Monday, April 8, 2019 at 7pm
Bette Gordon's An Algorithm + JODI's All Wrongs Reversed ©1982

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

An Algorithm, Bette Gordon, 1977, 16mm, 10 mins
All Wrongs Reversed ©1982, JODI, 2004, digital projection, 45 mins

Prior to the release of her now-classic 1983 feature Variety, Bette Gordon made a series of short films in the 1970s, variously influenced by structural filmmaking and feminist theories of cinema. Among them was An Algorithm, a visually hypnotic reworking of three images of a female diver arcing into a swimming pool. Gordon interlaces each of the sequences frame-by-frame, optically printing them in either positive or negative, and calculating the total number of frames according to the following formula:

A (pos.) = 160
B (neg.) = 140
C (pos.) = 120

A (neg.) = 160
B (neg.) = 140
C (neg.) = 120

20 (160) = 3,360
24 (140) = 3,360
28 (120) = 3,360


Gordon loops these sections many times, but since each of the three is comprised of a different number of frames, they phase in and out of correspondence as the work progresses; a woman’s voice can be heard counting each positive shot, while a man’s voice counts each negative, yielding a minimalist soundtrack as remarkable as the film's imagery. Both have a rather mesmeric quality while also serving, paradoxically, to break the spell of the conventional cinematic gaze.

An Algorithm’s total effect was described by Karyn Kay in a 1980 issue of Camera Obscura: “Since the cycle of dives is never recycled, completed, the overall representation becomes one of repetitive, incomplete and out of sync dives, and even begins to look like one ever-fragmented, ever-incomplete dive...The diver (like Esther Williams, like a Berkeley musical number) potentially poses a woman as sexual object on display in the erotic spectacle, holding the (ostensibly male) look, playing to and signifying male desire. Yet the look, the desire for completion is constantly frustrated, the signification of the act broken into its elements, becoming, again, simply the act of diving. Further processes of identification and desire (enacted through the look) are broken by the sound track, the counting of numbers of a complex algebraic equation, distancing the scene of ever-repeated dives still further from the location of erotic desire (focused in this instance on the woman diver’s body).”

By the time they made All Wrongs Reversed ©1982, JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans) were veterans of internet art, having pioneered the practice in the 1990s with websites that dramatically undermined the new medium’s promise of instant communication and social connectivity: sites that seemed to crash upon loading, or stashed potentially dangerous information in their source code, or mimicked the experience of a hacker taking over the user’s desktop. “We explore the computer from inside,” the duo explained in the late 1990s. “When a viewer looks at our work, we are inside his computer. There is this hacker slogan, ‘We love your computer.’ We also get inside people’s computers. And we are honored to be in somebody’s computer. You are very close to a person when you are on his desktop. I think the computer is a device to get into someone’s mind.”

JODI produced a number of works involving the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, an obsolete 8-bit home computer system popular in Europe in the 1980s, not dissimilar to the Commodore 64. After making a series of modifications to the ZX Spectrum game Jet Set Willy, JODI created the epic screen recording All Wrongs Reversed ©1982. The video starts with the whining screech of data loading off of the ZX Spectrum’s cassette-tape drive, then proceeds to show JODI running and re-writing ten graphics programs in BASIC. Beginning with simple shapes and grids, which render slowly across the screen (computer processing itself here becomes a kind of animation), the video proceeds to increasingly complex compositions, replete with glitches, strobes, and pixelated patterning. We watch with anticipation as the code is slowly tapped out before us, and then witness the results, which arrive with the frisson of a musical number. The piece is at once radically transparent, diagramming in mathematical detail how each image is constructed, and, through its mutating designs and electronic drones, thrillingly gnomic. Put another way, All Wrongs Reversed ©1982 gets us inside JODI’s mind.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 6:30pm.

Print of An Algorithm preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Women’s Film Preservation Fund.