JODI, Joan Heemskerk, Dirk Paesmans. My%Desktop. 2002

JODI, Joan Heemskerk, Dirk Paesmans My%Desktop 2002

  • MoMA, Floor 2, 211 The David Geffen Wing

“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)
Medium
Four-channel video (color, sound)
Duration
20 min.
Credit
Committee on Media and Performance Art Funds
Object number
305.2015
Copyright
© 2019 JODI
Department
Media and Performance

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.