In Conversation with Rafaël Rozendaal on Endless Nameless cover photo


In Conversation with Rafaël Rozendaal on Endless Nameless

by Jeff Davis

Rafaël Rozendaal is an artist who works with systems, exploring colors and emotions in various media, from digital to physical. He’s known for making websites-as-artworks and using domain names as the authentication of his digital art since 2001. I had the pleasure of speaking with Rafaël about his artistic journey and upcoming Art Blocks project Endless Nameless.
Jeff Davis: Hi Rafaël! It’s great to speak with you. I always like to start from the beginning, how did you first get into making art?
Rafaël Rozendaal: Both my parents are artists, so I was always exposed to art, and we had lots of materials in the house to experiment with. I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. Drawing has always been the center of my work, it’s a way for me to “think visually.”
Trouble in Paradise at Kunsthal_Rotterdam-2019_Job Janssen-Jan Adriaans.jpeg
Rafaël Rozendaal, Trouble in Paradise at Kunsthal, Rotterdam, 2019. Photo by Job Janssen & Jan Adriaans.
JD: When did you start pursuing digital art?
RR: I started making stop motion videos around 1994, with Legos and a VHS camera, and started drawing on the computer around 1996. I experimented with video but also traditional materials ... paint, silkscreen, stone, clay, wood. Art school was great to have the freedom to explore for 4 years. Around my second year we were learning about different animation software and the basics of making websites. I was very excited about being able to make work and share it with the rest of the world. I posted my first online experiments in 1999.
Freedom of Movement-Stedelijk Museum-Amsterdam-2018_Peter Nijhuis.jpeg
Rafaël Rozendaal, Freedom of Movement, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2018. Photo by Peter Nijhuis.
JD: How do you feel your creative practice has evolved over time?
RR: For about 12 years my practice was mostly digital (2000–2012). After that, I started to expand to lenticular prints, textile works, installations and books, but I always continued to make digital works. I see no difference really, it’s great to jump between different materials and spaces and apply the same logic in a different context. I treat every opportunity as an environment to test an idea.
Rafaël Rozendaal, Generosity, 2018.  ‍
Rafaël Rozendaal, Generosity, Towada Art Center, Aomori, Japan, 2018. Photo by Kuniya Oyamada.
JD: I know you’ve exhibited your work widely, any recent shows you’d like to share?
RR: I just opened an exhibition in Tokyo at Takuro Someya Gallery. It’s a series of digital drawings that have been realized in enamel signs and colored mirrors. After that, I have an exhibition of purely digital work at Site Gallery in Sheffield UK. It will be a large scale installation of recent digital works. Imagine a huge room filled with projections.
JD: And then how did you discover NFTs/crypto art?
RR: I heard about it first from Kevin McCoy, who invented the whole thing. I was not so sure about it in the beginning, because I had my own system: single serving websites, each artwork in its own domain name. I was hesitant to make the leap to NFTs, but after many friends suggested it, I thought, let’s try it. It has been going very well much to my surprise. It has given me a lot of energy and excitement.
Discrete Objects_Upstream Gallery-Amsterdam-2019_Gert-Jan van Rooij.jpeg
Rafaël Rozendaal, Discrete Objects, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, 2019. Photo by Gert-Jan van Rooij.
JD: That’s great, I think it’s important for artists to continue to explore new territory. Alright, let’s talk Art Blocks. How do you see Endless Nameless as connecting to your current artistic practice?
RR: I have always worked with generative code in single works, but this is the first time that I’m using the code to create an edition of 1000 units. I think it’s a great way to make the idea of algorithmic images tangible. Audiences have a hard time understanding why generative moving images are different from video and showing permutations of a script makes it easier to grasp…hopefully.
JD: What should collectors look for in your project as the series is revealed?
RR: Endless Nameless is an analysis of composition. Just like notes in a piece of music guide your ears, visual elements in an artwork guide your eyes. I hope that this project will make collectors look at this group of works intently and start seeing why small decisions make a big difference. Why does one appeal more to you than another? That’s the biggest mystery to me.
Rafaël Rozendaal, Endless Nameless #0, 2021.
JD: Yes, looking forward to seeing everything that comes out the minter! Anything else people should know to better understand your art?
RR: I think art should not be understood. It should be stared at with the least amount of thinking possible.
JD: You can follow Rafaël’s work on Instagram, Twitter, and his website, preferably in that order.

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