Glitch & the Art of Imperfect Media


Week 6: February 18 – February 24

We will discuss glitch: the mistakes, errors, artifacts and aberrations of digital processes have in recent years found a central place in contemporary media art, particularly via the Internet where emergent low-resolution glitch forms and other so-called “accidents” of artifacts are often native to the medium. We will survey the key artists who have pioneered the art and theory of glitch aesthetics to better understand how this “outlier” form has become an emerging genre.


Due Next Week: February 25

1 – Readings

Read the following online articles about Choreogapher Liz Lehrman’s Critical Response Process:

Just read the online information, you do not need to purchase the book, Critical Response Process. These readings encourage the artist to return to their work with uninhibited curiosity and a spirit of adventure.

2 – Research Critique: Dance Performance

Watch the following two videos and summarize both pieces in approx. 400 words (200 each). Watch for gestures, movement, and the mover’s relationship to “the box.” Also notice the role of sound, speed, dynamics, and depth of perception in these films.

Video 1: Eiko & Koma, My Parents

Video 2:  Motion Control


Here are additional instructions for the research critique:

  • Create a new post on your blog incorporating relevant hyperlinks, images, video, etc
  • Add a featured image
  • Apply the “Research” category
  • Apply appropriate tags
  • Post a comment on at least one other research post prior to the following class

3 – Micro-Project: Dream Journal

This micro-project will be preparation for the final project, to explore the potential of how dreams can be incorporated as material for live performance. See the micro-project assignment page for details.


Works for Review

  • Dirk Paesmans & Joan Heemskerk,,  (1995)


NOTE: Each time you go to, you will encounter a different Website. Here are a few of sites you may find interesting. Once entering, click and explore if you dare!

“We are honored to be in somebody’s computer” boast art collective in 1995, who early on in the age of the Web, instantly became the medium’s most celebrated and notorious artists. Their aim was to deconstruct the interface of the Web and reveal the code hidden beneath the surface. Their work essentially functioned as a viral entity that virtually embedded itself into the viewer’s own computer system, as the artists described: “We explore the computer from inside, and mirror this on the net. When a viewer looks at our work, we are inside his computer.’”

  • They approach the computer and the creation of their work with a hacker intent: to probe, to disturb, to disrupt.
  • The look at the Net as theatrical space, activating the space through coding. Code is for them a vehicle for transformation, for undermining the status quo.
  • They were creating glitch art before it was called that. Their intent was to find the accidental disturbances of the machine and its language: to subvert the expectations, and expose its aberrations.
  • Ultimately, they have revealed what lies beneath the surface of the “design” of the Web, reversing the role of code as a visual experience, rather than its functional qualities.

Jodi, or, is a collective of two internet artists: Joan Heemskerk (born 1968 in Kaatsheuvel, the Netherlands) and Dirk Paesmans (born 1965 in Brussels, Belgium). Their background is in photography and video art; since the mid-1990s they started to create original artworks for the World Wide Web. A few years later, they also turned to software art and artistic computer game modification.

In 1999 they began the practice of modifying old video games such as Wolfenstein 3D to create art mods like SOD. Their efforts were celebrated in the 1999 Webby Awards where they took top prize in the category of “net art“. Jodi used their 5-word acceptance speech (a Webby Award tradition) to criticize the event with the words “Ugly commercial sons of bitches.” Further video game modifications soon followed for Quake, Jet Set Willy, and the latest, Max Payne 2 (2006) to create a new set of art games. Jodi’s approach to game modification is comparable in many ways to deconstructivism in architecture, because they would disassemble the game to its basic parts, and reassemble it in ways that do not make intuitive sense. One of their more well-known modifications of Quake places the player inside a closed cube with swirling black-and-white patterns on each side. The pattern is the result of a glitch in the game engine discovered by the artists, presumably, through trial and error; it is generated live as the Quake engine tries, and fails, to visualize the interior of a cube with black-and-white checked wallpaper.

Since 2002, they have been in what has been called their “Screen Grab” period, making video works by recording the computer monitor’s output while working, playing video games, or coding. Jodi’s “Screen Grab” period began with the four-screen video installation My%Desktop (2002), which premiered at the Plugin Media Lab in Basel. The piece appeared to depict mammoth Mac OS 9 computers running amok: opening windows cascaded across the screen, error messages squawked, and files replicated themselves endlessly. But this was not a computer gone haywire, but a computer user gone haywire. To make this video, Jodi simply pointed-and-clicked and dragged-and-dropped so frantically, it seemed that no human could be in control of such chaos. As graphics exploded across the screen, the viewer gradually realized that what had initially appeared to be a computer glitch was really the work of an irrational, playful, or crazed human. (This description matches Jon Cates’ Bold3RRR and provides fertile territory for live desktop performance.)

This is from untitled game, which inspired Rosa Menkman’s interest in glitch:


Mark Napier, Riot (1999)

napier_riot_wired_yahoo_clipped Napier_Riot_wordcom_toungeboy Napier_Riot_yellow_blue_large

NOTE: Riot is no longer functional as a live browser but explore the concept of how it worked.

