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March 6th. 2002: Interview with Miltos Manetas

[March 6th. 2002]

Miltos Manetas

"Great artists are cleaning ladies"
Interview with Miltos Manetas
Miltos Manetas is the pioneer, who believes great artists are cleaning ladies. Manetas is born in Athens, has studied in Milan and now lives and works in L.A. In this mail interview he explains about the art movement Neen, the project Electronic Orphanage and his present work with — a new project that opens March 7th along with the real Biennial at The Whitney in New York City. By Kristine Ploug, Jan Johansen and Line Rosenvinge.

You are an 'original artist'. Do you know much about art?
Not really: some recent stories (from Manet to Vanessa Beecroft) and some confused information I have by looking at pictures at the museums.

What is Neen?
Neen is a state of mind in a digital world. It’s also an art movement and a movement of ideas. Social Neen ( is against intellectual property and pro open source and many other things. It's under construction.

It started in May 2000 when we commissioned the name at Lexicon Branding (the company that made Powerbook and Pentium ) and they delivered Neen - a word created by a computer program. In old Greek it means exactly now, not a second later which is significant because it obliges to reconstruct your self as often as possible.

Miltos Manetas (to the left).

So Neen is more than a word, more than a surface?
A word is a surface, a platform and an excuse to change the state of things. Not because things are any bad but because there is not much else to do in a comfortable world.

Most of your texts end with a 'to be continued'. Why?
See, things today have only present. Yesterday's reality is just literature. We have to build a way of functioning with that in consideration.

The Neen-Manifesto remains dated 2000, however, it is continuously updated. Why don´t you change the date?
I forgot...

Miltos ManetasMiltos Manetas
(left) Miltos Manetas: Cables on the floor , 1999 Oil on canvas.
(right) Miltos Manetas: Madonna and Child, 1998 Oil on canvas.

Why is it sufficient to know a word but not its content? Person of the Month of November is Jeffrey Deitch for FFF (Form Follows Fiction). FFF is a concept, a book and a show. You prefer to experience the three letters FFF only?!?
Yes, I believe in words more than what I believe in concepts, books or exhibitions. I cannot explain that now. Maybe later...

You are known to say that knowledge slows us down. How do you avoid accumulating knowledge in modern times?
I don't know about that: it is like asking a keyboard if typing is slowing
it down. The only thing a keyboard knows is keystrokes.

What is your new site going to be about? is a website and an exhibition that will open in sync with the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Twenty U-Haul trucks with their back door open and transformed to a screen (we will install a computer and a projector inside each of them) and will circle around the Whitney Museum for the two nights of the Whitney Party and for the day of the opening. Think of Mondrian's Boogie Woogie activated. It will be a super parasite: a snake against a cow. A cow, as well as the institutional show, is large, slow and shortsighted, instead a snake is fast, clever and experimental.

The, will be an adventure: the most important international artists - but also designers, internet geniuses and architects, are invited to contribute a short Flash piece (30 sec max) to a collective Flash animation. It can be either an artwork or their logo. Film previews are today usually better than the actual films: the will be a collage of previews: an aesthetic manifesto for our times.

Miltos ManetasMiltos Manetas
(left) Miltos Manetas: Cables and Legs, 1998 Oil on canvas.
(right) Miltos Manetas: Paulina on table, 1999 Oil on canvas.

Why will they all do a Flash animation?
It is an experiment. We believe that as Peter Lunenfeld writes at the KLM theory, "Flash is today's Pop". In fact, Flash is an easy technology which lets you draw a cartoon or a logo, animate it and even make it interactive. The user will click on it and the cartoon (or logo) will reply. It brings together all other forms of art such as photography, written text, movies and drawing in such a way that makes contemporary art of the past century look like a proud grandfather. Flash is, again according to Mr. Lunenfeld, "PoliTech, the irrepressible joy and lightness of being digital after the boom economy has gone bust." It is also scalable, that means that you can display it on different dimensions without any loss of quality. With very little budget and in a short time, you can do something that looks better than any "art video". It relates to real space as well as it relates to the Internet and substitutes any need for heavy duty art installations. The only thing that you cannot do with Flash is to put a dead cow in a glass box, but who does want to do that anymore? opens at the same date as the biennial at Whitney Museum of American Art. You compare your site to a snake and Whitneys Biennial to a cow. Do you care to elaborate more on the difference between the two (Whitney has a history of also doing along with their tangible art).
Fuck the Whitney's selection. What a museum selects is not important. What is important is what artists and the theoreticians who work close to them are selecting. Nobody wants to go visit AOL's art section. Institutions are cultural AOL.

