Enter a web address and the page loads. The internet sucks your time and then you die.
Enter jodi.org and the page unloads. The tame mundane space of the web browser could collapse or explode into a primitive, dada-esque video game, a eye-spinning array of ASCII, a virus of smaller browser spawn unfolding across your screen, or a deranged version of your desktop.
In the newest Motherboard video installment, we head to a recent show at Eyebeam gallery in New York to meet the obscure collective behind this strange, subversive and darkly comical code: a pair of soft-spoken artists named Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans. From their base in Holland and their untold number of web domains, video game modifications, .exe’s and Youtube pages, Jodi (“jo” + “di”) has for over a decade been evoking and exposing the confusion, mistrust, fear and excitement we bring to our life with computer screens. (See a list of their work at Wikipedia.)
Long before the internet was soaked in a glut of obsessive Flash-happy graphic designers, Jodi was using and abusing web languages to create more than a distinctive style. Taking their cursors off the “undo” button, they used accidental errors in HTML and other codes to turn our screens from mere repositories of data into funhouses, from virtual displays of art into works of art themselves. Like previous Motherboard subjects Alexei Shulgin and Cory Arcangel, Jodi’s been called net.art pioneers, but the only labels they like are the ones that come after http://. When they won the Webby award for art in 1999, Salon wrote that the ceremony was “punctuated by a punk-rock moment, when the subversive German [sic] artists of jodi.org knocked a cameraman aside and flung their Webby across the room.” They left behind the award’s most memorable five-word acceptance speech: “Ugly commercial sons of bitches.”
Their disturbing, glitch-prone work has turned Jodi into the enfants terribles of the internet and earned them reprobation from web authorities. Whether it’s malicious or sadistic, hilarious or silly, Jodi’s work shows the beauty and wonder in malfunction. “Do not adjust your internet,” you almost hear a voice whispering through the code. “There’s nothing wrong.”