s words were hardly meant as a temporary solution. And when Moses descended from the mountain and showed the stone tablets to the people there were no suggestions for alterations. The commandments were carved in stone.
That puts things in perspective. The eternal truth in relation to art and the internet. The internet, after all, is supposed to be anything but the lonely prophet’s encounter with God. The internet is the myth of the borderless and limitless. But also the myth of the new, waiting for its laws to be formulated. We don’t yet know how it will be. But we do know that large numbers of the world’s population suddenly spend much of their time in front of computer screens. That’s where we meet. Not in church. Not in museums. Not in the square or the shopping mall.
The internet makes it possible for everything digital to be copied, and therefore to be processed and altered. That’s why Miltos Manetas’ view is that we are all of us – at least all of us who have computers – pirates. It’s not about stealing. In a digitalized world we no longer act the way we used to. There are no blank sheets of paper. We are working from previously existing material. We borrow, adapt and append.
The ten commandments are the very opposite of this: no-one would even think of altering or adapting the word of God.
And here, I think, is the crux of the matter.
From "On Miltos, Moses and Marcel" by Jan Aman
I never made it to the top of the mountain.. I was too tired, too exhausted from the fever, too worn out from my quest for an Other Internet Pavilion. I just made it half-way up, in the company of a beduin teenager who actually teached me one or two things to me (but that's a whole other story, the beginning of "Metascreen" that I start realizing only a year later).
I never met a God and never brought to the Venice Biennial the peculiar internet that Dr. Kleinrock was dreaming when he was a teenager himself.
I had fled from Egypt to Italy with empty hands, went straight to Fondamenta delle Zattere, straight to the Magazzini del Sale. The Pirates from the PirateBay.org were all there and sure enough, they had put on the "Embassy of Piracy" already!
Every morning, the anarchists of "Magazzini", would share their boats with them and they would go around all of them armed with Pirate flags, singing the beautiful "Pirates of the Internet" song, fighting copyright and intellectual property in front of a completely uninterested art crowd.
The artists that I had invited, were there too, they had installed their beamers and they were projecting their websites in a- somewhat pathetic but sweet- improvised installation that I believe inspired Rafael Rozendaal's BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) future operations.
Nothing of all that looked particularly good- it wasn't the Internet Pavilion I was dreaming. But I was too weak to argue with the artists and to try to convince them to turn off their projectors and trust the internet instead...
In the middle of Magazzini stood the skeleton of "PAGES", the Internet Space-turned-into-Place that Christian Wassmann had promised. It didn't looked good, somewhere in the conversion, Wassmann's beautiful idea had lost its proportion and its magic and had become just another furniture.
It wasn't Christian's fault though, it was simply the way things are in a world dominated by gravity..
I don't think that Le Corbusier's Phillips Pavilion looked that great in real either. What's important, is keep searching for what Wassmann calls "Excess Material", stuff that nobody is trying to create, nobody thinks is necessary, still it exists!
At my very last day in Venice, after a photo-shoot at Magazzini for While Dazed & Confussed, while Dazed's photographer Matthew Stone was packing away his cameras, I watched as Rafael Rozendaal was jumping to the dirty waters of the Giudecca. For a second, I saw him suspended over the edge of the water, a temporary human sculpture, the final artwork that was produced by the First Internet Pavilion. Matthew Stone-the photographer- also turned to look and as he turned, fired the trigger of his camera: a snapshot of the moment was frozen onto the wall of Digital-a reminder that gravity can be avoided.
From "On Miltos, Moses and Marcel" by Jan Aman
Miltos Manetas is sometimes regarded as a painter. But he’s no ordinary painter. He’s a painter in the same way that Andy Warhol was, beginning by distancing himself from painting as a form of expression. (But with time Manetas – just like Warhol – has developed a sensitivity for the technique itself, something he prefers not to talk about.) In theory, Manetas paints for the same two reasons Warhol did: it gives easy repute in the art salons and it provides the means for continuing the real quest.
But Manetas doesn’t paint the same things Warhol did. He doesn’t do portraits of famous people, as was possible to do in Warhol’s time. Manetas doesn’t paint any Marilyns or Mick Jaggers. He doesn’t accept commissions from famous people. Neither does he paint road accidents from newspaper cuttings. Today we are beyond media and fame.
Miltos Manetas paints that which distinguishes our time from all other times. He paints cables and computers. He paints GPS screens and games consoles. He paints the things that serve as a membrane between a physical reality and a virtual one. And he does so as if to show the way to his real quest: the sensibility that exists on the other side. The sensibility which lies beyond painting, beyond art – and which has come about through something very much of our era: the internet.
