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The Digital Dadaist

Photo and manipulation by Hallur Þór Halldórsson

The Digital Dadaist

by Hallur Þór Halldórsson last modified Oct 01, 2013 01:47 PM
In Netfilmmakers' upcoming exhibition, BUGS, artist Mogens Jacobsen will once again dazzle us with his talent and wit, with the photographic application MeeTo. In this two-part article I intend to introduce the artist and his works, beginning with a short summary of his art.

Mogens Jacobsen's artworks recurrently either build on recent technological developments or reference technology in a historical, socio-political and aesthetic manner. Conducting a dialogue with the present, his art also engages in theoretical dispute with history, highly influenced by the dominant artistic traditions of the 20th century, both modernist and postmodernist. Displaying an attitude similar to that of Dada, his works playfully launch a critical and satirical attack on the ideological perspective of contemporary society, as well as embracing a nonchalant stance towards that same society's reverence of technological progression.

 

Mogens Jacobsen

"The downright majority of his artworks require the participation of an audience, either in the form of a simple activation of the pieces, or some greater amount of interaction. This interaction is not simply an implementation of a fad (as I have noted in a previous article about interactivity in art) but rather, his works are built around an idea that involves interaction."

Mogens' artistic output has predominantly been digital and can rightfully be discussed, as such, within the context of electronic and digital art, or that which has been termed New Media Art. During a video interview with Mogens, he mentioned his distain for terms generally used to categorize, classify or define the kind of art he creates. Ranging from Internet-, or more frequently, Net Art, to New Media and Digital Art, Mogens eventually settled, although reluctantly, for Electronic Art as the closest description of the products of his practice.

Several of the terms used to describe computer generated art are quite problematic. Besides the fact that the line between computer generated art and design (including video games, commercials and music videos) can oftentimes be rather ambiguous, the descriptive terms in use tend to either refer to factions of art produced within a wider range of an artistic medium or reduce artworks on an even larger scope to a single medium. Furthermore, designators like New Media Art, as is with everything carrying the word 'new' as a descriptive prefix, are always extremely temporally challenged. New things today will not necessarily be tomorrow.

Now, although I find the concepts in use problematic, I am not renouncing any of the terms, at all. Each carries an implied meaning lost on the next one. The problem lies in the difficulties of finding a term to accurately describe each of the artworks associated with them, without loosing an essential component or drive. A description of the medium is one thing – from painting and sculpture to the contemporary media, film or video, photography (still fighting for it's place as an artistic rather than documentary medium), performance, computers, etc. – but the content, the style, the execution, the geographical or location-specific attributes? The variety of different characteristic suitable for describing an artwork have long since surpassed the necessity of the art production. In short: There's simply too much artistic output out there, and if we were to properly describe every single work, it would be impossible to maintain any kind of overarching perspective.

 

In the aforementioned interview, Mogens described his work for this particular exhibition (BUGS) as a "tool", a gadget, rather then an art "piece" in the conventional sense of the word. That description fits several of the works in his oeuvre: In Audio Bar (Hørbar), the idea is to use a work of art to organize or rather access a museum's (audio)art collection and archive in an unusual and a more physical, or embodied, manner than by simply browsing through an archive; Domestic Music makes use of mobile telecommunication devices (smart phones, for short) and the king of all domestic appliances: the vacuum cleaner (I restrain myself from using the word "hoover"), in order to create a symphony of the domestic life or household music; Glemsel (Oblivion) – another corroboration with Netfilmmakers –  is a nifty little program that invites the audience to leave a comment or a message, which, in time will decay and be forgotten, lost, word by word, until there is nothing left but a void, the blank, white "page" that was there to begin with, mocking the conventional idea of the internet being the ultimate archive where all things submitted will forever prevail.

The downright majority of his artworks require the participation of an audience, either in the form of a simple activation of the pieces, or some greater amount of interaction. This interaction is not simply an implementation of a fad (as I have noted in a previous article about interactivity in art) but rather, his works are built around an idea that involves interaction. As such, several of his works acquire the status of a "tool" or a gadget of some sort, effortlessly, without ever being in danger of becoming pretentious or boring.

While Audio Bar demonstrates Mogens' ingenuity in visually presenting an archive, the latter two certainly hint at Mogens' whimsical approach, and Domestic Music, with its rather comic appropriation of the vacuum cleaner, vividly alludes to the Dada ready-made. In fact other works in his oeuvre do that too. With useless apparatuses such as Who Cares What it Does? and the terrifically Oulipan Perec Fonts, fearlessly criticize the blind faith in technological advance and the reckless positivism of the computer age while at the same time playfully make an allusion to the more experimental aspects of the art- and literary movements of the 20th century.

 

This is only a very short review of Mogens Jacobsen's art, but hopefully manages to account for his place in the contemporary art world, and provide some idea of his importance, and as to the sort of artist he truly is.
In the second part of this article, I intend to take a closer look at the MeeTo application, which is his contribution to Netfilmmakers' upcoming exhibition, BUGS.

 

See Mogens' full body of work at www.mogensjacobsen.dk.

Further reading on New Media Art: 
Wikipedia: "New Media Art"
Rhizome: "What's (Really) Specific about New Media Art? Curating in the Information Age."

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