By Olivia Rogers
Rosa Menkman, a visual artist who resides in Amsterdam, is one of the most recognized visual artists in the Glitch genre. Glitch is an art form where artists purposely compress images and videos to create computer errors known as glitches. Glitches come in many colors and shapes, from blinking bright pixels to TV static. Like most glitch art, Rosa’s process is just as celebrated as what she produces.
As well as Menkman’s videos, images, and other works produced with glitch methods, she has written about her discoveries and theories about the unique art form. Artists interested in creating glitch can refer to Menkman’s articles on how make it and follow her footsteps. SAIC’s Glitch Class, taught by Jon Satrom in the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation department, was able to sort out the time difference between Chicago and Amsterdam and ask her questions via webcam. The class brainstormed on questions to ask before she logged onto Skype, eager to hear the answers as they threw their ideas left and right.
“Rosa Menkman came online,” read Skype, and her face was soon splashed across the fabric of the projector screen. After a few technological adjustments, the first question was out in the open, without any glitches.
How did you come across these methods? Was it all you playing, or did you work together with other artists? When did you get engaged in glitch?
“Here in the Netherlands Art School and University are very much separated; one is practical and the other one is theoretical. I didn’t go to art school. I tried it, but I felt it was really not for me so I quit after two months. The first time I encountered glitch was when I visited the JODI solo show in NIMK. What I remembered when I was there is that I heard the sounds of Quake,”
“I recognized these Quake sounds in Untitled Game (an artwork that consists of 14 MODs), but when I saw it and tried to play it, it was really fucked up and unplayable. I went home to read about what I had seen and later decided to write an 70 page master thesis about the work.
I moved from theory to static imagery to videos. I read a lot about glitch theories and histories before I started making things. While I am interested in what other people write and make I also try to write and share.”
If you are open to sharing your process then how do you preserve the uniqueness of your own work?
“I think there are certain subjects I am most interested in, like emptiness and void. Those are subjects that I am constantly working with. Another thing that is special to my style is that I combine theory and practice.
I’m not afraid to loose my style to other people; I don’t think this is even possible. I believe that if you are deep into what you are doing then you will develop your own style.”
Are you Buddhist? With your fascination with the void and emptiness?
“Excellent! yeaaaah…NO!” she laughs, “in a way I am not religious at all. I have enough spirit inside of me to not feel the need to subscribe to a spiritual ‘standard’. Besides that, my room is not empty! Full of crap!”
You like to share your working-process. Do you think glitch artists focus more on sharing their processes then their end-products?
“I am kind of ambivalent to that statement. On the one hand, I think there is a cool side to glitch art that is open and about procedural workings, curiosity, sharing and exploring. On the other, ‘hot’ side of glitch art I see mostly works that focus on aesthetics and end products. We should not underestimate nor judge either side (that I actually see as existing on a continuum). I believe there is a lot to be learned from both sides and the tension between those two sides.
Without being dramatic, I do think I lost part of my ‘belief’ in glitch being always very special .. avant-garde or transgressive. There is good and popular work that is at the same time kind of one dimensional – existing only as a design or an end-product. Besides that I think that many people like to share their working methods, not only within the glitch art genre but as a frame of mind within many art genres.
I still love the glitch genre because it has has so much potential.
I think in the end, for me personally it is important to focus on both a working process, a concept, sometimes a narrative (or the idea of a story) and on the creation of an end product (a design). I think that if you make something ugly you cant expect to get an audience – or anybody to be moved or touched by your work. Jodi is smart that way because they make very aesthetically pleasing artwork.
What did you learn about yourself through glitch art?
“It could be personal psychological and physical. I learned in so many directions. I have been living in glitch. I didn’t sleep one real night this week (in preparation for the Filtering Failure exhibition) and I just got back from a six-hour class. It’s chaotic. Maybe that’s a boring answer? Hm…I’m less afraid of technology (or life in general); if something breaks it will be able to be fixed or the next step will be better anyway. I learned to loose a lot of doubts and holding back in many ways.”
To learn more about Rosa Menkman, visit her blog at http://rosa-menkman.blogspot.com/. To learn how you can create your own glitch art, read her article,“Vernacular of File Formats,” located on the site.