An Introduction to Glitch Art
Digital technology has revolutionized the way we consume media. We no longer need physical photographs developed from 35mm wide squares of chemical paper because we can instantly capture, transmit and display images with our digital devices. Most of the photographs you interact with today aren't physical objects but strings of binary code being constantly reinterpreted by different programs. These digital mediators, like their human creators, occasionally make little mistakes: circuits are bent, ones are zeroed, bits rot and as a result, glitches are born.
Although glitches are practically understood to be errors, glitch art is hardly a simple destructive process. Rather it's an aesthetic approach that challenges the way we perceive visual information; the natural qualities of a face is rendered by an electronic eye as senseless array of alternating lines, repeating features, and dislocated color channels.
Glitch Art is a movement on the brink. You see glitching in music videos and film trailers, there's a glitch iPhone app, an electronic music sub-genre, glitch textiles, glitch-inspired drawings and paintings, and an array of online resources with tutorials and theory. However, as an art movement, Glitch Art is still in a vanguard stage. It hasn't quite garnered the respect of the "art market," though that is soon bound to change. Remember how Street Art was once considered to be tasteless acts of vandalism? Now it sells for millions of dollars at fancy pants auction houses.
My Glitch Photography
I discovered glitch photography almost by accident, when my photographer friend's compact flash memory card starting corrupting every JPEG photo we took. I wanted my own broken memory card, but tampering with a CF card isn't as easy as it seems. When I opened a corrupted JPEG in a hex code editor I learned that the broken card was writing zeroes randomly throughout file. That's when I could guide this seemingly random process.
Turns out there's a variety of ways to glitch a photograph. The concept is analogous to developing film negatives in unusual chemical baths (or shocking said baths with a jolt of electricity). Glitching is a devilish perversion of the professional digital photographer's workflow. A single image ends up being rewritten many times from shutter-click to web-ready JPEG and glitch art exploits these underlying mechanisms. While glitching is centered on the digital editing process, very little of what I do involves traditional photoshopping and graphic design. I start by deciding which of my photographs to corrupt, I then use one or more techniques to create dozens of glitched out copies. The best looking glitches then get color corrected and saved. On a rare occasion, I'll do a double exposure type composite of a glitched image over it's original.
A Glitch Art Debut
For anyone, having your first art show can be an exciting and challenging experience. It's a dream come true to see your work displayed outside your parent's house or your lover's room. But setting up an art exhibit can take a considerable amount of money, especially if you're an artist working in a purely digital medium. There's the cost of making decent sized prints on proper gallery-grade paper. Then there are the costs of mounting and framing. There are also the expenses associated with the installation, promotion and opening: yards of velcro, flyers, business cards, bottles of chardonnay, and so forth. It all adds up in the end and this humble Kickstarter seeks to finance this noble enterprise. By contributing, you're helping an artist get his first professional art exhibition off the ground. With a generous pledge you can even sponsor and own an exhibition piece!
Below is a brief tour of the glitch photography work I will be showing along with an explanation of the techniques I used. Print sizes are specified below the images. All work will be printed on archival museum-quality semi-matte photography paper. You can see the images in more detail by clicking on them.
Memories Corrupt: Glitch Photography by Sabato Visconti
October 7 - November 4
Opening Night: Saturday, October 12
The Loft Parlor
180 Pleasant St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Whenever you use a program like Photoshop, a good deal of visual data is stored in a memory cache. Cachemashing is a glitch technique that forces an ancient version of Photoshop to rebuild a broken JPEG using whatever data that is stored in its cache. The results are a random and beautiful mix of fragmented images and negative space.
The first two pieces will be made into large wall sized prints.
Jules in June
This series is a deconstruction of the high-fashion photograph. The primary glitch technique used is called Sonification. This technique involves editing a bitmap image as if it were a waveform audio file. Sonification produces a variety of unique results. Two of the images below are double-exposure type composites.
This was the first glitch series I completed. These images were created by hexing JPEG files. Hexing is a technique where you modify a file's hexadecimal code using a hex code editor. This can be as simple as inserting a bunch of zeroes or as complex as importing outside code. In short, these images are all carefully corrupted JPEGs. Interestingly, not all JPEGs are created equal: a progressive encoded JPEG and a baseline-sequential JPEG use different compression methods so they corrupt in different ways.
The images used in this series all come from a collection of personal photography taken during Summer, 2011.
Anatomy of a Glitch
One of the fascinating aspects of glitch photograph is that an image can appear to be completely different depending on the frame's magnification. Glitching an image means transforming individual pixels, so glitch patterns are being created at the most elemental level. This series highlights the "micro-textures" of a glitched photograph.
The works are organized in sets of three images at different magnification levels. The "Hannah in Red" set features a hexed TIFF and PSD image files.
Hamlet and His Problems
This series of hexed CR2 (Canon RAW image) files arranged in a deconstructive progression. The source photograph depicts a monkey playing Hamlet and the title is shamelessly lifted from a T.S. Eliot essay. This series invokes a fantasy of creative destruction, where ageless signs become reconfigured and consumed by alien new technologies.
Risks and challenges
Perhaps the greatest obstacle for this project is a lack of necessary funds. Getting all the prints done is the priority and while the goal is to have each print professionally mounted, I am prepared for some DIY ingenuity in case money is scarce.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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