[-empyre-] glitch device/divide

Julian Oliver julian at julianoliver.com
Tue Dec 13 06:21:45 EST 2011

..on Thu, Dec 08, 2011 at 08:49:37PM +0100, Rosa Menkman wrote:
> Dear Julian, 
> Although I like some of the examples you gave and you made some engaging
> arguments, I feel like the way you end your email kind of shuts down a door
> for real engagement. Are you really just taking issue with the term 'glitch
> art' this movement has appropriated?  Visual glitch art has been using the
> term glitch art for 10 years - Beflix was the first to coin it and since then
> a wide array of practices, works and shattered, side ways and full frontal
> movements have come and celebrated it. What is the point in going back 10
> years and trying to rename history?  Also: what about psychedelic art, or net
> art, or … conversations around the names of these movements could be had as
> well, but is that really what is interesting about them - I think it would be
> interesting to have content based conversation than these semiotics/name
> call-based ones.

I prefer 'limiting' (or at least retaining) a glitch to be an unexpected
outcomes from any System we have designed. This is the beautiful thing about
glitch! Those systems may indeed be social, economic or political, borrowed from
the original German term later adopted by electrical engineers. 

However, expanding glitch to unanticipated events or symptoms in biological,
neurological, neurochemical, meterological processes, for instance, assumes that
such contexts can be neatly described as discrete systems at all; a very recent
idea made prevalent with the popularisation of Cybernetics and the consequent
invention of the Ecosystem. In reality we don't know enough about the brain, or
much of the world's biological entities for them to produce much other than the

That something as magical as the unexpected can occur in a discrete electrical
circuit however, a network of traffic lights, a navigation system, a thermal
sensor network in a data center or in a video codec/player version
incompatibility... these are themselves too wonderous to lump in with all the
unexpected that existed before such abstraction. 

Life is already the frame of the unanticipated. We are ourselves unanticipated.
That which we know enough to engineer, to make, is not. 

Glitch art, in itself, may have some or nothing to do with any of this, rather
seemingly quite often fetishisation of very particular visual or auditory
outcomes of such events, when perceptible at all. That's fine in itself but it
would seem that much, not all, of what is called Glitch Art has gone a bit the
way of Punk, a culture with aesthetic links to a politic, rather than political
links to an aesthetic.

I'm all for bringing it around, as it seems John Cates is doing.


Julian Oliver

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