The other day I had a conversation with one of my coworkers about Mojiferous Industries, my programs, and what the hell I did in my spare time. He had been poking around the website and downloaded a few of my programs and was generally confounded about what the hell they were supposed to do, supposed to be, and why I had even bothered to make something as inane as Zoltan. I have insisted for a while that some of my work is "art" in some form and King Thor has even written a couple of interesting articles claiming as much, but I have never actually explained why or how I would consider any of my output to have artistic merit or what my rationale is behind said crap.
Over the last few years I have tried to realize each project I have undertaken with a sense for the aesthetic, building something that, to my eye at least, is beautiful or at least aesthetically pleasing. Whether it is the odd black and white vintage TV appearance of Heatstroke or the vintage-etching look of Simoebic Dysentery, I have tried to create my programs with concrete themes and visuals. Each project is also filled with my sense of humor and outlook on life, through touches of the surreal and the absurd. Blended together as concrete little blocks of code, most of the Mojiferous Industries output actually seems like a Dadaist manifesto for the 21st century: anti-war, anti-bourgeois, chaotic, nonsensical at times, and usually unappealing to the mainstream art world.
It would be rash to say I have any expertise in art, as I have no formal schooling in it whatsoever. However, I have been a muralist and graffiti artist for quite some time, painting, sometimes for money, in an effort to express myself visually (mind you, most of my painting was done legally on public “free walls” or privately-owned graffiti-friendly walls. I am not the type to needlessly destroy property for the illogical territorial pissing contests most people associate with graffiti, nor do I want to start that argument, that is for a different forum.) This was a cathartic experience, allowing me to manifest my emotions more freely, knowing that what I had painted would be gone within a week or two. I had no need to try to paint for anybody but myself – not gallery owners, buyers, nor the public. Everything I laid down on those walls is gone, erased forever, and my art became a messy, paint-splattered visit to the psychiatrist. Occasionally I would paint something more permanent on canvas or board, laying out scenes of man-eating factories and weird people with wrenches sprouting from their heads, and these would inevitably end up in a gallery show.
It was the galleries that I hated the most – sure, some people bought pieces from me and I enjoyed free wine and booze, but dealing with some people in the art scene was a pain in the ass. The best way to get ahead in the art world is apparently to be as self-centered and self-serving as possible, to glad hand and pimp yourself, because the movers and shakers are more concerned with the artist as a person than they are with what that person can do.
So I got tired of all this BS and started to get back into programming, in hopes of someday supporting myself, and slowly I realized that I really enjoyed it and opportunities for expressing myself to the masses that I wasn’t going to get through the traditional art world were opening up for me. Soon enough I had started up Mojiferous.com and began filling it with my absurd little worthless programs, effectively setting up a gallery for my underappreciated art form. Does this mean that any of this shit is actually art? That’s all relative, but I think with a little more insight into my process and thoughts behind each of my programs, maybe it’ll be a little clearer. So here it goes:
Is definitely just a game. I may have toiled over the artwork for many days and may have poured my all into the damn thing, but my goal was to make something playable (which is open to debate). There is an overwhelming pacifist statement in the game, since there is no technical way that you can ever truly win (you can survive and not be a loser, but forcing the surrender of your enemies without a single death is nigh impossible). Would I call it art? Hell no, but it is one of my best-realized games.
I guess you could claim that Desktop Cigarette is some kind of a meditation on health and fitness, but the truth is that I am a smoker, I enjoy smoking, and although I would like to quit, it has not happened yet... No, instead Desktop Cigarette is a study in absurdity, a gadget with no function, a digital representation of a physical item that has no business being digitized. It was made as an aesthetic object and a curiosity.
Is just a poorly made, poorly realized game built around a horrible idea. There is nothing to see here, move along.
Lobster Petting is another endeavor in absurdity, and nothing is more surreal and absurd than lobster petting. Unlike many of its peers, (like fart games or virtual staplers), there are a few things that I think distinguish Lobster Petting from a simple work of stupidity:
1) There is no real world equivalent, or at least there are no petting zoos with lobsters that I am aware of (however you could probably have the same experience at a supermarket lobster tank).
2) It is not cute. There is a good reason no one lets children pet lobsters: they are ugly little things, all slimy claws and eyestalks.
3) It is not funny at all. Strange, yes. Funny? No. At least not funny in a traditional jokey kind of way, nor in a stand-up, observational, snarky kind of way. Lobster Petting is funny to me because it is so serious, because it can't really be serious, and because it is so far from serious. Does any of that make sense?
4) No one in their right mind would ever make another, or so I thought until someone I didn't know ported Lobster Petting. However, no one is rushing out to make Tarantula Slapping or Antelope Mangling, because that would be absurd. I suppose even Lobster Petting's existence is absurd. And now I'm talking myself in circles.
So there you have it -- absurdity, in the form of a lightly fondled lobster.
The concept here may seem like another attempt at the absurd, but really, this was a failed attempt to make a real game that happened to be salted with my own flavor of strangeness and obsession with pants. In a rush to release the game, I skimped on the game play and logic instead of taking my time and it ended being a confusing mess of unplayable hoohah (the general unplayability probably also tends to make one think that I may have had artistic intentions, but in actuality I was simply being lazy). I recently started Motor Pants up to refresh my memory as to what it was all about, and I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I was confounded by my own game. Because of this, I'm spending my sweet ass time on Wholesale Hero, which in some ways is the successor to Motor Pants but better designed and infinitely more playable.
Nothing arty here, just a game about an amoeba and the body it lives in… Since this was a joint project of myself and King Thor, from concept to execution, I feel that it is also the most straight forward and least peppered with my weirdness.
Ah, Zoltan. I believe Zoltan is the pinnacle of my artistic endeavors in the digital medium thus far. At first glance, you may believe that he is merely an appeal to primitivism, or a simplistic caricature of Neolithic religion. However, in my eyes Zoltan is so much more: an appeal to the rational, against the mysteries of religion, and all the absurdity that it embodies. He is all-knowing, at least when it comes to the weather, a feat accomplished through human ingenuity and technology, not through smoke and mirrors or the hokum of faith. He requires a sacrifice to function, sometimes money – my own nod to the business of modern religion – and sometimes a fish – a subtle take on the symbolism of religion without getting bogged down in trying to represent every faith equally. Of course there is also a priest present, to allow you easier contact with Zoltan, but he really doesn’t do much, and there is a book on the mysteries of Zoltan, a reference my own personal thoughts on some zealots’ ludicrous literal readings of religious texts. Even the all-seeing eye pyramid thing from the dollar bill makes an appearance. All of this is wrapped up in a serious layer of absurdity: grass that needs to be trimmed, a beard that also needs looking after, a drunken moon, a help file that is far from helpful… And finally the fact that the program does nothing at all, but is merely meant to sit there, look good and do its thing, and I think you’ve got a good argument for a piece of digital art. Or a worthless pile of dung.
There are others, of course – Wholesale Hero promises to be a rip-roaring anti-capitalist good time, no one outside of my friend P. Brown has even seen Modern Worker 2 (which mostly involves a malfunctioning copier and endless filing), and I have half-baked plans for things like Poaching Hero and Litigation! which should bring my sense of the absurd together with a more coherent philosophical standing.
I hope that this has made things a little clearer, because it took me hours to shape this into the semi-coherent mess you’ve just read and I don’t really want to do it again. Conclusion: Mojiferous Crap ≈ art.