Thursday, April 14, 2011

JODI, "GEO GOO", 2008

I've posted this link by JODI before, but I believe that it's a good example of influence and reference within a particularly "new media" framework (it's an interactive website)

The artist duo JODI, comprised of Dutch artists Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, explores the medium of computer software, often creating interactive internet games, installations, and websites. Active since 1994, both Heemskerk and Paesmans attended CADRE, the Laboratory for New Media at San Jose State Univsersity. Heemskerk and Paesmans began experimenting with the potential of web capabilities in the mid 1990's, when the World Wide Web was entering the public sphere. In their works, JODI explores the language of technology and our understanding of it, evident in their 2008 piece Geo-Goo.
A computer based work, Geo-Goo illustrates the height to which our reliance on technology has grown. In Geo-Goo, JODI has appropriated the iconography and interface of Google maps in order to create art. This interface is familiar, and so JODI's manipulation of the image is startling. Instead of the icons designating the locations of restaurants and gas stations, they now form designs, spiraling out or forming unique shapes that are superimposed on the map. Drop-down menus on the left allow for interaction, allowing the viewer to choose the distance from which we view the map, street views of certain cities, or decide the mathematical manipulation (or design) that occurs on the screen. The interface is still somewhat workable – one can still read the city names on the map, recognize familiar areas, and can even focus in on certain regions. This ability of the viewer is limited in time, however, and JODI relocates the map to a different part of the world to continue pattern-making. The effect is chaotic; our inclination is to want to see the map kept still and uncluttered by fast-paced designs. The point of Google Maps is to allow the user to find a specific location, and JODI denies this to the user. Instead, JODI appropriates the language of Google Maps, the iconography, and uses it to decorate the landscape. In effect, JODI is using maps to create a form of art, a concept not that different from early cartography.
As JODI disrupts our familiarity with recognizable interfaces, we are faced with the realization of our dependency on such technologies. Icons that normally carry meaning in Google Maps are now used as tools for decoration: our desire to “understand” the designs is curtailed by JODI's removal of meaning from the icons. Even within their original context of Google Maps, the icons now have no worth – they are merely tools for decoration. As Heemskerk and Paesmans explore the concepts of familiarity, iconography, and the artist's ability to obscure such ideas, they enter into a dialogue that has distinguished the works of artists for decades.

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