One need only look as far as the upstart GLI.TC/H festival and its vibrant constellation of related practitioners to see that the glitch aesthetic is alive and well. Rosa Menkman has been active as an artist, theorist, organizer and agitator within this milieu and at the tail end of last year she published The Glitch Moment(um), which threads together a number of writing and research projects into a rather authoritative overview of engineered disruption as critical media practice. Released under the auspices of the Institute for Network Cultures Network Notebook series, The Glitch Moment(um) provides a really thorough examination of glitch aesthetics in relation to classical communications theory, questions of categorization, the propagation of glitch art as a ‘genre’ and presents some related research into the community of artists active within this realm. Menkman also tosses in a manifesto for good measure. Despite the numerous moving parts that comprise this text, it really works as a cohesive enterprise – not only in providing an overview of the history of glitch art but as an expert framing of the media theory that underpins the field.
So, how do we make sense of practices such as codec corrupting, datamoshing and circuit bending? Menkman describes glitch as a wholesale rejection of utopian dreams of the seamless media experience, a dispelling of the transparency of various mediums: “To study media-specific artifacts is to take interest in the failure of media to disappear… in noise artifacts.” In contemplating failure, she breaks down these noise ‘artifacts’ into three categories: compression, feedback and glitch, and identifies the latter as an indeterminate force, one that is “unaccepted… unwanted… unordered”. After ruminating on this undefined space Menkman eases into a consideration of the phenomenology of glitch that is buoyed by careful case studies of key works by Ant Scott, Gijs Gieskes, Jodi and Paul B. Davis.
The remarkable thing about The Glitch Moment(um) is the depth of research informing the work; Menkman moves beyond stock discussions of Paul Virilio (catastrophe) and Kim Cascone (the aesthetics of failure) and invokes less overtly relevant media theorists like Alan Liu and Jay David Bolter to great effect. The concluding examinations of ‘the commodified glitch’ and the glitch scene’s crystallization into a genre are really quite savvy and self-aware. Menkman cites McLuhan’s adage that “obsolescence never meant the end of anything, it’s just the beginning”, which perfectly encapsulates the challenge (and promise) of this particular moment for error-driven practices. Given that The Glitch Moment(um) is basically a handbook for embracing noise and obsolescence with open arms, the text is a vital read for anyone interested in critically engaging media.
Jodi, <$BLOGTITLES$>, 2007
Ant Scott, SUQQE, 2002
Glitch Actors Organized – Network map of glitch artist twitter scene (produced with Esther Weltevrede)