You can’t escape jimpunk. I tried, believe me: it was easy to be disillusioned with net.art, with so many new works showing up on the list-servs plunging so far into the morass of conceptualism that both the “net” and “network” properties that have always distinguished the medium seem to have submerged somewhere deep below the surface of the current aesthetic set as to be almost imperceptible. I definitely don’t want to write this essay, much less look at jimpunk. I think this net depression began for me around the time I encountered a piece by Eryk Salvaggio in Whalelane that was, if I remember, purporting to be an “mpeg haiku.”http://www.whalelane.com/esalvaggio_mpeghaiku_house.html . What I got when clicking here was a few linear, non-interactive films of jets in the sky and other objects visually reminiscent of straight lines. As a conceptual gesture, the work was genius: an extended pun on the form of haiku, the video being “linear,” the jet trails being “linear” (ah, but look, look at the tension in that: it’s a linearity we see melt away before our eyes): each video also being a line. Yes, beautiful when I thought about it. But for some reason I craved spectacle, the sensual: I had been poisoned by Horace, searching art to give me “pleasure.”
So Marc said, well, write something about jimpunk. Take this link. The red pill, the blue pill. Marc sent me to http://www.jimpunk.com/_____________1_____________/, which I, attempting to exonerate myself from my recent deep-fried badness, tried. I was suspicious at first: wasn’t jimpunk illegal in the States? What if my mother walked in as I was looking at one of jimpunk’s sites; what would she think? So I chose the dead of night to schedule my visit, and prepared myself by insuring that everyone in the city was asleep. I was able to do this by paranoiacally peeping out all windows and doors in my apartment, and making sure I smiled extra wide at any old ladies I ran across in the city during the day. No base sensualist would smile so brightly!
jimpunk snaps on your screen with all the verve and whimsy of Stuart Davis . Remember Stuart Davis? Situated somewhere between dada and early abstract expressionism, Davis dipped a paintbrush in the conflagration and cacophony of emerging urban life, then wrung it across every canvas he touched. He inherited from Braque and Picasso a feverish urge toward college, and a love for the detritus of modern life. Just as Picasso’s daily newspaper nudged its way into certain compositions, the new neon signs and electric boulevards of cities bubbled out of the confusion of color that Davis felt.
These grids and boxy robots that slither and flit across the screen remind me of Native American textiles . Can you see it? Does not the cheesy robot, black and white and square all over, evoke for you earlier representations of man, lost (or fully in control?) of a halo mosaic of phenomena, of WORLD? Not to imply that jimpunk is working in a digital primitivistic style here; the work seems innocent, yes, but not naive: this resemblance to earlier textile artforms is intentional, and there seems to be some irony involved as well: you, as audience for this work, are invited to make the connection between the past and the present, between navajo textiles and early ’80s Pac-Man, not simply on the visual level, not simply in similarity of pattern, but also ideologically. With the lingering war in Iraq on everyone’s minds, and the United States in particular sliding backwards into a fascistic mode of government post 9/11, jimpunk seems to be laughing at us–not harshly, mind you; it’s a gentle, chiding laughter. jimpunk is no cynic.
It’s that lack of cybicism and gentle criticism that helped me past my net depression. After a few nights of clandestine visits to jimpunk’s project, I feel much better about net.art, even hopeful in my own way. I have, however, noticed certain sexual side effects; the toaster has been looking mighty attractive these days, and I get a strange fluttering thrill now whenever I plug data cables in…