The Tompkins Square riots and the state sponsored enforcement of gentrification in New York’s East Village in the ’90s inspired Riot, an alternative browser that crosses the virtual boundaries in the web. Riot breaks the software-based rules of Internet domains and blends web pages together as users surf from site to site. blends with, with Visitors surfing with Riot see their own pages merged with pages from other users. Riot was the first and only multi-user browser. Riot revealed the soft territories of the web, enforced by the rules of browser software and domain name servers.

Riot is an alternative Web browser that builds its page by combining text, images and links from the recent pages that any Riot user has surfed to more…

From the page instructions: Use RIOT as you would use any other browser (it no longer works):

  • surf by entering a URL into the location bar
  • choose a recent page from the history list
  • choose from the Bookmarks.

Mark Napier is an early adopter of the web and developed my first web-based applications for financial data in 1996 while working for a market data startup called LPC. For much of my career I’ve worked in a designer/architect role – information architect and user experience – but my background in programming (Java/SQL, Javascript, C++, C) gives me insight into the inner workings of software systems. After LPC was sold to Reuters in the late ’90s I made a name for myself as a new-media artist and am considered to be a pioneer of digital art on the Internet. More recently, after several years in the big corporation experience at Thomson Reuters, I am back in startups, consulting for a new personal finance company.

Menkman_Screenshot 2015-09-16 11.04.21
NOTE: Phase Alternating Line (PAL) is a colour encoding system for analogue television used in broadcast television systems in most countries broadcasting at 625-line / 50 field (25 frame) per second (576i). Other common colour encoding systems are NTSC and SECAM.
The Collapse of PAL is a transmission art project that explores the performativity of television in light of the challenges brought about by a converging mediascape. Signal, noise, liveness and flow along with standardized production formats are all aspects of the television medium which are reshaped in digital, networked media. Rather than a stream-lined sound-image of digital convergence, SOUND & TELEVISION strives to act as a springboard for an aesthetic “media-clash” reflecting on the political-aesthetic of old and new media forms. SOUND & TELEVISION invited Menkman to work with the materiality of audiovisual flows to realize a performance exploring the performativity of television. In this performance, the transmission itself became the artwork. The performance reflects on different significant aspects of the changing conditions of broadcasting.
In the new DVB-T (digital terrestrial television) environment, the very transmission format of TV has changed, from symmetric analog to asymmetric data flows, encoded in the MPEG format and decoded through software implemented in everything from flat-screen TV’s, set-top-boxes and PC’s. “The cracking of LCD screens” …all is not smooth in this world of digitally compressed TV. In “The Collapse of PAL” (Eulogy, Obsequies and Requiem for the planes of blue phosphor), the Angel of History (as described by Walter Benjamin) reflects on the PAL signal and its termination. (PAL (Phase Alternating Line) is the European standard for broadcast television and has become outmoded in the era of digital broadcasting.)
This death sentence, although executed in silence, was a brutally violent act that left PAL disregarded and obsolete. However, the Angel of History has to conclude that while the PAL signal might be argued death, it still exists as a trace left upon the new, “better” digital technologies. PAL can, even though the technology is terminated, be found here, as a historical form that newer technologies build upon, inherit or have appropriated from. Besides this, the Angel also realizes that the new DVB signal that has been chosen over PAL, is different but at the same time also inherently flawed.
The Collapse of PAL was first developed as a commission for SOUND & TELEVISION (Copenhagen, Dnk). “A transmission art project that explored the performativity of television in the light of the challenges brought about by the converging mediascape.” The video footage is based on the analogue PAL video signal, compressions, glitches and feedback artifacts that are complimented by (obsolete) soundscapes that originate from both analogue and digital media. For the video I exploited the analog PAL signal from a NES, image bending, a broken digital photo camera, teletekst, digital compression artifacts, video bending artifacts (DV, interlacing, datamoshing and black bursts) and feedback. For the sound I used a cracklebox, feedback, a telephone eurosignal, morsecode an old Casio keyboard, feedback filters and a couple of DV-compressed video soundbends. //////////////////////////////////////////////////

Glitch Moment(um) by Rosa Menkman

Rosa Menkman, in her inspired treatise on glitch art, The Glitch Moment(um), speaks of the RUPTURE – the departure from conditions of the expected, the normality of the mediated experience – into the BEYOND, where systems fail, aberration prevails, and our preconception of systems and their flow of information is disrupted or even halted. The Ghost in the Machine? A destructive force at work in our digital systems revealed through accidental failures systematic to technology? Or perhaps an intentional act of digital subterfuge: artists searching for new modes of expression through the aesthetic construction of dazzling patterns and the disorientation of pixels.

