Sunday, August 29, 2010

In Response to "Glitching vs..."

A couple of days ago Evan Meaney wrote a blog post titled "Glitching vs. Processing vs. Moshing vs. Signal Interference". I really appreciate Evan's glitch work, from "Ceibas Cycle" to his writings in "on glitching", where he describes the inevitable collaboration with information theory present in all digital work. But this most recent post just doesn't make any sense.

He states that the post is inspired by the diverse work submitted to GLI.TC/H. I can understand wanting to make some loose categories to help group submissions, but the language in the post sounds like he's building a framework. He asks readers to "use this space as a means to explore and delineate, to observe and report, to enumerate...". But it's hard to do that with just four independent categories (with names like "glitching" and "processing") with no unifying structure other than the context of visual arts.

I think I understand where Evan is coming from, so I'd like to try again.

Let's start with noise.

Noise is what happens when we don't understand something. Noise can be manifest in any media: confusion about the clothing of a particular culture, inability to separate a visual foreground from background, the misunderstanding of a foreign rhythm or melody as arrhythmic or atonal. In our failure to contextualize, we create noise.

Glitch means finding noise when we expect to understand. Glitch is an experience, driven by expectation, emerging from consciousness rather than computation. Just as noise would not exist without us to misunderstand it, glitch would not exist without us to misexpect it.

Glitch art is about dwelling in and exploring these experiences, which sometimes means attempting to reproduce them. These reproductions may be executed in a variety of ways. Sometimes it will involve imitating the processes that regularly lead to glitches. This includes direct memory corruption at the byte level, redirection of streams, removal of key frames, analog interference, and circuit bending. Other times it eschews these processes, and opts to evoke the sensation by other means: through the "Bad TV" effect, or in the choice of palette, shapes, motion, melody, etc.

Most of the time, glitch art falls somewhere in between, drawing on the processes that give rise to glitches, but ultimately focused on evoking the experience by whatever means necessary.

Evan suggests that "a true glitch is not reproducible". I believe "true" glitch is unrelated to reproducibility. "True" glitch is tied solely to expectation. The reason it seems like something "stable" is no longer a glitch is simply because it's packaged as such (i.e., a "glitch") removing the possibility of expecting anything else.

That said, acknowledging that glitch is an experience gives us freedom as artists to share that experience regardless of the procedural purity of our practice. Saying that we're just "imperfect" is a cop-out based on a misguided understanding of what glitch artists are aiming for.

1 comment:

roos said...

Hey Kyle! Thanks for your post.
I am happy to see your critique, because I think it is important to get some conversations going, and besides that, I recognize some of the problems you felt with Evans post - I had them too!

First of all: the true of false issue. I think the true and false binary was first introduced by Iman Moradi in his thesis on glitch art - and this was one of the main problems I had with his thesis. It is a binary problem that I think is not that important to glitch art. It could be used to describe a glitch, but glitch art is a procedural art that (often) explicitly deals with scrutinizing binary oppositions, categories, genres, etc - Glitch art is about in between, breaking open, going beyond, or into a new membrane… so true and false defies what glitch art is about.
This is why I like to think of the word glitch in glitch art as used in a metaphorical manner.
True or false can be a handle or a starting point, but in the end it is not that interesting to me. What I think is more interesting about glitch art is how a work of glitch art breaks this and other forms of categorizing.

That said, there are a couple of other problems with that claim, which are also reflected in your first problem, the building of a framework of glitch. I guess there are two ways to go:
Either you keep glitch art uncategorized (because glitch art defies categorization), or as an organization you do try to set a framework. I think it is an interesting idea to set a framework, if you realize that the glitches that you show will defy the framework and in that way, as an organization, you might be able to show the "transgressive characteristic" of glitch.

Be careful because it might feel like I will do a 180 now (oh I would have made such a good skateboarder).
But something does not compute in glitch-art land, or at least within the submissions we have seen at GLI.TC/H. And I am sick and tired to pretend and keep ignoring this. Yes, a glitch is transgressive… yes, glitch art is trying to be transgressive too. But come on! Glitch art or glitch has become a style, a genre, a meme, a form of popular culture as well! There is very often nothing transgressive about glitch art except for that it sort of simulates some form of transgressive-mess. It is a completely accepted form of popular politics. Glitch: the washed out jeans politics.

Fortunately, here also lies another tension. And I think in the submissions, we see this tension coming more and more to the front. On the one hand there are the pushing glitch artists, and on the other hand there are the punks that wear the washed out glitch-jeans politics with or without style. I wished, as I have already made clear in other posts, that in GLI.TC/H we could make this tension more clear. Maybe that is via the building of an exhaustive (or non exhaustive?) framework, or maybe by presenting glitches without borders. I think this is what GLI.TC?H right now has to deal with, thanks to Evan, you and the many (great) datamosh submissions!