In this, Manetas is really more like Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp didn’t understand repetition. He couldn’t bear the thought of doing the same thing over again. Neither did Duchamp understand art as a means of support. For him, the need for money was a sure route to mediocrity, which was why he could claim that “what we call the Louvre, the Prado, the National Gallery are collection points for mediocrity”.
Duchamp sought the esoteric in art. He sought a conversation that dealt with neither utility nor money. And at the same time he couldn’t resist the opportunity of teasing those who didn’t see the problem. It was his view that the conversation had disappeared from art already with the impressionists, when people started investing in styles, “buying art like they buy spaghetti”.
What Duchamp showed was that a mass-produced object could produce more originality than all paintings taken together. The originality didn’t reside in the fact that the person who had created the work had actually daubed the paint on the canvas, but in the fact that it contained an original thought. The thought was more important than the execution. Art had become industrial. Duchamp brought it back to Moses.
Today, we’ve gone from objects via spaces to ever bigger contexts, simply because that’s the way the world has gone. We’re global and we’re digital. We don’t have just one statement to relate to – we have millions. We have different systems of statements. Object has become structure.
But the art world remains, and it is a world based on old objects. Sure, there are artists who poke fun at the system, but that’s usually in order to get a smile and acceptance from the very same system. Few have done it as emphatically as Miltos Manetas, precisely because he’s dealing with the really big loops: the internet, pirates, Moses, Courbet, art after art.
Back in 2000, Miltos Manetas flipped open a laptop at the Gagosian Gallery in New York and, before a crowded room, let the computer express the word for the new art: ‘NEEN’. He claimed that the new technology was actually a new way of being, a new sensibility. People didn’t understand. Was this guy nuts? But a couple of those whom Miltos anointed "stars" are now becoming the Braque and Picasso of internet art. And Miltos’ own investigation goes on. This time in Venice.
On our last night in Venice we went to the Palazzo Grazzi. Late at night. L’Uomo Vogue was throwing a party. ‘Everybody’ was there. Miltos and I stood on the third floor talking to Angela Maria Piga and Paolo Colombo, always nice and charming. There were some boring paintings by Richard Prince in a room next door. We talked about Venice. About the biennale. About art. And about time. Other people joined in.
After a while I left the group. I slipped out into the night. Into a city that was absolutely quiet. No movement. It had rained in the heat, and the alleys shone like silver in the night. I put my telephone up and took some snap-shots. The streets, the sky and the houses merged together on the little screen. It made me think of Joseph Brodsky. He once described the sensation in Venice of the sky and the ground coalescing. And from Brodsky my thoughts went to my conversation with Miltos in the café, when he started talking about Mount Sinai and Moses. And that he had to undertake that ‘secret journey’ before coming to Venice.
When Miltos had first called me to talk about the biennal he couldn’t stop mentioning Courbet. During the process he added other figures. He undertook a journey to end up with Moses.
And there I was. In a city where Walt Disney somehow stands face to face with Giovanni Bellini. I got to the top of the Rialto. Canale Grande was a perfect mirror. I suddenly smiled at the realization: what Miltos had done was simply to show a slice of history. Exhibitions might be history. Art as well. But the tasks are still the same. Miltos painted the big picture.
From "On Miltos, Moses and Marcel" by Jan Aman
A couple of weeks later, the Pirate Bay temporarily renamed itself the Persian Bay - installing proxy servers and many other elements designed to help the preservation of the internet and free communication in Iran - well, then it was obvious. The "Embassy of Piracy", the pirates, and a whole generation of internet users are digging into and even changing reality. For me, getting a glimpse of the pirate generation has been a learning experience - the world truly is changing and big things are at stake. We are at a crucial moment. The pirates are confronting it all, they are not letting reality down. They act. And they do so with a smile.
So, the Padiglione Internet has only just begun. The other entities, the internet shows on this site, the AIDS3D performance, the stuff that will be added during summer and up until the closing of the Venice Biennale, will all add to the story, forming a real allegory of today - Palle, Kristin and Tobias of the Pirate Bay... laughing; Daniel Birnbaum smiling, the board of directors behind him, worried; François Pinault (art collector) as the new Walt Disney of Venice; Joseph Brodsky; Jay Jopling in a boat taxi; the people in Iran... and, in the middle, the artist, still alone, with a desert of black screens and the sound of an ever-changing wind.
Jan Aman, PADIGLIONE INTERNET: Some Simple Starting Points
(1)The Phillips Pavilion was commissioned by Philips Electronics in 1956, the Pavilion wasn't supposed to display any commercial goods but showcase electronic technology in as many forms as possible. It had to serve the Arts and the improvement of humankind. Le Corbusier, who was enthusiastic about the idea, wrote "I will not make a pavilion but an Electronic Poem and a vessel containing the poem; light, color image, rhythm and sound joined together in an organic synthesis."