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Are Websites Valid Art Objects?

Greek painter and multimedia artist Miltos Manetas believes “websites are today’s most radical and important art objects,” as he explains in-depth in the online essay, “Websites Are The Art Of Our Times”.

In 2002, he took radical action in support of digital artists, opening up an internet show, along with writer Peter Lunenfeld, to coincide with the Whitney Biennial. The duo bought the domain www.whitneybiennial.com and expressed plans to rent 23 U-haul trucks that would surround the museum on the night of the opening and have the web art projected inside as a kind of mobile, guerrilla art installation. The performance piece never took off for various reasons, but the potential event was highly publicized. Though the conceptual project singles out the Whitney in its critique, the idea was never meant to take aim at the Whitney specifically. Rather, Manetas’ goal was to use the biennial as a platform for championing his idea of art.

Whitneybiennial.com is set up much like a traditional gallery, except instead of showcasing static paintings or sculptures, the focus is on artworks called “neens,” or single-serving websites, composed of a single page with a registered domain that only do or display one thing.

The term “neens,” coined by Manetas in 2000 (itself the product of another art project called “Name for Art”), is a frame of mind “that offers you the metaphysical suspense of a painting,” Manetas explains lyrically in the above mentioned essay. The term “neen” is not recognized across the board as a true noun for single-serving websites, but as fans of specialized terminology and advocates of creative wordsmithing, we applaud Manetas’ attempt at classifying this underappreciated and fascinating body of work modern day “public art.”

Manetas’ website Superneen.com is a vast resource for these type of artworks, and includes works from other “neenstars” like Rafael Rozendaal, Angelo Plessas, and Parker Ito, among others. The slideshow above includes screen shots of some of our favorite “neens” curated by Manetas, but we encourage you to visit each one for yourself to get the full experience.

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