Glitch for Dummies (English translation).

dutch introduction to glitch for dummiesfirst published on the 9th of January 2012.
English translation of the full article: GLITCH FOR DUMMIES.
A glitch can be understood as a technological failure, but also as a space for artistic creation. Rosa Menkman is an artist and theorist who researches noise artifacts like glitches, compressions and feedback. In this introductionary article she will give an insight into what glitch means, within the growing (international) community that works with 'glitch'.

"Misfortune and failure are not signs of improper production. On the contrary, they indicate the active production of the "accidental potential" in any product. The invention of the ship implies its wreckage, the steam engine and the locomotive discover the derailment. The accident is the ultimate functioning of a product."
- Paul Virilio, original: The Accident of Art, Semiotext(e): New York, 2005. p.2. Later used as motto for the DEAF Festival (Rotterdam '98).
Benjamin Gaulon, Karl Klomp, Gijs Gieskes. Refunctmedia_v.2 (2011). "ReFunct Media" is a multimedia installation that (re)uses numerous "obsolete" electronic devices (digital and analogue media players and receivers). Those devices are hacked, misused and combined into a large and complex chain of elements. To use an ecological analogy they "interact" in different symbiotic relationships such as mutualism, parasitism and commensalism.Voluntarily complex and unstable, "ReFunct Media" isn't proposing answers to the questions raised by e-waste, planned obsolescence and sustainable design strategies. Rather, as an installation it experiments and explores unchallenged possibilities of 'obsolete' electronic and digital media technologies and our relationship with technologies and consumption.

Today I read somewhere that my two year old Apple iPhone is not going to receive any new software updates. The phone still works perfectly, but unfortunately Apple decided that only her new number four will be legible for updates. In the coming months this will probably not really influence the usability of my phone. I can only speculate how long (or how short) it will actually take until this will influence its usability and finally become the reason for my phone to slide into ru-di/ementia, or maybe the phone will be abandoned sooner, when I accidentally let it crash onto the streets.

Success and failure, function and disfunction or upgrade and obsolescence come hand in hand; they are two sides of the same coin. While the new "better" fourth generation of iphones introduces the definite failure of a third, this upgrade will only bring its own problems and imperfections. And while the perfect technology doesn't exist, both consumers and developers unilaterally support and conserve these myths of improvement and acceleration: a perspective in which the future will continue to repeat itself.

4123Technically, a glitch is best understood as an unexpected, unexplainable consequence of an interruption within one or more (digital) information-flows. All these flows of digital information are encoded, often with the help of compressions, to store or transfer data as easy and fast as possible, a technique that is normally obfuscated. 
However, when a flow of data is broken, its reception can quite possible be corrupted. When the data of for instance an image is corrupted, this can reveal the language of the compression, that breaks through the surface of the image. A technological event that is sometimes used as a tool in art or as a style in design. ☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁☁

Kim Asendorf. Extrafile, BLINX (vs. Rosa Menkman, Monglot, 2011) (2011). "New compressions for artists". The Extrafile software (Asendorf, 2011) makes it possible to develop file formats that are free of IOS patents and protocols. 

As a result of my research into these different compression artifacts and their esthetics, I wrote "A Vernacular of File Formats": a manual to navigate and create new glitch design through glitching the diglossia of compression and image. 

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Poxparty. sOS (satromizer OS, een iOS voor de iPad) (2010). Corruption is a fundamental feature for the Satromiser iOS.

As I wrote before, the glitch can be understood as a technological malfunction. But when the glitch is put in a conceptual context, the glitch cannot be completely understood solely via technological rules.
The first time I was forced to look at the glitch outside of 
its technological perspective, was during my visit of the exhibition "World Wide Wrong" (2005, Montevideo/NIMK - a solo exhibition of the Dutch Belgium collective Jodi). The work Untitled Game (1998), a 'broken' version of my then favorite videogame Quake, confused me.

