in 2018 i spoke at Harvard as an invited speaker at Harvard Art Museums for JODI’s solo exhibition presented in collaboration with the Institute of
Contemporary Art Boston (ICA) exhibition Art in the Age of the
Internet. after my presentation i joined JODI on stage for a discussion. what follows is the talk i gave before the discussion. — jonCates

“The year is 2018 and i am here with you now. We are here together, JODI and i, to discuss their work and the installation of their new project OXO in the Harvard Art Museums Lightbox Gallery above us. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, especially Chris.

i am here from Chicago, home to Dirty New Media Art, a concept that i created in 2005. Chicago is also home to specific form of the Unstable Arts now known as Glitch Art. These digital punk approaches embrace the noisiness of New Media Art and are direct descendants from JODI.

Today i will share with you a series of archival recollections and personal experiences of mine in relationship to our shared relationships with JODI. If you are here then you are most likely aware to some extent of the fact that: if you make Art in the Age of Internet Art then you are engaged in a dynamic and ongoing relationship with JODI.

i work in the fields of what i refer to as Media Art Hystories and Genealogies. The addition of the concept of genealogies to Media Art Hystories is one of my ongoing contributions to this academic discipline. A focus on genealogies provides us ways to articulate nonlinear patterns of influences and inheritance across Contemporary Arts.

Internet Art is Contemporary Art. That is a reason why at the Art in the Age of Internet exhibition JODI are showing a website.

Media Arts are the Contemporary Arts. New Media is just the most recent categorical identification in a chronological sequence of Media Arts and technosocial developments. One can chart this sequence as a continuation and combination of camera-based and computational systems, transitions from Photography to Film and then from Video to New Media Art. One can also arrive at New Media from the perspective of the Transmission Arts of communication and distribution, from Radio to Radar, from Telegraph to Telephone, from Communications Satellites to the Internet, the Web and Social Media. We could also discuss a kind of destabilization of the ground beneath us brought on by engines of change from trains to the Google Search. In any case, we must always already be questioning a chronological approach, as to not artificially privilege the supposed “newness” of New Media because we know from our ancestral Media Archeologies, our Media Art Hystories and Genealogies that these movements are prepared-for by our prepared-for-ness. We anticipate changes that take are about to take place, that take on familiar shapes by looking back into McLuhanesque rearview mirrors. We quickly adjust to unprecedented circumstances, internalizing and naturalizing technosocial change. In slow fades and gradients or in harsh fits and starts, we are also often caught us off guard with radical restarts and new beginnings we had not imagined possible because we had collectively forgotten, looked away from the threshold, stepped back off the horizon line, or purposefully engaged in willing amnesia. Such are the paradoxes of recent futures and nearby pasts…

At last in the section, i should say that: JODI finds their way through all of that. JODI finds their own way. They always have.

Joan and Dirk have different skills strengths, which they will tell you themselves. They have contributions that they bring to their collaboration and their collective identity as JODI. I will in this talk generally refer to JODI in the singular plural because as Brion Gyson and William S Burroughs said of their own collaboration: JODI is a third mind, a collective and collaborative identity that would not exist without Joan and Dirk together, which is simultaneously of them both as well as being a being in and of itself.

To restate a question often asked by airport security, immigration and border patrol agents: What kind of art does JODI make? Computer Art. They are critiquing computers and playing games.

How old is Tic Tac Toe? i dont know but if we are to believe a wildly accessible Internet-based resource with collective authorship, then at least 3310 years old. Tic Tac Toe is old and simple but each game is always new and now more complicated with nonhuman systems, artificial intelligence ad computers. Most likely originating on the continent of Africa, as is the case with so much of our shared human hystories and cultures, Tic Tac Toe an African game born in Egypt during the era now known as the New Kingdom, perhaps even during the reign of Queen Nefertiti who worshiped one god, Aten, the Sun.

Playfulness is also simultaneously old and forever young. In 1938 Johan Huizinga, who was also Dutch, published his widely influential “Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture”. Before computers were computing, Huizinga was proposing that to play games is to be a person. You are young at heart when you are playing games because you are keeping your sense of wonder and excitement alive. You are embracing the unexpected. You are following rules of play, the instructions sets or basic codes that create games but you are also bending or breaking the rules, whatever they may be for whatever game you may be playing at any given time, because you are improvising in the moment and alive in the present. You keep yourself open to new possibilities as they constantly unfold, staying agile and flexible. You keep yourself curious like cats, as JODI has said of themselves via the Internet at the Glitch Festival in Chicago. JODI said: we are curious cats.

