Special project # 11, The Legacy of Allan Kaprow by Pasquale Polidori

JODI: Variable Art for the ZX Spectrum

by Laura Leuzzi |     4 October 2016

1 . JSW011

 In August 2016 the NEoN Festival and Centrespace (Visual Research Centre, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee) presented JODI: Variable Art for the ZX Spectrum, an exhibition of the renowned Dutch Internet artists duo JODI (also known as Jodi.org, Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans), recipient of the Prix Net Art in 2014. JODI are considered pioneers of Internet and Game Art, which they have been experimenting since the early 90s. The exhibition was curated by Karin de Wild, curator and PhD student at DJCAD.

 The exhibition featured two artworks by JODI, which explored and experimented the possibilities of the ZX Spectrum, an 8-bit personal home computer released by Sinclair at the beginning of the Eighties. It included artworks based on BASIC and JODI’s versions of ‘Jet Set Willy’ (2002-). JODI created different versions of one of the most popular videogames for the ZX spectrum, in a process – that of modifications based on the ‘Do It Yourself’ approach – that has been embedded in the game culture since its very beginnings and was particularly evident in the 80s. Deconstructed in their various elements, the games show their aporias and paradoxes, not without irony and societal and political criticism.

 The audience was also invited to participate to the genesis of an artwork by inserting pieces of code in Programs written in BASIC©1982 (1983). Beside the fascination for an obsolete code, which was one of the easiest to use, this participatory aspect of the artwork – whose origins can be traced in the history of the visual arts in the 20C with movements including Situationism, Happening, Fluxus and Conceptual Art – leads also to a political reflection. JODI seems to stimulate in the audience an augmented agency of the technology and its operation. Revealing the codes (also the wrong ones – as in All Wrongs Reversed©1982, 2004) JODI seems to imply that there is an all-world beyond the technologies that we use every day and that most people suffer as passive consumers.


 In the JODI exhibition at Centrespace, artworks were presented in different variations and versions, including videos and maps, accompanied by archival materials, apparatus and ephemera allowing the viewer to fully understand the artists’ process, approach to technology and philosophy and the context in which they grew. The artwork, far from being an object, is a research process and this exhibition contributes in an effective and clever way to the debate on the preservation of media artworks for which traditional concepts of restoration needs implementation. JODI’s artworks appear in constant change and evolution, free to adapt to different technologies and media, to be restaged and be developed in different forms. They seem to be in constant dialogue with the technology, the viewer, the visual arts communities as well as the geek-sphere.

 Besides the evident relevance of the exhibition from a visual art standpoint, JODI: Variable Art for the ZX Spectrum also remind us of a seminal moment in the history of the city of Dundee. In fact, ZX Spectrum was assembled in Dundee after which the city became an important centre for the video game industry. Since then the game development has grown, thanks also to the programs at Universities of Dundee and Abertay, also based in the city.


 JODI exhibition precedes the next edition of the NEoN North East of North Festival. NEoN is a Dundee-based annual, winter festival that commenced in 2009. It brings to the city a vast range of events, exhibitions and workshops which aim to promote knowledge and experimentation of technology led and digital arts. In a walkable city such as Dundee, one gets to explore new places and sides of the city through NEoN and its various events for different audiences and ages.

 NEoN team comprises a smart group of Dundee and Scotland based curators including Donna Holford-Lovell (director and curator of Fleet Collective), Dr Sarah Cook (Reader / Dundee fellow at DJCAD, University of Dundee), Clare Brennan (Lecturer at University of Abertay), Mark Daniels (Director of New Media Scotland and Alt-W).

 The seventh edition of the NEoN Festival (9-13 November 2016) will be dedicated to the perception of our spatial surroundings (which includes the physical urban space as well as the virtual information space). It will include artworks by Aram Bartholl, Genetic Moo, Stanza, Monica Studer and Christoph van den Berg. Centrespace Gallery, is part of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design’s Visual Research Centre which is located on the lower levels of Dundee Contemporary Arts.

 NEoN Festival, Scotland Digital Art Festival, Centrespace Gallery, Dundee, Scozia, 09 – 13.11.2016

(cover 1) JODI, Jet Set Willy Variations JSW011 (screenshot detail), 2002 (2) JODI, Jet Set Willy Variations, 2002, installation detail of ‘JODI: Variable Art for the ZX Spectrum’ (2016), Dundee Contemporary Arts (Visual Research Centre), photo: Kathryn Rattray (3) JODI, All Wrongs Reversed © 1982, 2003, installation detail of ‘JODI: Variable Art for the ZX Spectrum (2016), Dundee Contemporary Arts (Visual Research Centre), photo: Kathryn Rattray


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