The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-
Permanent Distraction | Rafaël Rozendaal
Site Gallery, Sheffield. 23 Sep – 23 Dec 2021
A review by Robert Good
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
The main exhibition space at Site Gallery Sheffield is large and functional and,
apart from a few benches, has been emptied for Permanent Distraction, the current
show by the Dutch-
Turning the corner into the space, the scale, emptiness and silence complement the
staging of the shapes as they glide peacefully and enormously around the walls: the
work has impact. Burnt red squares repeat and fold into themselves. Soon electric
blue horizontals glow like strip lights, only to be replaced by an endless sequence
of collapsing pastel-
Rafaël Rozendaal Permanent Distraction. https://www.newrafael.com/permanent-
So here's the problem: what does Permanent Distraction amount to? Is it simply pleasing,
immersive and distracting -
Rewind 20 years. Since 2001 Rozendaal has been creating websites-
Either way, these websites work: they work precisely because they are located within
the complex, cluttered, fast-
Rafaël Rozendaal it will never be the same.com, 2004, screenshot. http://www.itwillneverbethesame.com
Rafaël Rozendaal not never no .com, 2018, screenshot. https://www.notneverno.com
By contrast, Permanent Distraction does not compute. According to Site,
Permanent Distraction forces us to confront the slippage between our physical and digital realities, bringing bodies physically into the space of the internet. Rozendaal pushes us to think about physical interaction with the internet, confronting what we think of as real, and what IRL (in real life) means when we now spend so much of our lives online.1
But this is specifically what it does not do. The relocation of Rozendaal's aesthetic from embedded website to white cube precisely leaves behind any connection with the internet and the associated contrast between busy and quiet, online and offline, analogue and digital that Rozendaal's websites feed off.
Instead, the staging falls somewhere between church and fairground. On the one hand,
encountering Permanent Distraction feels like entering a place of worship, with hushed
whispers in a large silent space, the tall black spacers between each projection
acting as pillars, and the scale, colour and placement of the visuals suggesting
the saturation of stained glass. Extend further in this direction and you could end
up with the stage-
On the other hand, the projections themselves with their abrupt transitions, meaningless content and incoherent individuality push back against any claims to grandeur and seem to offer little more than the entertainment and curiosity of a sideshow or a hall of mirrors. Roll up, roll up to see the giant projections. Extend further in this direction and they would not look out of place in clubland.
The inherent banality of Rozendaal's shallow, playful, candy-
I want more.