<!– by Nick Briz –>
February 18, 2009: Kanye West introduces his new video for the song “Welcome to Heartbreak” on his blog by writing, “This is not the next single, ‘Amazing’ is the next single. This is the video we’ve been working on for the last month. We know there is another video out there using the same technique so we were forced to drop it now.” The technique West is referring to is called Datamoshing (aka pixel bleed), and it is one of many ways “glitch art” is made. The particular digi-painterly look of datamoshing and the fact that it’s fairly easy to execute might in part explain why it has become so popular. <search query datamosh>.
Little did Mr. West know that this interest in aestheticizing digital errors long preceded his piece. In the realm of datamoshing alone, artists like Sven König, Takeshi Murata, Paul B. Davis, and Paper Rad have been exploring the digital medium’s “natural” aesthetics and dynamics. In addition, other artists have explored the larger realm of glitch/compression-artifact/digital-noise art, including SAIC’s own Jon Cates and Jon Satrom <search query: dirty new media>.
Datamoshing is distinctly beautiful because with glitch art that, of course, is the whole idea: to fetishize and aestheticize these organically occuring bugs dwelling in the digital landscape. But, why this interest in glitches? This is one of many questions, and perhaps the most important one, SAIC Film Video and New Media faculty Jon Cates and Jon Satrom have been discussing. Jon</S> suggests a long history and broader context for glitches. “I believe that there always have been glitches (e.g., evolution: the platypus) and there always will be glitches (e.g., sneezes) regardless of ‘technology.’” Errors and their intrigue most definitely have a long explored and examined the role of accidents and chance in artistic practice. This historical interest in flaws may account for some of our attraction to glitches, but the word “glitch” is a computer term which is relatively new and inherently linked to the technological age.
Glitches carry with them a very specifically digital quality, a quality possibly with the ability to nostalgically transport many of us back to our youthful 8-bit days. Or perhaps this attraction has more recently become part of our collective unconscious in the information age. Jon</C> points out, “For those that have now grown up on YouTube errors as a common occurrence, pixel bleed becomes a kind of normal if not normative experience.” There’s a lot to be considered in asking “Why?” and to be perfectly honest it’s difficult for me to see even the tip of the iceberg.
My interest in glitch came as a response to film school in an attempt to reconcile my own artistic situation. When I started, everyone was trying to make their digital movies look more like film. This was accomplished by pulling from an ever-expanding bag of tricks, which included 24p, 35mm (DOF) adapters, and countless plug-ins. After a while, this all started to seem rather counter-productive, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit ideologically out of place. So I looked to some of my favorite filmmakers at the time, Brakhage, Kubelka, and others, and the way they broke their medium down to its core. If I had any chance of establishing the kind of relationship I desired with my medium, I needed to do the same.
So I set out to make a video from binary code, the result of which was my first glitch piece, albeit unknowingly, as I hadn’t at the time encountered any kind of “glitch art.” In fact, I hadn’t seen anything that looked and behaved the way this video did. It was as if after weeks of instigating and negotiating, the computer revealed its soul to me, and I fell in love. I wasn’t exactly sure, especially at the time, why I felt the way I did, to the extent that I did, or why anyone does. It is clear, though, that there is an interest, and it’s an exponentially growing one. This exponential growth is an important note to make and an elemental dynamic of our new digital ecology. It’s critical to realize the effect this Kurzweilian Singularity is having on our rapidly evolving digital culture <search query:technological singularity>.
The means and rate at which things are introduced, assimilated, institutionalized, and historicized is drastically different now from ever before. This is why we have Kanye West “dropping” his trend-hopping commercial video before Iman Moradi releases his analytical academic text on glitch art, all the while artists, thinkers, and kids on YouTube are still exploring and figuring it all out. While I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, I’m certain,
if nothing else, of the immense conceptual and aesthetic potential within the greater canon of things this new digital practice holds.
A potential to critically address our relationship to technology, the role it plays in our society, and the effect it has on communication and the aggregation and decimation of information in general. Glitch may even have political consequences such as raising an awareness of the “media-systems that have been assimilated by culture and driven by special interests,” as Jon</S> points out, by utilizing and subverting these media-systems, all this in turn creating, as Rosa Menkman puts it, a new space for dialogue: a dialogue about and within a space many of us are still exploring. Perhaps it is in its relatively un-codified presentness and recently tapped potentiality that the attraction lies.
Sven König popmodernism.org
Takeshi Murata takeshimurata.com
Paul B. Davis post-data.org/~paul/
Paper Rad paperrad.org
Jon Cates systemsapproach.net
Jon Satrom jonsatrom.com
Iman Moradi organised.info
Rosa Menkman rosa-menkman.blogspot.com
Evan Meaney evanmeaney.com
Nick Briz nickbriz.com
It’ll be a good idea to go to the Nightingale on Oct.10 <1084 N. Milwaukee Chicago, IL 60642> Evan Meaney will be in town showing work.
It’ll also be a good idea to check out Dorkbot Chicago:
2. Still from Ceibas Portrait, Evan Meaney, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.