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Calm Yourself With Endless Super Mario Clouds

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“Super Mario Clouds,” 2002 (gifed here from YouTube): in which Cory Arcangel extracted all but the clouds by hacking the game’s ROM and soldering a modified chip into the cartridge. In its original form, the clouds scroll endlessly across the screen.
Gif: Cory Arcangel

Gizmodo is looking at a lot of net art these days, but you’ll have to scan further than Google Arts and Culture to find it, so we asked net artists for help. Today, critic Paddy Johnson tells us about how a chance meeting with Cory Arcangel changed her life.

“Things we take for granted now were being learned”

For over a decade, the blog Art F City and its founder Paddy Johnson has exhaustively documented the net art community in daily gifs, artist essays, critical theory, and occasionally-deranged but always-thrilling flame wars. (Disclaimer: I worked for Johnson for years, so I’m biased, but if I didn’t love the blog, I wouldn’t tell you about it.) Johnson’s long-running series of artist-authored essays IMG MGMT has brought us reflection on troves of images artists have quietly collected over years in their studios, like deep dives into patents, infinite dungeons, and women’s health iconography. Early essays are historical maps of our expanding visual landscape, as artists charted Google Street View’s outer realms and documented their findings from old hard drives and CDs.


Johnson traced her earliest encounter with net art to a 2001 internship at the digital media center Harvestworks, where Cory Arcangel happened to be working at the front desk. (“Or at least occupied that desk,” she added.) Arcangel’s work has since been exhibited all over the world, including at the Whitney Biennial.

There was a darkened alcove behind his desk with some TV’s. He hooked up “I Shot Andy Warhol” [a hacked version of a 1984 Nintendo shooter video game Hogan’s Alley with Andy Warhol] and showed me how it worked. I was really excited about the idea that you could even do this because Nintendo was known for being so proprietary about their video games.

In Cory Arcangel’s “I Shot Andy Warhol,” the artist hacked the shooting range game “Hogan’s Alley” in the ROM’s binary and replaced the targets with the Pope, Flavor Flav, Colonel Sanders, and Andy Warhol.

It wasn’t just the simplicity of his hacks—removing all the contents but the clouds in a Super Mario Brothers video game, or transforming [Hogan’s Alley] into a game in which the player has to shoot Andy Warhol out of a line up composed of Warhol, Kernel Sanders, and the Pope. These works ushered in a new era where we’d have access to create with all kinds of material we simply didn’t have access to before. So it was hugely exciting.

This isn’t net art, but I’m old enough to remember having to be introduced to Google. Cory did that. (I was using dogpile, a search engine that aggregated the results of all search engines, which I think might have been organized by folders and subjects?) Google changed everything by assuming the user knew what they were looking for better than they did. Cory explained that to me. So those were exciting times because things we take for granted now were being learned.


Previous editions of Net Art of the Day: