Born on the Internet

How should you exhibit art in virtual reality? Manuel Minch is a Spanish web artist, researcher, and curator of the online exhibition space Internet Moon Gallery. The moon based web gallery was one of three selected projects for the second call for web residencies on the topic »Re-entering the Ultimate Display,« curated by Mario Doulis. In an interview, Manuel talks about his background and the development of the idea of creating an exhibition platform for digital art.

Judith Engel: How did the idea for the Internet Moon Gallery start?

Manuel Minch: Internet Moon Gallery was born on the Internet from the needs and research of the new horizons of new media. I believe the Internet has passed its adolescence; old users have learned to handle the interfaces, young users develop its growth with these tools, and big companies are establishing routines for the user during normal browsing. Now, the Internet is the Internet. It’s necessary to rethink this medium and generate some perspective on it. I also wanted to connect with the outside, create through the network, and meet great artists from around the world who would help me to build on this social moment.

JE: What is the concept of the internet Moon Gallery and what is new about it as opposed to the concept of »old galleries?«

MM: Art galleries are ingrained in tradition, and therefore it’s a way to display art too. As far as intangible art is concerned, most museums, and galleries have been limited to exhibit this kind of art through screens or projections arranged in exhibition halls. In my point of view this exhibition model is improvable. While observing an intangible piece in an exhibition space, the first wall that we meet is the interface where the art piece is. I think this causes 
undervaluation at the moment of perceiving the piece. It is not the same case as artists who are playing with space in order to generate an environment that serves as a physical interface to display digital content in the right mode.
Internet Moon Gallery is interested in the intimacy of the home during daily web browsing. When the user is surfing on the Internet, their eyes focus on the inside, forgetting the framework provided by the screen. I think this moment is more effective to show intangible pieces. As I said, I think we are passing the adolescence of the Internet, and mass media, virtual reality, augmented reality, and 360, among others make it possible to make approximations of a new type of Internet that works by establishing relations with space and human codes.
In short, I think that Internet Moon Gallery could be considered an additional contribution to make searches for new exhibition models that suit the needs of these types of pieces generated after Internet culture possible.

JE: The aesthetics of the Internet Moon Gallery look like they are heavily influenced by the ’90s. What was your intention behind that? Is this digitally nostalgic design connected to the idea of »Re-entering the Ultimate display?«

MM: Internet also has its history. So it’s normal that these codes are nostalgic for those who have lived through their development.
During the ’90s, many evolutions and myths were generated. Science fiction, as a destination for scientific research, has created an imagery that is currently developing and being researched. These aesthetics represent this, but also represent how to re-enter these concepts, and create questions about what we can do with them to suit our current needs.

JE: The Internet Moon Gallery and the YouTube videos one can find about the history of the Internet Moon Gallery seem to be an ironic and humorous perspective on the Internet and on the aesthetics of its very beginnings.
What role does humor and irony play in your work?

MM: The aesthetics that I have used for Internet Moon Gallery integrate elements that refer to influences of the early Internet, but also to the process and development until now. I like the idea of integrating significant elements of the Internet’s evolution to generate awareness of the medium itself. You need to be funny if you don’t want to bore the people. The Internet is full of information, and we need to know how to attract people. For example, most people scroll without stopping or can’t watch a five-minute video without sound. These are examples of meme culture. In my opinion, we need to adapt ourselves to these accommodation processes if we really want to establish a full communication with the user.

JE: Why is it important that the gallery is placed on the moon?

MM: The moon and outer space has always been tied to abstraction. Actually, the architectural environment of cities surround our perception. Natural cycles, the sky, and the space keep us connected with these natural relationships. The moon has always been a subject of the unknown: its hidden face, the arrival of man … These issues interest me. But what I found interesting about the moon is the »buildable« surface,generating content on this space and getting away from the Earth to get a perspective of what happens on it.
At the same time, I was interested in using a physical interface to establish relationships between physical space and intangible gallery space and in making a relation to the times, spaces, and concepts established by nature with the IMG virtual area. The exhibition calendar is a good example: When you look at the sky and the moon is new or there is a full moon, it means that a new exhibition is available on the gallery .

JE: How is an exhibition in the Internet Moon Gallery set up? Do you have to transform the art works you receive into 360 view? And how do you curate the gallery?

MM: The Internet is full of images … This is the reason why I’m not interested in fixing images on the web. I don’t think that the important thing is to convert images into 360. I felt that if I wanted to create a good communication of the pieces, I had to work hand-in-hand with the artist in creating and developing an environment that would be adequate for the content.

Therefore, the way of working that interests me is to contact through social networks artists who generate representative pieces of this close social time. I am currently reconsidering exhibiting only pieces created in the same year of the exhibition. This is because Internet Moon Gallery wants to publish an annual magazine with the exhibited areas during that same year, serving as a document to understand the progress and ways of creation configured by Internet culture.
I have to say that the contact with artists is not always easy. Sometimes, I don’t have enough time to contact all the artists that interest me.
Luckily Solaine Mouet, Alvaro Porras, and Guillermo Enforma help me and provide interesting contacts. However, I love opening the mail and finding all kinds of proposals. The Internet is pure communication and this can serve to generate fascinating things.

»PNG zone«, Installation, Manuel Minch, 2016
»No video available, reinterpretation of John Cage, 4:33 to YouTube«, Manuel Minch, 2016
»I never read, I just look at pictures«, painting, Manuel Minch, 2016
»Draw 2«, painting, Manuel Minch, 2016
»Selfportait«, Facebook appropriation, Manuel Minch, 2016

JE: You consider yourself a post-Internet artist and researcher in new sociodigital practices. What does that mean for your working practice?

MM: I like to use the term post-Internet as an ambit of practice and reflection. I think that the term is not very important when it refers to the pieces generated after the establishment of the Internet. I prefer to focus on new practices and models of sharing information that the Internet offers. In my personal practice, I research from multiple fields of work, from more traditional models such as painting or sculpture to experimentation in the form of performance, installation, or intervention in web space.
I don’t like to focus my energy on a single technique of creation. I think that the artist has to flow properly for different areas, so the medium itself doesn’t limit the creative ability of the artist. I am particularly interested in transporting the concepts and sensations that the screen transmit during a navigation to a physical space and how these mutate and adapt to the environment when they are in this physical space.

JE: How did your interest in web art/digital art develop?

MM: I was born in the ’90s, so I’m a digital native who has grown up with technological development. The screen and its contents have educated me and later generations to accept these media as »objects +.« For the same reason, I couldn’t tell you exactly when my interest in this type of art started. I guess when I became interested in art.
I am currently working with The International Museum of Electrography, Innovation Centre in Art and New Technologies (MIDECIANT, Cuenca/Spain), so it has helped me to learn digital art from the past to present and establish relationships between these kinds of intangibles pieces.
However, my close environment is not very linked with technology. It’s possible that much of my interest is born from the Internet itself …