What is the Electronic Orphanage (EO)?
Here is the plan for the EO: EO is a sore front in Los Angeles, at Chung King Road. This is a pedestrian street, hosting the best young art galleries and designers. I opened EO in February 2002. It's a black cube, where a large screen is left white for projections. When the galleries in the street have openings, EO is showing a piece, commissioned for the occasion. The rest of the time, it´s a studio where people (the Orphans) are "working" on Neen and Screen ideas. We are planning to open soon an EO in Shanghai, China and Goa, India. People will travel between the different locations.

Here are the EO basics:

1.The space is visible only from the outside, the public is not allowed inside. (EO is not a gallery. It shouldn't even be a space but...)

2. People are hired. Their job is Computer Safari.

4. Nothing is required from them other than a demonstration of "Screen Intelligence". They may be able to design a great website, invent a new word, play a videogame or they may just find an interesting website and display it. The less their effort, the more they will get paid. "Work" is not encouraged.

5. The space of the EO is a demo room. Selected guests will show "stuff". These projections are not intended as "art " but some may become art later. Boring or very conceptual pieces are not welcome. Who decides what is boring is myself and my friends.

6. Nothing is for sale and everything that is produced in the EO is copyright free.

7. EO is not oriented towards education, everybody has already enough of that.

7a. And of course, we are not "designers".

8. EO stays on a borderline in between private and public. Example: a writer is invited to come and write his book on the EO and get paid while he does that. He can project his text, for everybody to see. EO is indented as a "view over the shoulders".

9. Hardware and software in the EO must be the "top of the line" quality.

10. Creativity is welcome but not required. Style instead, yes.

11. EO is "on" all day and all night 7/24. Everything that happens on the EO screens, can be seen on the Web (not yet ready).

12. Even if the real world hosts EO at the Los Angeles Chinatown, this location is random. EO will soon open at Shanghai, China and at Goa India. The location is not important.

13. People inside the EO are welcome to behave like Avatars. (The Avatar Behavior is not yet mapped)

Miltos ManetasMiltos Manetas
(left) Miltos Manetas: Christine on Playstation, 1999 Oil on canvas.
(right) Miltos Manetas: Levis with cables, Oil on canvas.

What happened at the 'situation'you created at Deitch Project in NYC in the beginning of November 2002?
There was a wire, separating the people that were involved with the show and their friends/guests from the regular public. They could all look at the same large projection of the ( works. There was a lot of discussion. Here are all details:

What is the connection between your tangible work and your digital work? - What do you add to the experience of hardware by painting it?
It's again classic. By painting something, you cancel it. Great artists are not really artists but cleaning ladies: they remove sense from forms (because forms invite our brain with their sense) and they do that by creating new sense around forms. It's the same job a cleaning lady does with trash: she collects it from different places in a room and makes a pile in a corner. Ultimately, everything gets thrown away and we can go on.

Miltos ManetasMiltos Manetas
(left) Miltos Manetas: PlayStation with Nike Shoes, 1998 Oil on canvas.
(right) Miltos Manetas: RGB, 1998 Oil on canvas.

Is copy-paste the new aesthetic?
It's a classic aesthetic, it has been used by everybody (the Greeks, the Romans etc). The new aesthetic is an updated use of copy-paste: a magnification of the identity value that's included in your copy-paste without much effort, virtually none. I dream of a time when people will do their artwork themselves because it will be a pertinent work for them to do and you will have to do nothing else than enjoy the credits. The best artists will be the ones whose projects voice a larger frame of possibilities and who are working less.

Many of your projects are dedicated to other persons or directly linked to their projects. Is this a conscious strategy, and why is it so?
People are ideas. When I link to them, I feel as building a new machine. I don't even see any personality in people anymore. Just floating ideas.

What do you achieve from online networking?
I don't know yet, I don't really care. I do it because I have a lot of time to spend.

What do you lose from online networking?
There is nothing to lose (and nothing really to gain...)

Please recommend three places to go on the Internet (other than those you yourself are involved with)...

1. Design:
2. Mirror:

More Manetas...
EO curated the internet section of the Tirana Biennial. See more here:


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