FINAL: JODI, "Street Digital" at MOMI
The first piece the viewer encounters, LED Puzzled (2012), dominates the entrance to the exhibit in its scale as well as the visual noise it creates through its pulsating strobe effect. The blinking system of lights lies on the floor against the backdrop of a blue-lit wall of roughly the same proportions. Much like the omnipresent assault of information that characterizes modern urban experience, the cacophonous broken mosaic resembles a broken digital sign that has taken on a life of its own. The scrambled LED components create brightly flashing geometric patterns, as if a mutant virus had suddenly commandeered the giant screen, destroying its intended purpose.
Perhaps one of the more interesting interactive works, “SK8Monkey on Twitter,” a performance on view at the opening reception, plays with the viewer’s common perception of today’s social media forum as a normative space of shared communication. In this particular piece, a wireless computer keyboard replaces the traditional deck of a skateboard, which is ridden by a skater in real time and space. The rider’s foot patterns string together incoherent groups of letters and numbers in a live Twitter account that appear to mimic a bizarre type of hacked computer code. When the rider’s foot strikes the return key, a tweet is sent in real time and posted on the Internet.
Another interactive piece, Untitled Game ("Arena," "A-X," "Ctrl-Space," "Spawn") (1996/2001), is the earliest piece in the show. It is defined by four large-scale screens, tethered to game controls, which envelop the viewer in a 360-degree space of absorption. The game controller dictates the on-screen action by pressing buttons that create exploding noise, mimicking the video game Quake. In JODI’s modified version, however, the controller produces effects that are reflected in unusual patterns of black and white lines, and shapes on the four screens but the nature of those effects are unclear because the normal visual environment that accompanies the game have been deleted. Thus what the viewer is actually controlling is questioned, offering a strangely hacked version of the game.
JODI’s interest in tweaking aspects of the ever-changing digital medium as a means of reconstructing our experience of it now seems commonplace in a world where computer hacking and viruses are the norm. “Street Digital” forces the viewer to reassess their relationship to technology by laying bare the fallibility of the processes that ostensibly drive the modern world. JODI exploits our fears about technology’s apparent unreliability to do what it was designed to do and what that could portend in the wrong hands. In turning otherwise innocuous games, signs and social media into symbols characterized by a breakdown in coherence, Street Digital foreshadows the possibility of a future world in which the underlying structure and function that we largely take for granted, might unravel into chaos at any given moment.