9/20/2012

A personal history on my usage of the term 'glitch art' as introduction to Jodi on the Rack

Jodi on the Rack
Next week, actually this coming Monday, I will be re-firing my PhD on digital artifacts in London. I am looking forward but I also feel anxious,,, ...I need to pull a lot of threads together (this might also be why there have been so many posts on my blog the last week). So how did I get here? ..Quick recap time!

In 2005 I first saw Untitled Game (1996), when I visited the exhibition World Wide Wrong (a solo exhibition by jodi.org at Montevideo). The work sparked my interest but also many questions. I wanted to understand it and in February 2006, I decided to write my final thesis on jodi. 5 months of intense research later, my thesis got graded an 8,5 and I graduated.

The last years I have been trying to translate and rewrite the thesis into English. Now six years later, some parts feel kind of naive and under developed. Even so, this thesis was a turning point in my thinking and the last six years have been echoing many of the problems I ran into while writing it. At the time of writing though, there was not a whole lot written about jodi, and nothing in terms of their work being 'glitch art'. Never once I found a reference to it being categorized as such. I think these times might also be understood as the 'dark-ages' of jodi, in which they would refrain from giving a lot of ('reasonable') statements about their work. The only texts about jodi I found at the time were: Tilman Baumgärtel (19971997), Josephine Bosma (1997, 2005), Florian Cramer (2002), Annet Dekker (2005), Anne-Marie Schleiner (2002)

In hindsight the absence of the terminology 'glitch art' seems almost unbelievable, how did I miss it? But going back through my archives (my archives - I have not re-queried today) I can only find four, later added, relevant texts from that time that theorized 'glitch', and they were written mostly from a musical perspective. Again, none of these texts seem to write about 'glitch art' (although Sangilds article comes very close and he also takes glitch to the (a)v-sphere):
- In 2002 Kim Cascone wrote about the musical 'glitch genre' in his essay The Aesthetics of Failure. "Post-Digital" Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music.
After Cascones text, there seems to be a kind of theoretical hiatus of 2 years. Finally, in 2004, some more theory appeared:
- Torben Sangild wrote his PhD thesis Objektiv Sensibilitet in Danish, however it features a chapter called "Glitch: the Beauty of Malfunction" in English (again his perspective is on music) and finally
- Brady Cranfield-Rose's Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick... Oval, the glitch and Utopian Politcs of Noise and
- Iman Moradi's Gtlch Aesthetics also considered the visual counterparts of glitch.

Since that time (until recently) I have only learned about one person who had done extensive research into the field of glitch art, while actually referring to it as 'glitch art'. Ant Scott aka Beflix had started a glitch art diary back in July 2001(!). However when I entered the field I never found his website or his work due to unlucky timing //--sliding doors--\\ :: Beflix had just taken a break (read: taken all his work and website 'offline'). Compare January 29 2006 and February 7th and his diary just before he took his site offline on Dec 31st 2005 (all links from the internet archive). It can give some insight into his personal online presence at the time I started doing my research.
Beflix website came back online shortly after but was missing the archive he had build over the past years. As he stated around April the 17th 2006:
"My glitch art site began in July 2001. By January 2006 it had over 400 images, but then I decided to start over with fresh work. I'm slowly moving away from pure digital glitches, towards physical artworks which combine aspects of the glitch aesthetic with traditional photographic printmaking."
A couple of months later (late 2006) in preparation for the first Machinimabits festival that I organized together with Ruben Zijlstra (which included a presentation that showed works such as Adam Killer by Brody Condon, max_miptex by Julian Oliver and Chad Chatterton, the Super Mario Hacks by Beige and a performance by Goto80) I started working and talking with the concept of 'glitch art'. I learned about works and artists such as GlitchbrowserCorruptASSEMBLERENTTERGijs GieskesShreddernoteNdoDatadada.... and many many others that somehow seemed connected to each other

This research also lead to me joining the Glitch Art Flickr pool that had just started somewhere mid 2005 and has been playing a key role in the development and infrastructure of the genre that has come to be known as 'glitch art'. Stallio, who had apparently (late 2005) just posted some short texts about 'glitch art' (directly inspired by Ant) seemed to be a heavy contributor to the pool, in which artists such as Dmtr, jonCates Koyachi and Morgan Higby Flowers had been posting from very early on.
Finally, this pool also lead me to reverse engineering my access into Beflix diary via the internet archive, on which I eventually read about the Glitch conference organized by Motherboard (Per Platou and Amanda Steggell), that had taken place in Oslo, Norway in 2002.

Now I realize glitch art as a practice has existed for a long time (decades), it has its roots in many preceding art forms and genres and I dont know if I want, nor can pinpoint a specific start. But as a distributed name or genre, 'glitch art' is a very recently installed terminology that finds that thanks its networked usage mainly as a result and through communities such as the Glitch Art flickr pool, runme.org, the yahoo databenders group and maybe even micromusic.net.

Glitch art is indeed an overarching community that is inclusive, connecting different fields (lofi technologies, hardware hacking, codebased work such as databending, certain strands of critical engineering etc. in both music and visuals).
To reach into the histories and the usage of the term 'glitch art' throughout the last decade is important because this can shed light on key users, movements, growth and tippingpoints that have given room and grounds for the histories that are now known as 'glitch art', but maybe more importantly also to give an insight into why certain artists and artworks are actually referred to as 'glitch artists' (and others not).

Last year GLI.TC/H 2111 celebrated Beflix' decade of glitch art by featuring him prominently (although his website is offline again, he still makes glitch art which was featured in the gallery show, as well as we mentioned his anniversary on our website and in the conference). This year I hope GLI.TC/H 2112 can make some special connections to the 2002 Glitch Symposium. You can also expect me publish re-written parts of the thesis 'Jodi on the Rack' instantly (instead of keeping them in my .docx -- eeek). In any case this particular retrospect has given me some insights into my own glitch roots.


Appendix

Here are some 'New', but actually old threads theorizing 'glitch art' from around the 2000s that I found while I writing this post; it turns out that just when you think you have found the main threads, there is always a plateau they have been mounted from. (disclaimer --> this is by no means an all embracing history, just the perspective from my personal research!).
the 2002 glitch festival and symposium in Oslo, Norway (which was organized by Per Platou and attended by Ant Scott) sparked some texts: 

nik gaffney, Maja Kuzmanovic, Belinda Barnet. topology of error: digital art and the glitch [b+m+n] (2002)
nik gaffney, Maja Kuzmanovic. Introduction to Advanced Error Engineering (2002)
Ketil Nergaard post glitch report (2002)
glitch and parergon (2002)
Maja Kuzmanovic Digital Art and 'The Glitch' (2002)
DA[N] Glitch:Aesthetics (2005) ++ Glitch:Aesthetics:update


Other 'old' texts I recently heard about that theorize glitch:
Mitchell Whitelaw, Hearing Pure Data:Aesthetics and Ideals of Data-Sound (2004) (via Stallio)

Any ('old') missing theory suggestions are highly appreciated. 


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