[#DIGART] Rafaël Rozendaal On The Magic And Value Of Domain Names

[#DIGART] Rafaël Rozendaal On The Magic And Value Of Domain Names

This week we’re exploring the Digital Arts Market (or lack thereof). We’re asking the tough questions: What will it take for a sustainable digital arts market to form? Is that even a possibility? Can the digital arts make money? And will they ever be incorporated into the contemporary arts dialogue? We invite you to participate in the discussion in the comments section, on your own blog (send us the link!), and on Facebook and Twitter (#DIGART). Let’s get the conversation started!

I sell websites for a living. They are not very useful. They are artworks. I create moving and interactive images that each exist in their own domain names. These domain names are the titles of the works, and at the same time they are their location.

I started using domain names because I felt files are just files. Files are great but they are about as valuable as a drop of water in the middle of the ocean. The files felt more finished in a domain name. Suddenly it’s not just a file, it’s a website.

Much like web startups, artists start by building an audience first and then figure out the money part. To create value, you need scarcity. It is a strange thing. There is finally an infrastructure that can create infinite copies. But, to make money, you have to limit access to those files. You have to limit the very nature of a system in order to create value. This can be a paywall, a serial number, DRM, or rental of a streaming file. There are a lot of possibilities and they all have their pros and cons.

Jello Time .com (2007), collection of Sébastien de Ganay

I present my works out in the open. Anyone can visit the artworks for free. You summon the work with a magic spell (title-of-the-work-.com) and there it is, it appears right in front of you any time, any place. Amazing!

The nice thing about domain names is that they actually are scarce. It is a challenge to find a good .com because so many are taken. These limits result in strange names like Tumblr and Flickr. For me, it means I have to adapt my titles to what is available. These limits create the titles just as much as I do. But when you do find a good one, no one can take it from you. The domain is yours.

Unlike The Rest .com (2007)

In business, good domain names are traded for a lot of money. So why not in art? Domain names are valuable, and they can create value for digital art. They are truly unique and can’t be forged. If you have it, it’s yours. It is just like owning a vanity telephone number.

Collectors are used to exclusivity—you buy a precious object and guard it safely behind closed doors. But buying a website is a public affair. You buy an artwork, and the more people that see it, the better. It’s like having a party and the whole world is invited.

I sell my websites with a contract. The contract states that the website has to remain public. That is the nature of the work. When bought, the domain name is transferred to the collector and the name of the collector is mentioned in the title bar of the website.

Into Time .com (2010), collection of Nur Abbas

I made the contract available for download at artwebsitesalescontract.com. I hope that this document helps artists and collectors to buy and sell artwork online. I am not going to tell you that websites are better than paintings or sculptures. But there is one important benefit that the internet has over traditional art: it connects artists directly to an audience. If you make something amazing, people will find it. It puts more power in the hands of artists and less power for institutions and galleries. I hope that this will have a profound effect on the elitist tendencies of the art world.

Rafaël Rozendaal is a Dutch-Brazilian everywhere-based visual artist and founder of the DIY curatorial platform BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer). He creates artistic mobile app experiences and uses the internet as his canvas and gallery, building colorful and interactive works that lie somewhere in the space between animation and digital painting. Check out his Creator profile to learn more about his work and his brand new art project, Inner Doubts .com.

Inner Doubts .com (2012)