“You are very close to a person when you are on his desktop,” said Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, who have worked together since the mid-1990s under the moniker JODI. Among the first artists to make art for the internet, they created cacophonous, browser-based work on their website http://wwwwwwwww.jodi.org/.
JODI recorded various versions of My%Desktop in front of live audiences, connecting their Macintosh to a camcorder and capturing their interactions with the user-friendly OS 9 operating system. The resulting “desktop performances,” as the artists call them, look at ways that seemingly rational computer systems may provoke irrational behavior in people, whether because they are overwhelmed by an onslaught of online data, or inspired by possibilities for play. What appear to be computer glitches are actually the chaotic actions of a user. “The computer is a device to get into someone’s mind,” JODI explained, adding, “We put our own personality there.”
Gallery label from 2019
The artist duo JODI made My%Desktop by connecting a computer to a camcorder and capturing the pair’s interactions with the Mac OS 9 desktop system and design. For this work, described by the artists as a “desktop performance,” JODI deliberately exploited the basic functions of the user-friendly interface, rendering them useless: files open at a maddening pace, hundreds of overlapping windows obscure one another, and a nerve-racking number of error messages appear. The resultant chaos, presented as four adjacent video projections and accompanied by a jarring cacophony of Mac alert sounds, might suggest that an anarchic virus has taken control of the computer, when in fact it is the product of frenzied choreography performed by the artists themselves. Through its destabilization of the operating system—a symbol of bureaucratic order in contemporary life—JODI’s intervention tests the limits of popular technology and a society driven by consumer-grade gadgets. JODI first gained notoriety for its web-based works created in the mid-1990s, which exposed the chaotic, code-driven underbelly of websites as unintelligible, flickering amalgamations of text characters. Pieces like My%Desktop, which is the first in a body of work by JODI informally known as “screen grabs,” similarly turn systems of technological order against themselves, resulting in mesmerizing depictions of entropic digital landscapes.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)