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Friendly Alien: Object and Interface


Since 1996, artist Miltos Manetas makes paintings that systematically portray the new essential objects of contemporary life: joysticks, computers, computer game consoles, and computer cables (lots of them). Manetas also paints people who are usually intensely engaged in the activities made possible by consumer electronics devices, such as playing a computer game. But he never shows what games they are playing or what images they are looking at. Instead, he focuses on human-computer interface: hands clutching a joystick, a body stretched across the floor in the intense concentration or, alternatively, relaxing besides a laptop, a computer console, or a TV.

Manetas paintings of the 1990s reflected the popular then views of the computer as an unfamiliar and foreign presence, even an alien; computer work as immersion and withdrawal from the physical surrounding; the laptop, the game console “sucking in” the user away from the immediate space (similar to the vision of TV in Cronenberg’s 1982 Videodrome). The orgy of electronic cables in these paintings which seem to grow and multiply bring the references of a cyborg and science fiction movies such as Alien and Matrix.

Article  2006