World Wide Wrong – JODI

Published on August 24th, 2005


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JODI

by Annet Dekker

The conventions regarding how we interact with and use computers were accepted very quickly. People all over the world use the same graphic icons and interface. With notes, recycle bins and files, the desktop of a computer is a graphic reflection of a real desk. These conventions appear to simplify the use of the computer for everyone. On the other hand, they also strongly reflect a virtual reality which makes it seem that the user has control over the machine. But everyone who works with a computer knows that it’s a different story. A computer can run amok, freeze up, or simply refuse to do what you want it to do. The artist pair JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans) occupy themselves specifically with disruptive miscommunication of this sort. The exhibition World Wide Wrong gives an overview of JODI, from their first computer experiments on the Internet through their three-dimensional video installations of game modifications.

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From the birth of the Internet, JODI were already actively involved with net art. They simulated computer crashes, viruses and error messages with programs they wrote themselves. These projects were a response to the rules of the Internet, and confront the visitor with the cleverly designed interfaces and websites by showing the flip side of the technology, the possibly ugly side. Before you know it dozens of screens or a page full of programming codes appear on the desktop. The work My%Desktop (2002) is a striking example of this. The chaos which is going on before the viewers’ eyes on the four screens is reinforced by the many peeps and tones from the computer that are so recognizable, but now almost form a rhythmic unity. The result is a video installation in which a fight – or is it just a game? – with the machine is to be seen. But the pair are not computer freaks constantly searching for new opportunities. The goal is not to deregulate or reprogram the computer.

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JODI’s interest is primarily in the possibilities the medium has for communication, within which it is primarily the limitations of coded communication that they raise as issues. In the late 1990s their attention shifted from the computer itself to computer and video games. There are also many pre-programmed codes to be found in the game culture which make it easier for the player to quickly understand the game. Jodi approaches such limits and simplifications with the requisite skepticism. Through simple interventions, they let us see other possibilities and applications. In JODI’s version, SOD a modification of the game Wolfenstein from 1992 (sod.JODI.org), the colored architecture of the game Wolfenstein is simply replaced by black and white fields, so that the sense of direction and three-dimensional space becomes blurred. In Max Payne Cheats Only Gallery (2004) they go in search of the cheats (tricks) that in the original Max Payne game give the player the possibility of getting further in the play. JODI, on the contrary, uses them to show the other side of the game. In a further development of this, in the familiar auto race games JODI doesn’t have the racing cars go forward, but make as many circles, turns or loops as possible. This emphasizes the two-dimensionality of the game, and the installation creates an out-of-the-ordinary experience of the game.

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The series Wrongbrowsers (www.wrongbrowser.com) was begun in 2001. The Wrongbrowsers play with the World Wide Web’s domain name system. Web site names have become valuable commodities, subject to speculation: they are bought up and resold at profit. Each one of the Wrongbrowsers works on the same basic principles. Immediately on being started up, the Wrongbrowser seeks a random three-letter combination within a specific domain (for instance, nl.). If this website actually exists, the Wrongbrowser reproduces that page as text  (html. code). If the Internet was at first without boundaries, presently national boundaries are being drawn (.nl, .co.uk, etc.), possibly mixed with original domain abbreviations such as .com and .org, etc. By hemming itself in within a domain, the Wrongbrowser confronts us with this paradox.

Finally, there are a number of reconstructions of old works to be seen, among them OSS (1998), cd-rom and website (oss.jodi.org), that just spreads popups over the computer screen, wwwwwwwww.jodi.org (1995) (wwwwwwwww.jodi.org), a site the true nature of which lies hidden behind the source code of the page, and Untitled Game (1996-2001) (www.untitled-game.org), game modifications of the well-known Quake game.

Just like many older video artists such as Nam June Paik and the Vasulkas, for instance, JODI are consciously concerned with raising technical standards for discussion, and modifying them. But rather than producing predictable results, JODI go a step further by employing the unpredictability in the use of software and playing with the expectation patterns of the viewer/user.


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