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Last night the artist team JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans) presented their 2-channel video Max Payne Cheats Only at Electronic Arts Intermix in Chelsea. One of the earlier and still best "net artists," JODI favors anarchy, entropy, and irony over the world-bridging utopianism of much net practice; their site famously, creatively dismantles itself (and your browser) as you use it. Max Payne Cheats Only wreaks similar havoc with the realistic "film noir" videogame Max Payne, concerning an Everyman who enters the underworld seeking Charles Bronson-style revenge after a criminal gang kills his family. The JODI version consists entirely of "cheats"--shortcuts and fragments of imagery buried in the code that are widely disseminated via (company sponsored) fan websites. Physics and perspective-flouting manipulations such as: Max walking through a wall when he gets cornered by the bad guys; Max becoming magically bulletproof--but also fun stuff like making the gangster's moll run around naked.

JODI reassembles the cheats' fragments and freaky camera angles with the manic verve of a sadistic child playing with dolls in a Dr. Caligari-like dollhouse, opting for maximum disorientation and grotesqueness. Thus, Max pounds the floor endlessly with a lead pipe, rapidly changing characters run headfirst into the same stretch of wall, the nude moll pirouettes like a ballerina in "bullet time," faces are stripped of skin and muscle leaving gaping, floating dental work. The vids meld the psychic fragmentation of Hannah Hoch's collages, the pointless headbanger repetitions of Paul McCarthy videos, and the claustrophobic worlds-within-worlds of Cronenberg's Videodrome or ExistenZ.

This work appeared a few months ago in PaceWildenstein Gallery's "Breaking and Entering: The Art of the Videogame," which exhibited it incorrectly, we learned. It's meant to be viewed flat on a wall with the audience seated; instead, the gallery displayed it on a cross-shaped wooden partition constructed for another, unshown piece (a four channel video of cars obsessively circling on grass, asphalt, and in the sky). By projecting the 2-channel Max Payne on the four-walled construction (using a couple of backup Payne DVDs to expand the video from two to four projections), PaceWildenstein in effect created a third work, which the artists, who live in Europe, didn't find out about till after the show's end. It's a shame, because the "cars circling" vids, a couple of which were shown last night, would have been impressive in a gallery space. They are repetitive and "ambient" as opposed to long and "linear" and thus more appropriate to show in a physical setting where viewers walk around and are unlikely to stand and watch for long.

A bit of drama: Right at the point in the panel last night when the artists and attendees were mulling over what PaceWildenstein could possibly have been thinking (were they sloppy, high-handed, or both?), someone (a dealer, I was told) angrily interjected from the audience that the speculation and criticisms regarding the gallery were inappropriate. "Of course they were negligent, we don't need to discuss it," he declared. Rather weird. Fun panel--thanks to Caitlin Jones for moderating and EAI and for hosting this event.

An earlier post on JODI is here.

- tom moody 5-11-2006 9:22 am [link]