Thursday Reading: Breaking Things on Purpose by Doug Bierend
On Glitch Art and the work of Sabato Visconti
(image by Visconti)
There’s a whole breed of artist out there, who are not only concerned with using tools, but with their making as an integral practice of critical engagement with the material and conceptual content of their process and work. Tool making is necessarily social and political in its scope.
Glitch Art generated through algorithmic means is a bit like a painter experimenting with the application of paint on the canvas. The canvas is taken as default, the paint is taken as default, but the process of application and its results are of primary concern. The image is default, the fact that it is simply a matrix of color values is taken as default, the algorithms are selected or crafted as processes which “push pixels” around the screen. Where this variant of glitch art departs from its edgier cousins is in its lack of critical engagement with the materials underlying or informing the conditions necessary for digital images in the first place.
A good example of a deeper glitch oriented practice can be found in the work of Kim Asendorf. Though not strictly a glitch artist, Asendorf engages with the materials, practices, and concepts of glitch art quite broadly in his work. His exploration of pixel sorting touches upon the evocation of error and the surface characteristics of visual glitches which happens, paradoxically, as a consequence of ordering all the pixels according to their numeric value. This form of pixel pushing, deals with the image as a matrix of pixels, touching upon our perception of the image as such, revealing the arbitrary nature in which images can be conveyed through a screen.
In Extra File, Asendorf takes up the task of writing his own file formats and image compression schemes. The result is not only a new family of formats for shrinking and sharing images, but a collection of artifacts waiting to be discovered and explored, accessible through data bending or otherwise manipulating, or corrupting the image data.
One step further: something I would like to add to my wishlist is a image viewing application which allows for the real-time interpretation of mis-compiled image rendering algorithms. It’s one thing to bust a JPG, and a whole other to bust the algorithm used to render the JPG. Evidence of the potential for tweaking with rendering algorithms can be found in Nick Briz’s Glitch Codec Tutorial. Though it deals with re-writing and compiling the source code for video algorithms, the same basic idea should be applicable to just about any media.
Includes a short introduction:
“Overexposed / Underdeveloped” is a celebration of the discarded photograph. It’s a moment every photographer has endured, the moment they realize that they forgot to adjust their camera settings before shooting. Sometimes the cruelty of time punishes our carelessness, turning what would’ve been “the perfect shot” into vague swaths of white or black. This case involved a shot of balloons against grey New England clouds. While the final shot turned out to be unimpressive, I was touched by the delicate minimalism of the blown out frame and found that its sparse colors made it an ideal photograph to glitch. I had been working on a glitch art series using Pixel Drifter, a pixel-sorting Java program written by Dmitriy Krotevich, to produce dramatic textures. Since most of the original shot was pure white, there were only so many pixels left to sort. The challenge became to bring out as much color as possible from the overexposed photograph. The results were striking, not only for their variety or for the occasional pop of unseen color, but because each output conveyed a different feeling altogether.