More than 20 years ago, the year is 1996 and i am on online. i am on nettime. i am on the Internet and the World Wide Web when it is all seemingly new and somehow unexpected. i am in a place, in the broken down Heartland of the nation-state now known as the United States of America. I am a student in a school, far far from Harvard and almost equidistantly far far away from the shiny shores of California where JODI were during those times. i am in the middle of the mid-wastelands of America but I am also somewhere else out of my body having an out-of-body experience being teleported (to use the words of the day) teleported through the screen and into another nonplace then also known as cyberspace. i am clicking on a link that says, typing to the browser, the characters: j o d i . o r g …

Decentralized digital networks were hoped to deliver us connections “selected more by commonality of interests and goals than by accidents of proximity.” according to J C R Licklider and Robert W Taylor in their 1968 collaborative essay “The Computer as a Communication Device”. But now, in this Glitch Era, we know that computers are delivering us to corporations via Social Media, predictive analysis algorithms and Artificial Intelligence systems. Promises of technological positivism break under the weight of harsh realities, contrasting against the ambitions of technological progress, the Californian Ideology, economic imperatives forced upon us by global hypercaptialism and military-industrial-academic-entertainment complexes. While bots and computer-generated accounts argue with themselves and each other, we might wonder about our own human agency in these technosocial times. These kinds of questions are ideally also the domain of the Arts.

Supposedly “255,168 unique games of Tic Tac Toe” can be played but none of these games are unique in the sense of being unprecedented or unprepared-for. All of these games can be predicted but each of them feels unique to us as it occurs, as it unfolds in realtime, because we, unlike computers, do not know the outcome.

Games and glitches go hand in hand. From Untitled Game (1996–2001) to Jet Set Willy Variations (2002), and Max Payne Cheats Only (2004) to Untitled Street Legal (2004) and the ZYX app (2012) to OXO (2018) JODI knows that our experiences of computers is also our experience of play and playing games. Computer-based games frequently feature unintentional glitches and JODI has created an ongoing artistic career of pushing digital systems to the breaking point, curious cats pushing platforms off the table to their own delight and for the purposes of exploring a process of human expression with digital materials. Digital materials have complex, abstract and real physical properties to be affectively explored, experimented with, uncovered and investigated in an ever-evolving process of Art in which the outcomes are unknown. That is JODI.

JODI believes that you can and should fight back against the medium. In OXO the character of the computer is relentless in its commitment to win and gives you no sense of hope that you could prevail against it. The character of the AI in OXO is less overtly authoritarian and more covertly cruel in that the AI wants you to believe that you could win against it. Of course, you cannot, but like the casino machines it is modeled after, the AI in OXO seduces you into believing that winning against the machine is possible.

How old is chicken? Older than Tic Tac Toe but similar. While delicious domesticated chickens have been found to have been in the nation-state-now-known-as The People’s Republic of China over 10,000 years ago, the afore-mentioned New Kingdom of Egypt featured extensive knowledge development in how to domesticate and scientifically organize chickens and their delicious eggs.

Like the FLUXUS artists before them, JODI embrace noise in the signal, creating extended techniques for prepared technosocial systems, devices, apparatuses and new technologies. JODI embrace the unexpected. What will chicken choose next? Does chicken even know?

Can you make a mistake on purpose? What happens when accident becomes the form of Art?

Last night we were joking about accidents and JODI’s genealogies, their relationship to having studied with Nam June Paik. As Edith Decker-Phillips writes “Paik had the experience that no result could be for seen or fixed” in advance. His was an art of constant flow and shape shifting exchanges. Paik said of himself and the recognition of his work that “one needs 10 years to be able to perceive delicate differences of 13 different distortions as it was so in perceiving the delicate difference of many kinds of noises”. Mayhaps we could say the same of JODI, their games and glitches.

Paik is of course,well-known, completely canonized and written deeply into various narratives of Media Art. if you can imagine him, you can most likely visualize Nam June Paik smiling. His sense of humor is infused in his individual and collaborative works. Even at his most serious there is always a sense of play and playfulness which he and his artworks express. The same can similarly be said for JODI. Remember that: to play is to be a person. As Decker-Phillips writes on Paik, he was, in his work, attempting to humanize technologies. Paik himself said that he was working to “demonstrate the human use of technology” by “humanzing electronics”.

“Outside of work, Jodi enjoys traveling, art and music, and spending time outdoors with her family and play with his two mischievous cats.”, oh, um, sorry, wrong JODI…

Many people have written extensively on JODI. And many people have made many unintentional mistakes in their analysis of JODI’s projects, process or intentions. I will leave most of my critiques of other peoples positions on JODI for another day, but, i will say, that in the book Gamescenes: Art in the Age of Videogames by Matteo Bittanti and Domenico Quaranta, the writer Pippa Stalker contributes a text on JODI in which she offers a series of questions which i deeply appreciate. After accurately stating that JODI’s medium is code itself, to which we could add the computer itself, game itself, us ourselves…, she writes: “Are they really just deconstructing an old game, both theoretically and physically, or are JODI the primary game players? Are the modifiers playing with the user and is JSWV a comment on their manipulation of the game player?”

In other words, as an Art Game that JODI has created, do we play the Art or does the game play us? Do we play OXO or does JODI play us?

I dont know but I suspect the answer is “YES!”, that is where their art exists, inside of us, in these games JODI play.

But don’t take my words for it, because: JODI.” — jonCates, 2018

School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Film, Video, New Media and Animation dept; Art History, Theory and Criticism dept.