1 Jan 2004

Miltos Manetas

The Man from Neen

Miltos Manetas is a renowned international artist who makes paintings, videoworks, prints and performances about video games, players and computer hardware. He also produces websites as artwork and initiates art actions, claiming that websites are today’s most radical art.

Neen is a worldwide artistic movement that has been a few years in the making. In 1999 Manetas was one of an increasing number of artists who used software, the Internet and other digital media to make and display – or who used those media as the subject of – their work. Manetas himself had produced traditional oil paintings of wires, cables and computer hardware, created short looped fragments of video games such as Tomb Raider, and exhibited computer-generated 'screen grabs,' among other things. But he was impatient with critics and curators who had yet to come up with a really good '-ism' for this new generation of creativity.

After securing financial assistance from a nonprofit called the Art Production Fund, Manetas went out and hired Lexicon Branding, a California firm responsible for creating such product names as Powerbook, Pentium, Zima, Swiffer and Dasani. Lexicon’s assignment was to create a name for this new movement.

The word Manetas wanted was not exclusively about technology in art, but more about the style, about the psychological landscape,' he has explained. We have two kinds of lives now – a real life and a simulated one. I wanted to give a name to this psychology.

In May 2000 Manetas unveiled the new word. Actually, it was the squeaky, synthetic voice of a Sony Vaio that made the announcement.

The word was 'Neen.'

In his subsequent Neen Manifesto, Manetas declared that the term represented a still undefined generation of visual artists. Some of them may belong to the contemporary art world; others are software creators, web designers and video game directors or animators. He later added: '''The identity of a Neenster is his state of mind. Because he will publish everything on the web, his state of mind reflects on the public taste. Neensters are public personas.' ''

Since then, the public persona that is Miltos Manetas has been busy, both holding up and working under the Neen umbrella. In the midst of the Napster debate, for instance, he established www.iamgonnacopy.com , described as a Neen place against intellectual property and copyright. And last year, in a storefront space in the Los Angeles gallery district on Chung King Road, he set up the so-called Electronic Orphanage, which he says is a black cube where a large screen is left white for projections. When galleries on the street have openings, he says, EO * a piece commissioned for the occasion .... The rest of * time, it’s a studio where people (the Orphans) are "working" on Neen and other screen ideas.
He is also planning Electronic Orphanages in Shanghai, China, and in Goa, India.

Miltos Manetas lives and works in Los Angeles.