Profile — 23 Nov 2018
Collaborating as JODI since the early 1990s, Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans were among the first wave of artists to respond to the introduction of the internet. Making use of a vast array of new media, JODI distorts programming conventions and embraces chaos and defectiveness to reveal the opaque systems of logic underpinning computational technologies. They invite those who engage with their art to critically reflect upon how the increasing corporatization of the internet has influenced the relationship between users and online platforms. With their participatory work \/\/iFi, JODI draws attention to the pervasive infiltration of geolocation software into everyday life by allowing visitors to track cell phone signals in the surrounding area. Users are asked to log in to a Wi-Fi network via nodes installed throughout the exhibition space in prominent locations, which serve as omnipresent reminders that visitors are being surveilled. Once connected, viewers see nearby cell phones represented by different brand names, codes, colors, and shapes. Here, JODI employs a geolocation technology similar to the one Google uses to provide live visit information, wait times, and estimated visit duration for local businesses. Though many people enjoy the convenience of being able to access this information, the artists point out that Google quietly collects this data from its users without telling them they are doing so or how it might be utilized. With \/\/iFi, the user becomes simultaneously the monitor and the surveilled.
\/\/iFi reveals not only the means by which corporations increasingly track our movement, but also how the extensive, constant use of mobile devices has caused a monumental shift in our relationship to space. Geolocation technology collapses on- and offline space, as traffic in a real-world location is mirrored on a corresponding digital map. The tracking and geographic positioning of bodies via cell phone signals similarly flattens information, as individuals are transformed into raw data. Differences of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and ability are not expressed, and people are identified instead by the brand of their phone, effectively making them consumers above all else. Though JODI engages with urgent political questions in their work, they do not take explicit positions and prefer instead to simply unveil the workings of the computational systems operating around us, and to disrupt the predetermined ways in which users are conditioned by corporations to interact with technology. \/\/iFi thus represents not only a new way of visualizing our physical and socio-political position as users of mobile phones, but also a unique approach to site-specific art.
About the artist
The work of JODI (Joan Heemskerk, 1968, the Netherlands; Dirk Paesmans, 1965, Belgium) has been featured extensively in writing about electronic and media art and has been exhibited at venues including Documenta X, Kassel; ZKM, Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; Bonner Kunstverein and Artothek, Bonn; InterCommunication Center, Tokyo; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Center for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Eyebeam, New York; and Museum of the Moving Image, New York. In 1999, JODI received a Webby Award in the net art category, and in 2014, they received Rhizome’s inaugural Prix Net Art. Their work is held in numerous museum collections in Europe and the United States.