Interview with Jodi

published: 
March, 1997

Dirk Paesmans en Joan Heemskerk collaborate as Jodi since 1995. They were interviewed at the 'secret' conference on net.art, organised by Heath Bunting, in the Backspace gallery, London, in January 1997.

 

                        

Q: You've tried to auction some web pages at this conference.

   How was that, what did you think of the response from the audience?

 

D: It was allright. One was sold to Kathy Rae Huffman, who is a

   net.art promoter from the States who lives in Vienna. She is in this

   alternative net.stuff completely. She bought one screen for ten pounds,

   so, that one will go to the Huffman-collection.

 

Q: You weren't exactly a salesman that gave obvious cues on when

   something was for sale. It was a bit unclear to people when exactly

   they could jump onto an offer.

 

D: It wasn't meant to start a large sale there in fact. What is

   happening now in art and net.art is people talk about what is

   alternative and what is normal, mainstream. We see our work in a

   material way. It could simply be sold. There is a lot of nonsense

   talk around art. There should be no shame when you make something

   that is good; be it on a computer screen, videotape, an etching,

   whatever, to sell it.

 

J: There is this discussion in the net.art scene that 'it could never

   come into to normal art circuit because it would not be possible to

   sell it, probably because of the digital and immaterial side of the

   Net.

 

Q: That is not the only discussion of course; there is also the fact

   that some do not want to be institutionalized. You are not afraid of

   that?

 

J: Depends on the institution.

 

Q: Do you think you will have a choice? Do you think you can manipulate

   the outcome in this?

 

D: In itself it would be good when a gallery picks us up and supports

   us in the kind of work we do. Ideally it would be fantastic for us.

   One should not run after them of course. There are all kinds of

   commercial art venues on the net. One of the central places now is

   New York, the  äda ‘web, where more than ten people work. They have Jenny

   Holzer and Lawrence Weiner as big names in their websites with some

   small works, but next to this they start this promotion of young

   web.artists. We too are going to do a project there soon. It is all

   without obligations and there are no deals, nothing is sold really.

   That is why it is funny for us now to try to sell something ourselves.

   The work we put on äda ‘web we give them for free. We are not in the

   position to ask for much at this moment.

   Except maybe sell a screen for ten pounds.

 

Q: You are not thinking about more sensitive matters, like for

   instance what to do when a gallery picks up the net.art group

   and some of the artists are being hyped up to become famous and others

   disappear into nothingness? These kind of things happen all the time

   through art history. Do you not have any thoughts about this or do you

   not care? This is the image you give me a bit now. You said in your

   presentation that your web pages are no content pages. Are you no

   content too when it comes to these kind of questions? Are you not at

   all busy with more political questions maybe?

 

J: The work we make is not politically oriented, except that it stands

   in the net like a brick. The relationship with the net and other works

   on the net is a strong one. It is not 'about' something political or

   a story.

 

D: We use certain elements, like a virus, whether a virus is present,

   or whether things go wrong with somebody's 'cache', somebody's

   personal computer. A lot of these elements are collages of things that

   are found on the net. The natural environment of us, of Jodi, is the

   net and you can find a certain condensed form of the net in Jodi.

   It is comparable to the kind of work I used to make for Zap-TV. This

   was a very one-dimensional way of recycling TV into a new channel. So

   in this whole rubbish, Zap-TV I mean, you could find a condensed form

   of television. With Jodi it is not that simple. There are also projects

   in it, which are not so much downloaded from the net as gifs or jpegs,

   but certain techniques are used that are the order for the day on the

   net. They are 'hot' so to say. These are technical matters, like how

   for instance instead of using words as links, like in hypertext, you

   can use certain kinds of buttons. We have a big problem with hypertext.

   To us hypertext is of no use at all. There are hardly any words in our

   website, except for the hot list. It’s a battle really. As hypertext is

   useless to us, we have to find other ways to make people navigate, or

   have the navigation happen as if by itself. Solutions for this can be

   things that are new in a Netscape version, or buttons that by clicking

   there you DO make a link. So you don't have to invent a letter A, B, C

   or whatever, but you simply use what's in the computer or Netscape or

   so. This is Joan's territory a bit, I must say. Joan does a lot of

   investigating in how to use Java, new techniques.

   We have some separate projects. There is a bit of Zap-TV, a piece of

   Dirk project in a Beta-lab part of Jodi. In this Beta-lab there are

   also Joan Heemskerk projects. A series of photographs of pigeons with

   buttons over it: that’s just Joan’s.

   So we don't enter into that big battle with the net, even though we see

   it is there, because we get an enormous amount of mail from people that

   complain, that send us large question marks. They say: what is this crap?

 

Q: Really? Why is this, because there is no text with it?

 

J: This is because we transverse the way to make webpages. People think:

   ‘A virus gets into my computer..’ or: ‘What’s happening to my screen!’

