This exhibition pays homage to the screensaver

Rafaël Rozendaal breathes new life into the digital discipline.  


On a venture to highlight the art of the screensaver, Rafaël Rozendaal—together with Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam—has unveiled an exhibition paying homage to the digital art of the last century. In Sleep Mode, Rozendaal presents the computer-generated digital creations we all know too well in an installation setting, in order to “let the work shine”. Glamcult chatted to the artist about the challenges of using the Internet as his medium and why screensavers are such an important art form. “These strange moving images are dreamy and innocent.”

What inspired you to shine a light on the art of screensavers and those (unsung) artists who created them? 

Screensavers are a strange kind of software; they have a slight functionality (saving your screen from burn-in), but other than that it’s very open. These strange moving images are dreamy and innocent. The makers often were not artists but programmers, who would make a screensaver on their Friday afternoon, when they were no longer coding the operating system’s core functionalities. Screensavers represent the brain in a relaxed state, the programmer being relaxed, and the viewer being relaxed. It’s very unpretentious.

Screensaver BSOD

Your work resides somewhere between painting and animation. Where and how was this artistic direction born?

When I was growing up I would always draw and paint but I also made stop-motion videos with the family’s VHS camera. I think it was a logical merging of those two activities; the computer liberated me, it felt very fast and free from history. The Internet felt even more liberating; I could reach my audience directly without the need for any middlemen.

This exhibition is created with installation work. For those who cannot see it in real life, how do you transform your online works into spatial experiences? 

In Sleep Mode, we made the installation as simple as possible, to let the works shine. 27 screensavers are projected, each 2 x 3 meters. We added a shiny black floor for maximum impact. 

Although we live in a digital age, the Internet is rarely used as a canvas for artists. Why is it you (often) use the Internet as your medium and do you think more artists should do this? 

I think most artists have a hard time working with the browser as a material. It’s not easy; I can’t do it either, so I have to work with a programmer. I also think most artists are very careful about the context of their work, and the Internet is a big open mess.

Screensaver Underwater, 1998 © Unknown _ Windows ‘95

Sleep Mode: The Art of the Screensaver

27 January until 25 June


Words by Lottie Hodson

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