From enchanting to the default cultivation of artifacts

From software art to generic manipulation
Technicians and engineers (the ‘debuggers’) within the digital realm, often occupy themselves with the task to control erratic reactions and behaviors of files and softwares. Complex compression algorithms for mobile phones, DVDs and MP3s for instance, must minimize the amount of artifacts and make the medium as transparent as possible. In glitch art, some of these technicians and engineers (the “rebuggers”) engage themselves in a completely opposite practice. They often seek to prompt and amplify artifacts (like glitches) on purpose and even write software that only functions to (re)create these artifacts.
The standardization of glitch-sound has been an ongoing development within the realm of music for over 10 years. In the visual realm we can detect a younger but similar growth of glitch generation tools. One starting point of this trend can be found in the popular Glitchbrowser. The Glitchbrowser (Lima, Dimitre, Iman Moradi, and Ant Scott. 02.12.2005 – 18.03.2009) is an internet based browser that encodes web pages and returns them to the user with 'damaged’ pictures; it mimics transmission errors.
The Glitchbrowser itself was (in my opinion) an autonomous work of software art, but the browser also made it possible for anyone to download the generated images and to present them independently. In this sense it was often used as a ‘glitch-image generation tool’. The Glitchbrowser was an example of a still growing amount of glitch-image generation softwares and plugins like for instance Corrupt™ (2006), GlitchMonkey (2007) and Bytemolester (2008). These scripts and plugins all generate results similar to the Glitchbrowsers, but are applied in different ways and environments (they work for instance as a plugin or as an executable).

Video (art)effects
From 2008 the field of video glitch softwares also underwent major developments. As became obvious in my how to datamosh (ecology) post, many people work on particular glitch effects at the same time. In March Andrew Benson even released a MAX patch that VJs can use to trigger the glitch/compression-video effects [no longer artifacts, but maybe (art)effects?] in real time.
Many of these plugins generate images that are far from the ‘true’ glitch; they just imitate the look of artifacts that were already explored within older conceptual art projects. Vades Glitch File Reader (2009) for Quartz Composer plugin for instance, is an almost complete translation of the DataDada software by August Black (2003). But whereas the ‘original’ DataDada was mostly politically engaged, in the Glitch File Reader we can recognize an emphasis on software aesthetics and design.
Every technology that is being glitched leaves a specific aesthetic or fingerprint on the final result. Today we can recognize a trend in which these designs of ‘original’ glitch art are used to model generic effects. With the help of these effects any user can handle a broad range of data types in predetermined ways and create what can best be described as a caricature, or mimic of the original imperfect fingerprint.
For instance, since 2001 NoteNdo has been performing his live visuals generated with a circuit bent NES console. He has played at many big festivals and the fingerprint of his console has inspired many people to also start circuitbending. Because circuitbending involves a certain threshold (you need a basic understanding of electronics and the right tools), it wasn’t a big surprise to me to see (at the beginning of 2009) that programmers started writing softwares that imitate (emulate) the same effect, but that didn’t involve actual hardware bending. A recent example created by no-carrier is the GlitchNES, a software that “causes graphical glitches similar to hardware circuit-bending.” [btw! I am looking forward to seeing him playing with his software live this weekend at Blip Europe - I will post some photos]
Another NES-glitch opportunity presented itself in the (more complex) Quartz Composer plugin Open Emu. With the help of this plugin, “you can now software 'bend' a virtual NES, in realtime.”
I think that whereas the original NoteNdo console is more politically engaged (the opening up of a closed technology to create alternative possibilities), the derivative GlitchNES and Open Emu put an emphasis on software aesthetics and design and the recreation (or emulation) of a fingerprint.

Software art vs. Generative art?
To differentiate between the two apparent categories, the differentiation between Software art and Generative art could be helpful. In 2003, Florian Cramer wrote that while all digital art is software-based, it can be relevant to discuss what role software plays in the creative processes. Cramer argues that in software art the semantics of software itself are of vital importance to both the creation and the execution of the art piece. “What is crucial here is not the result but the process triggered in the computer by the program code.”
In generative art, software is mostly used as an external aid. It is one possibility amongst others to create a process from which a final work of art follows. Generative art “refers to any art practice where the artist creates a process, such as a set of natural language rules, which is set into motion, creating a complete work.” While the programs used to create works that focus on syntax and aesthetics, the images created by these programs are often autonomous.
This leads to a distinction between two types of artifacts: ideal and designed. Very few artifacts are completely unintentional (ideal) and artifacts are not per se completely manipulatable (designable) since they still have to resemble the artifact in question. Nevertheless, this distinction enables us to discuss the degree of human control or agency over the artifact. The type of glitch that is manufactured under complete human control, (often) doesn’t involve the questioning of protocols, genre, expectations, interface and/or frames of reference. It could be argued that its politics are (mostly) gone in favor of aesthetics and style. An example of this is for instance no-carriers GlitchNES, who’s technique I would prefer to call conservative or moderated glitching or, following Moradi, the 'glitch-alike'.
We can voice an obvious critique; to design an artifact means to domesticate it. When an artifact or glitch becomes domesticated, controllable by a tool and spread out for a wider audience to use, it loses (at least part of) its enchantment and becomes a lot more predictable. Then it is no longer a glitch, but a filter that consists of presets and/or a default settings. It is no longer a break from a flow within a technology, or a method to open up the political discourse but instead a cultivation, another norm.
A striking result of cultivated glitches can be seen during credits of America’s Next Top Model (Banks, Tyra. US: 2009), a television program in which a number of young women train and compete to obtain the title of America’s Next Top Model. The credits of the 2009 series are broken by different glitches that produce a new, perfect model. In these credits, the glitch has become a metaphor for imperfect (not yet perfectly accepted) aesthetics, instead of a break from the norm.

Amerika, Mark. "Cultivated Glitches."
Professor VJ: March 1, 2006.
Betancourt, Michael. “Technesthesia and Synaesthesia.”
Vague Terrain: February 9, 2009.

/////////////////////A list of glitch software tools
/// [suggestions are welcome!]/////////
Video / Image /
Browser /Hardware bending tutorial / Music
Vade: Glitch (alike) for VJs
Sven Konig: Appropirate! / Download finished!
Dan Winkler and Anton Marini: Open Emu
no-carrier: GlitchNES
Benjamin Gaulon: Corrupt™
Károly Kiripolszky: ByteMolester 0.9
Iman Moradi, Ant Scott and Dimitre Lima: glitchbrowser
Youpy: Glitchmonkey
August Black: Datadada
Cementimental: nes bending
Notendo: nes bending
Karl Klomp: videomixer bending
Illformed VST
Glitch NintendoDS
Mp3 fuckups

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