   This is because it cannot be grasped. You get these short, direct

   reactions from panicking people.

 

Q: That is beautiful, a compliment, it means you created something

   completely new, doesn't it?

 

J: I don't know whether it is completely new, because it always contains

   elements that have been used before. It is collage. It is a new collage

   naturally.

 

D: The carrier, the Netscape carrier has of course never been used

   before. It is starting to be used now. The technique to create confusion

   and to mix things up has been used often before, but with this specific

   medium we made an early start. A reason for this is that we left the

   Netherlands on our own for San Jose, California. Silicon Valley. We

   went there to see how all this Apple stuff and all software and

   applications, Photoshop, Macromind, Netscape 'lives' there. What kind

   of people make this. This is very interesting to us. In some way we feel

   very involved, it is a bit of a personal matter to turn Netscape inside

   out for instance. I have a picture in my mind of the people that make it.

   And not just how they make it, but also of how they view it themselves

   within the States and Canada. How they see their Internet.

   'Their' Internet, you can say that for sure.

 

Q: Your work is very radical, that we can conclude from the reactions

   you get. You say it has no content. It is only form, when you judge it

   on appearance only. It passes on this radical feeling though and you

   just said: We want to see who makes it, it is an American net, we

   overturn it, we turn Netscape inside out. Aren't you making choices to

   create your own space, to get things in your own hands again? This is

   quite unusual in the net, isn't it. People create something small at

   home, according to certain rules and it quite resembles each other.

   Your work is innovative.

 

D: One thing we have not done from the beginning is base our work on

   lay out. The page. We are dealing with screens. What we can learn from

   of how to organize a screen as TV, computer games and other software.

   Not from lay out, not from a way of creating an order that puts this fat

   title and then a chapter, another gif and two gifs next to that,

   etcetera. A magazine on the net. We can do nothing with this.

   There are choices imbedded in software, that are thought about on

   mailing lists of designers in California, like which features should be

   put in Netscape, how can you make tables. They think it is important to

   be able to put two columns of text next to each other and stuff like that.

   Sometimes things slip in like in Netscape 2.0 (for the specialists).

   There you could have this background that would change all the time,

   background 1, 2, 3 etc. You could make great movies with that. You could

   let it run ten times in a row. They took this out in Netscape 3.0.

   It was used a lot on the net. The first part of our Binhex was based

   quite heavily on it, we used it a lot. They thought it was a bug.

   I can't see the bug here, it was just a free animation effect that was

   in there. It was threatening the stability of a certain type of lay out,

   it was disturbed too easily. So they took it out. We find other things

   to play with then. There are some basics of html that will never change,

   with which you can still avoid this classic approach.

 

Q: I heard there is a battle between designers that used to do the

   lay out of magazines and artists about these matters. How software

   develops, but also about what is correct and what not.

 

D: Every now and then there is a big panic about it. Like with these

   new plug-ins, where you are told: you cannot watch this if you don't

   have this or that plug-in. We are quite frugal with this.

 

Q: Of course not the whole world uses the same software or is even

   able to obtain it. Large parts of the world can only receive text.

   They have only very simple software. Do you think about this?

 

D: In mosaic you will still see a version of our site, but I don't

   think there is any reason to say: Lets make a text-based version of this.

   We can’t possibly make a text-based version of ‘Who is afraid of red

   yellow and blue’. An ASCII version or so. We are no development-aid

   workers.

 

Q: I do want to get back to this question what you will do when the

   commerce, the art world gets a grip on the net.artists and picks out

   some of them. It looks like a nice group now, which has a pleasant

   gathering here...

 

J: That group has already split itself up. There are groups in New York,

   groups in Europe. There are very small groups of two or three people in

   certain cities that work together. That division is allready here. Not

   all net.artists are mixing, seeing eachother regularly.

   we are also seperate from this group here in the sense that a lot of

   these people we have never seen before or only once.

 

Q: So you are not concerned with matters like this?

 

J: Yes I am. But as I said, I see a kind of sectarianism already on the

   net. Not just with net.art, but also in other groups. The viewers have

   their own little circuits in which they watch, their hotlists. For me

   personally I think every group happens naturally, but the idea behind it

   is what counts. Why does the person that looks at something on the net

   choose that certain part of the net, and maybe has visit one or two

   sites made by people present at this net.art conf? The viewer makes the

   choice, there is always this filter. It is artificial to keep people in

   a certain group, because in reality on the net this is not one group.

   Its different sites.

 

D: I think it is good we are not in an art.net context. We are not the

   kind of people that adjust. We don't want to be in a new corner. You

   will not find this in our site either. I will not say it is art. That is

   not what matters. When we started it was of no use to drag those kind of

   things with us. That is what we did NOT want. Of course a certain form

   of knowledge and what we are occupied with we put forward through

   Netscape, but we do not want to repeat what we know too well. It’s nice

   to do.

 

                        

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