oss/**** (1998) is a work by JODI, published in 1998 as a CD-Rom, and shown as an installation in the exhibition of DEAF98.
JODI works with the limitations of computer hard- and software; creating new aesthetics with these limitations. This CD-Rom project is not a program with flawless images and easy navigation routes. Instead, it uses the accidents that occur with computers to create new images with distortions and interferences. It is possible to navigate through the disturbed program, but it is not easy, since there are no marked push buttons.
JODI, a collaboration between the artists, Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, work with the creative limitations of digital technologies. Their work on the World Wide Web has turned software bugs into the nuclei of a new design aesthetics and has taught net users to be less disrespectful of 'Error 404' messages and virus warnings. JODI's approach is strongly media-conscious, exploiting unexpected potentials of computers and networks, their components and users, who cannot be passive spectators but have to interact in order to experience the work.
OSS/****, conceived as a CD-Rom, is not a multi-media application with flawless images and easy navigation routes. It uses the accidental potentials of the computer to create a whole new set of navigation experiences through distortions and interferences. When beginning to explore the project, the user first has to overcome the irritation about the visual 'noise' of what looks like a malfunctioning computer screen, of deteriorating desktop images, of an uncontrollable visual display and an erratic computer mouse. As American critic Saul Albert puts it: "JODI writes programmes designed to create dysfunctional models of computer behaviour."
OSS/**** consists of three separate projects which can be selected randomly by clicking on neutral square symbols that appear on the desktop. One project consists of a huge variety of black-and-white patterns which in some irrational way seem to respond to the movement of the mouse. Sound patterns create further confusion, though they can also be used for navigating through this library of screen noise. A second project is an inverted drawing programme with distinct and completely non-intuitive functions of certain keys of the keyboard. The visual display offers useless coordinate information and opens up windows showing computer code that cannot be closed again, creating a completely cluttered screen and frenzied interaction of the user. The third project takes the actual desktop image of the computer on which the CD-Rom is being viewed and sends it into a maelstrom of distortions. Different keystrokes affect these turbulent images, though the precise functionality remains ambiguous. Accidentally triggered sounds and songs, generated by the computer, reveal the hidden layers of the machine. Miklós Peternák calls it "a dynamic deliberation of images from the customary cover page by means of 'peeling away the surface' of the screen."
Infected by OSS/****, the computer begins to mutter to itself, watched by the users who see their own computer, their virtual home on the desktop, go hay-wire. JODI fold the machine code inside out and make the different internal levels of the computer, hardware and software protocols talk to each other in their own jargon. Their machinic aesthetics shows that, on the level of programming and code, the accident has always already happened.