And yet, Menkman’s critique of the exploding genre of glitch art reveals how little we understand of machines and their potential to fail. It is this lack of understanding that sets the stage for our wonderment of the breakdown, our attraction to the noise, our awe of the strange manifestations that the machine exudes when left to its own devices. Ironically, our design of machines is intended to produce concrete results, functional processes, and predictable behavioral patterns. But the machine is an independent entity in so many ways: it will pull itself back from our feeble attempts of control and wander into otherworldly realms of ephemeral, inexplicable renderings, that even we, the so-called masters of the system, could never imagine. THAT, in essence, is the magic. Like John Cage’s use of chance technique to break from habitual models of creation, the glitch manifested work is often a search for the impossible, in which the machine transcends our finite, human capability to shape reality.

You might call this “computer-assisted composition,” but it is much more than that. The machine is hardly a slave, it is our guide into the other world, a world only IT is native to, an alien world to us made up of blood and flesh. The machine resides in the fantastic world of the electrical and the mechanical, and yes, it can dream impossibly sublime beauty in which we, the artist, become the model posing for its creation.

(Additional reading from The Ephemerality of the Machine by Randall Packer)


Rosa Menkman is an artist and theorist who focuses on visual noise artifacts, resulting from accidents in both analogue and digital media (such as glitch, encoding and feedback artifacts). Although many people perceive these accidents as negative experiences, Menkman emphasizes their positive consequences: these artifacts facilitate an important insight into the otherwise obscure alchemy of standardization via resolutions: the creation of solutions or protocols, and their black-boxed, unseen, forgotten or obfuscated compromises and alternative possibilities.

In 2011 Menkman wrote the Glitch Moment/um, a book on the exploitation and popularization of glitch artifacts (published by the Institute of Network Cultures), co-facilitated the GLI.TC/H  festivals in both Chicago and Amsterdam and curated the Aesthetics symposium of Transmediale 2012. Since 2012 Menkman has been curating exhibitions that intend to illuminate the different ecologies of glitch (filtering failure, glitch genealogies, glitch moment/ums). In 2015 Menkman started the institutions for Resolution Disputes [iRD], during her solo show at Transfer Gallery New York. The iRD are institutions dedicated to researching the interests of anti-utopic, lost and unseen or simply “too good to be implemented” resolutions. Menkman is also pursuing a PhD at Goldsmiths, London under the supervision of Matthew Fuller and Geert Lovink.


Popularity of Glitch

In this work by Kanye West (Welcome to Heartbreak), we see the artist using the glitch technique called datamoshing, in which the files data is bent, twisted, and distorted in various ways. This brought glitch into a mainstream context. What do we think of this?

And this video by Rihanna (Azealia Banks), which is stylized in a way that reflects internet pop art and has a few glitch elements:

Movement in the Third Space

Brief discussion about what everyone learned/experienced through the movement with Angeline in the third space. How do you see this work evolving in our final project?

Research Critique

Ways to improve research, writing, and documentation in OSS.

  • Be sure and include a reference with all quotations.
  • Distinguish between referencing with quotes and paraphrasing
  • Avoid too much paraphrasing, but include subjective ideas, CRITIQUE, from your perspective what interests you about the reading/work. Has it influenced your work? Your way of thinking? Be subjective!
  • Don’t just post media for the look and feel, be sure it SUPPORTS your ideas, ILLUSTRATES your thinking. If you present a video, tell us which part to look at and why it was important. Be specific.
  • Including relevant links whenever possible, extend your writing to include your sources.
  • Make sure your images are large and easy to read. In the WordPress image editor, you can choose full size, and be sure all images are at least 1000 pixels in width whenever possible.
  • Don’t forget the featured image!

Micro-Project: Glitched Aberrations

Conduct another series of glitch transformations in class. Each student takes their final glitched image and posts in the Flickr Group.

Discuss the Rosa Menkman article.

Discuss how the glitch exposes the fragility of media, what lies beneath the surface, the aesthetics of the “mistake,” the beauty of imperfections. How does glitch contrast with the quest for high resolution, pristine forms of media production? How does glitch introduce a subversive quality to artistic production, how does it undermine the traditional way of thinking about art/media production?

Instructions for using Adobe Connect Mobile

Go to the app store on your iPhone or Android and download the Adobe Connect Mobile app. The links are on this page. Once downloaded, open the app and go step by step through the following instructions:

Connect_IMG_0038 Connect_IMG_0039

The icon on the upper left side displays the full interface.


The circular icon displays only the share pod.


The camera icon, fourth down on the left, displays only the video pod.


The icon on the left, third from bottom, displays only the chat.


The mic icon on the upper right side connects your microphone and allows you to adjust volume. Be sure that mic volume is not too loud to avoid feedback.


The camera icon is on the right second from the top. First click OK to allow access to the camera.


Next, you can preview the camera image and then press “Broadcast” to start the camera on Adobe Connect.


With the video icon selected on the left side, and camera turned on, you see the video pod full screen.


The icon in the lower right corner is where you can log out.

If you have any additional questions, click on the ? icon on the right side for help.