Jodi. Untitled Game (1998) 

Later I realized that in Untitled Game, Jodi exploited the 'bugs' (errors) in the code of the videogame Quake: the game was purposefully deprogrammed. This lead to a beautifully glitched (modified), unplayable videogame. Untitled Game taught me that the world of the (digital) image does not just consist of pursued perfection, but that there can also be room for unknown, unaccepted or 'wrong' possibilities.

While normally a disturbance of the digital transmission is understood as a nuisance, the glitch can also be understood as a special phenomenon. This was a surprising discovery, that called for many new questions, like:  (again) 'what is a glitch?', 'what is glitch art?' and 'can the organized accident really be called an accident; isn't failing on purpose another form of succes?'

Researching glitch art opened up new perspectives. In contradiction to the search for perfect esthetics, I started to map unaccepted possibilities. I also realized that glitch art often includes a certain moment(um): first there is the moment in which the glitch is threatening and shoking ('will the technology come back to its normal flow?'). This moment will be exploited by the artist, that will not only visualize the system, but also its inherent (possible) limitations, rules, expectations and conventions. Glitch art is thus a catalyst  with a momentum (an impulse); a critical potential that forces the viewer to actively reflect on the technology.


2010/20111 GLI.TC/H documentation
Glitch is not singularly defined. Glitch can be described as technique, an esthetics or within the domain of the arts. But glitch can also be described as a community. Last year (in 2010), in the lead-up to my visiting lectureship at the SAIC in Chicago, jon.satrom, Nick Briz and I decided to organize a glitch festival, which was the beginning of GLI.TC/HGLI.TC/H  had as goal to become a meeting place for different glitch artists and enthousiasts to find a place for discussion and to exchange techniques. This year GLI.TC/H took place in Chicago, Amsterdam and Birmingham and counted over 450 submissions from 30 countries. Besides this, the festival was made possible by 146 crowd funded donations. It was clear to us that the glitch art community is clearly growing. 

The first iteration of the festival lead to a couple of insights and considerations, but also a main question: "can and does a festival that is about glitches (corruptions that lay the organizations structures of files bare) be successfully organized via an hierarchical structure?"
As an answer to this problem, we positioned the glitch in GLI.TC/H not as a medium or a genre, but as a living, flowing concept that exists between different communities, that all have their own modules and semantics shaping the glitches in GLI.TC/H. This is also why GLI.TC/H was not just a festival consisting of performances, but also entailed exhibitions, conferences, workshops and (open) publications.


Ubermorgen.com. DEEPHORIZON - Variation 2 (2011) http://deeeeeeephorizon.com/
An oil painting on a 80.000 square miles ocean canvas with 32 million liters of oil - a unique piece of art. These paintings represent the "Verkuenstlichung" of nature and the "Vernatuerlichung" of art.
Although art that has 'failure' or 'imperfection' as its subject is nothing new, glitch art and its growing community could be seen as a sign of times in which protest, breakage and mis-convergence have become issues of general interest. 
Glitch is interesting as a 'Tipping point of failure', a malfunction that is not ignored but instead celebrated as an active space for creation. Glitch studies involves research into the power of 'creative problem creation' (jon.satrom) to instigate reflection (a movement I described as the glitch moment/um). This studies thus involves a movement in which technological knowledge, practical design, academic research and artistic (politically engaged) experiments (focusing on the critical potential of the disturbance) can come together
But besides this, I think another interesting element of 'glitch' lies in its dynamics to become a new, accepted standard.

While glitch art and its conceptual approaches are still battling to become (more and more) integrated into the discourse of art and culture, its esthetics and techniques have become readily available commodities
Perhaps the fact that Transmediale invited me to (co)curate and moderate three panels during the 2012 in/compatible festival should also be understood in this light. 
Real innovation comes hand in hand with the potentiality of breakdown, but also with repetition. The momentum suggests that what is now a glitch, can become a new form tomorrow.

More about the Glitch Moment(um) can be read in: Menkman, Rosa. "The Glitch Moment(um)". Network Notebooks 04, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2011. ISBN: 978-90-816021-6-7.

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