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April 2nd 2004: Between Software and Hardware

[April 2nd 2004]

Mogens Jacobsen:
Modified Software, Carly Simon Edition

Between Software and Hardware.
Interview with Morten Schjødt, Mogens Jacobsen and Peter Fjeldberg

The RADAR festival is currently taking place in various locations in the city. For this occasion Artnode is exhibiting at Galleri 24B with 'Artnode Gets Physical'. As implied by the title the exhibition is a step away from the net art that Artnode is usually known for, towards more physical settings. In several of the works the interactive takes centre stage. At the same time there are links back to the group's electronic and digital trademarks, and so e.g. interactive film, SMS art and modified software can be experienced at the exhibition. In the middle of the rush to get the exhibition mounted Kopenhagen caught up with Morten Schjødt, Mogens Jacobsen and Peter Fjeldberg from Artnode for a couple of explanatory comments about theirworks. Interview and photo: Mads Johannes Nielsen. Translated by Sofie Paisley.

Artnode Gets Physical
April 1st - April 4th 2004
Galleri 24B
Vesterbrogade 24B, 1620 Cph. V
Open Thur-Sun. 5pm - 8pm

Morten Schjødt - your part of the exhibition is the film "Switching". Can you tell us about it?
It's an interactive feature film produced with Oncotype. It's a kind of film puzzle with pieces that you move around. When the film starts it looks exactly like an ordinary film, but it has a completely different narrative structure that I call a loop structure. The story consists of circles and loops, everything repeats itself and once you've started the film it goes on forever unless you stop it. There's no determined ending even though you as spectator can play around with the idea of one.

Morten Schjødt: Switching, videostill
Morten Schjødt

What is played with in this film is the concept of how you tell its story. As a spectator you are in a state where you both create and destroy by clicking onwards on the remote control. It's a film that is at the same time, falling apart and being created. It's completely up to the user how they move around in it. The film thus also lacks any set length. It's expansible as it can last anywhere from 4 minutes to 2 hours.
The film simply cannot run chronologically, it constantly runs in its circular system. If you don't click onwards it will repeat itself. The film's plot centres on a couple that have become stuck in relation to each other. They are at a turning point where they are trying to figure out if the magic between them has disappeared, or if they can start over. Their dilemma is that they can't communicate. This is why they are forced to repeat the pattern of the vicious circle - unless the spectator clicks! If the spectator does that the story expands, although there is always the risk of becoming stuck again. In this way a scene you perceive as reality at the start, can be experienced as a fantasy when seeing it twenty minutes later. The question for the spectator becomes "should I click onwards or not?". There are no interface or buttons on the screen to tell you when to click onwards. You have to learn to read this even if you, in principle, can do it all the time.

Jacob Lillemose watches Switching
Morten Schjødt: Switching, flowchart

The special thing about this exhibition is that along with the film, I have also exhibited its flowchart. The chart functions as a map of roads to be taken in the film, and gives the work as a whole a physical dimension. I place the chart on the paper alongside the digital film so that you suddenly see both things. In comparison to Artnode that usually deals with the Internet, this project is different, as it can't really be exhibited as a whole on the net. That is why it has instead been published as a DVD.

Mogens Jacobsen - you have made something called "Modified software". What is it?
It's theoretical software, which is software that cannot run on any machine. It's a mixture between Microsoft's Windows XP Home edition and popular songs. I've used a binary editor where I've changed the individual bits using the copy/paste function and thereby moved parts from an mp3 file, with e.g. David Bowie, and have then inserted them into the files making up the installation program for Windows XP. Each of the three compact discs contains a mixture of data from the operational system and a song. There is a Carly Simon edition, a David Bowie edition and a Carpenters edition of Microsoft's Windows XP. Of course, none of them can be played as music on any DVD or CD player. A computer can read that there's a file but if you attempt to run it, it stops. The program no longer works because it's a mutated code. All along I've felt like mixing an operational system with Carly Simon's "You're so vain", I don't really know why. From that, it was obvious that a joke had to be made about the act of using Microsoft software, and "The Man Who Sold The World" by David Bowie was chosen. In relation to Microsoft's urge to control everything "Close to you" by the Carpenters was an obvious choice. In relation to time and mood it also fits nicely with the rest of the music.

Mogens Jacobsen:
Modified Software, David Bowie Edition
Mogens Jacobsen: Modified Software

You also exhibit another work?
The next thing I've made is a record player. Vega is very involved in RADAR so it's easy to borrow a real DJ record player. I've always been fascinated by record players and have made many interactive virtual things about records. So, now at last I've made a physical record player. I was fully aware that I didn't want to make anything with sound, seeing as it was a record player, so I made one with lights instead. It consists of a record, there's a mirror, and the pickup no longer 'reads' but alternatively now writes down. It contains two powerful light diodes flashing down on the record as it spins. What I like a lot about record players is that they jump or "skip" when you walk around them. This is why I have connected a large bass loudspeaker, which is based on the vibrations in the floor around it. When the spectator moves around it (or gives it a push) the light diodes in the pickup react, which is an interactive element. The record player reads the same error as a normal record player would, but the output is light reflections instead of sound.

Mogens Jacobsen
Mogens Jacobsen:

Peter Fjeldberg - You exhibit 'Roombox'. What is it?
It's a sound box or a rhythm box you control by moving in front of three microphones with a small loudspeaker. The microphones calculate where the sound comes from, and depending on where, different sounds will come out of the rhythm box. It's a new project that I haven't really finished yet, and don't think I ever will as it is difficult to calculate where the sound is. Especially when there are several people in the room and the background noise grows.

Peter Fjeldberg
Peter Fjeldberg:

Jacob Lillemose og Mogens Jacobsen
in Roombox
Peter Fjeldberg: Detail from Roombox

The idea behind it is that computer based instruments are never really comprehensible as the more analogue ones, because there is no interface. You sit still, nerding and messing around with the virtual buttons on the screen, completely different from any other instrument. I want the instrument to come out into the room so you can do something with you body, and move. At the same time it is to be seen as an alternative interface for the computer. You can compare the sound box to a giant mouse where the user is the mouse itself, and has to run around to control the cursor on the screen. On the secondary level you simultaneously get the sound, which changes, and the music should hopefully inspire the user to move and thus create new sounds. My earlier experiments at home have shown that you can easily use a couple of hours playing with it. In comparison to the other works in the exhibition, this one is not as physically concrete. In a way you can say that it hasn't gotten out of the computer, but it's on its way. Seen the other way around, it can also be interpreted as if the spectator is entering the computer …

Kim Borreby: OK
Martin Pingel: Stranden var sort her

Jacob Lillemose og Nikolaj Recke: Picture Messages

More about Artnode:
30. marts 2004:The Net Wants to Be Free - The Saga Continues
10. oktober 2002: Interview med Mogens Jacobsen


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