The Internet on canvas. The secrets of Internetopia

What would the real face of the Internet look like? On a quest to find out, Benjamin Redford set up an experiment, selling space on paper and committing to fulfil every weirdest drawing request. And he used the medium he tried to portray – collecting money through Kickstarter and finding 220 supporters in less than 24 hours.

Benjamin Redford aimed to recreate the vibe of everything we see daily on the Internet. Even if it was his original target, he is not convinced that it became World Wide Web on canvas.

It ended up as something completely different and I’m OK with that,” he interprets the outcome of his work. “It’s more like a snapshot of the collective of a very small amount of people from a distinct period in time.”

Internetopia is based on a pretty straightforward concept. Everybody could ask for as many squares as they liked. Anything could make its way to space they bought – and including their idea for one cube on the artwork cost just a dollar. The ultimate rules crystallised at the end of 2013, even though Benjamin had thought of them since 2012.

“There was something similar in the back of my mind but I didn’t really know what it was,” Redford describes his first aims. “I quit my job and started working on the project properly instead of just thinking about it. One month later it was up and running on Kickstarter,” he recalls.

The experiment turned out to be a roaring success – all of 3012 cubes sold out in less than 24 hours. One of the supporters booked as many as 125 spaces.

“To be honest, it was always an experiment,” the artist describes. “I had no idea what would happen and I didn’t really set a goal.”

Turning the project based on a chunk of the virtual world into reality took three square metres of paper, a few 0.1 mm technical pens and pencils and three months dedicated solely to drawing. The ideas of all the 220 contributors varied – and soon, all the unpredictable ideas started to appear on paper. It turns out the Internet users are not THAT dirty-minded: just two penises and one naked man were demanded to appear on the artwork. A lot of requests included animals, not to mention a chihuahua dry humping a moomin. If somebody still wants to know where Wally is, they can try to find one of his seven requested clones somewhere on the drawing, too.

“A chap from America asked me to draw an homage to 5Pointz in New York,” Benjamin says. “It’s this huge graffiti Mecca that was recently turned into flats. It was a big part of the picture and involved a lot of research into the architectural and artistic context of the site. I’m also a big fan of graffiti, so I guess I may be a little bias,” he adds.

There were some less challenging demands as well. As the author claims, single words were the least complex goals to accomplish, because the message they carry is simple to communicate.

“I like drawing in different typographical styles, so they were probably the easiest to do,” Redford explains.

After receiving so many unusual commands, would he say that something truly surprised him?

“They were all so seemingly random that the weirdness almost became mundane, if that makes sense,” he shares.

Unfortunately, Taylor Swift wasn’t aware of the project – nobody asked for a blank space. An empty cube would stand out in the artwork, and the artist would request unfilled space himself if he had the opportunity of being on the opposite side of such an experiment.

“That way, the eye would be drawn to this space when looking at the picture,” he states. “I was surprised no one asked for this.”

A giant 2 x 1.5m artwork (with 300 signed and numbered A1 prints accompanying the original) is probably the largest piece of crowdsourced art finished by just one person in the world – and perhaps not the last one. Benjamin admits that he would be happy to engage in something resembling Internetopia in the future.

“I’d like to pose the question – ‘if the internet was a city, what would it look like?’,” he confesses. “This is because I’m fascinated with the idea of cyberspace and architecture and I think this would be an awesome question that aims to combine the two.”

Fascinated by the online universe and eagerly supported by its community, Benjamin declares that as an artist he uses the internet for “everything” as it’s an amazing tool. If he had to point out the artistic side of the Web, his first thought goes to Tumblr.

“Internet art seems to be on the cusp of something really interesting,” the artist summons, “and I’m excited to see where that goes and to be a part of it.”

Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Passionate about far too many things. Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate on a daily basis. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being .

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