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DISPATCH: GL(ITCH) By Steven L.

Bridges

A glitch is often regarded as an undesirable result of some form of system error or failure. Most of us encounter glitches in our daily lives, the result of which is often confusion, frustration and inconvenience, but they can also result in delight and wonder in the unknown. The term itself arises from technical jargon developed in the 60s primarily related to the field of electronic engineering, however its use has become ubiquitous in recent years and is readily used to describe any number From left: Norm Wilson, The Jolly Beggar 12, 2012; Norm Wilson, Wohlgemeynte of errors or mishaps in Gedanken uber den Dannemar 281, 2012. Photos courtesy of the artist. processes that range from the writing of code for complex computational analyses to making dinner plans with a friend. Within an expanding field of artistic practice, however, the term glitch is associated with certain aesthetic characteristics: interference, noise, (mal)function, corruption, stripping down/away, re-purposing, de/recontextualization of information, and so on. As such, glitches are seen as having productive and generative potentialities for art-making, while they prompt us to reconsider our relationship to the systems that have come to dominate and shape our everyday life. My interest in this subject matter was sparked by the growing visibility of glitch in art practices in Chicago, for the city has become an important nexus point for the aesthetics associated with glitch. A few months ago, while on a studio visit with Chicago-based artist Norm Wilson, the term came up in our conversation. Intrigued at first, I began to come across the idea of glitch again and again, seeing and feeling its effects all around me (art-related or not), until a strong interest began to take hold. This prompted some reflection on the idea, as it occurred to me that glitch is a relatively new term in the field of art, and yet its characteristics as it pertains to artistic production indeed has a much longer history. And so I wonder: is there something particular or unique about the term as it is used today? Is there something different about our relationship to mechanical processes and systems that demarcates a new genre of activity? A crucial element of this question revolves around arts relationship to technology of course, but in a more historical mindset more specifically around arts relationship to systems of production and reproduction. There have been significant advancements in recent years in the realm of technology, the implications of which, without fail, always seem to find their way into artistic methodologies. With those, the nature of glitch in relation to artistic production today has evolved, and over the next few weeks I will explore

the connections between glitch and various artistic modes of production. In doing so, I will draw from specific examples that range from the historical to the modern and contemporary. My first case study will be a return to the place of first encounter with glitch, with a focus on Chicago. In recent years the city has been the site of GLI.TC/H, a festival centered upon glitch art practices that has convened in various locations around the city and gathered practitioners from all parts of the world. The intentions of the festival are clear: GLI.TC/H aims to bring together like-error-minded bug collectors IRL to engage/chat/debate + share work/ideas/concerns + foster collaborations + raise-theloading-bar on quality of work && thought && writing && endeavors w/in the glitch art communities. Their highly nuanced language evokes something of the jargon of the etymological history of the term glitch, yet also signals a departure. My next post will thus engage the artists who produce the festival: Nick Briz, Rosa Menkman, and Jon Satrom; in conversation with them, I will find out how they came to be interested in and identify with glitch; what glitch means to them; where they see the practice/desire emanating from and may be headed; and what digitization has done to emancipate or constrict glitch aesthetics. Next I will discuss the work of Chicago artist Norm Wilson, whose recent project ScanOps (2011ongoing) presents a related but different approach to the sensibilities of glitch art. Wilson has made a series of photographic objects that result from glitches within Google Books scanning software, thereby revealing the work and workers behind this process. The works themselves become sculptural, static images that simultaneously speak to the history of photography as well as new developments in access to information, copyright and intellectual property, that digitization and the Internet have played an important part ushering in. Interestingly, the images are the results of glitches in the system created by Google. They are not necessarily the actual glitches, nor were the glitches or the resulting imagery created by the artist, per se. Yet Wilson has discovered them (as found objects) and through carefully recontextualizing them, he draws forth their sociopolitical undertones. In this new light and through the collecting of these glitches, he puts on display a range of concerns pertaining to labor, the treatment of the workers charged with the task of scanning these books, and the conditions of creation that are made visible by the mistakes in a system designed to conceal such information.

Norm Wilson. The Inland Printer 164, 2012. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As a curator, I am also inspired by exhibitions and their history, and the final part of my investigation will therefore examine a couple of examples from that history, where glitch has intersected with artistic practice. Consider FAX, a recent exhibition curated by Joo Ribas (currently of the List Visual Arts Center at MIT) and co-produced by the Drawing Center and Independent Curators International, New York. Ribas invited cultural producers of all types to submit art works via fax, that are then added to the growing accumulation of works on display in the gallery, thus making part of the artistic process the transmissions unexpected and uncontrollable effects on the works.

From left: Jack Whitten, Sun Ra Faxes (detail), 2009; Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2009

If modes of communication and systems of transmittance (and the erosion of such) are significant tenets of glitch art, then it may be found too in historical precedents such as Art by Telephone, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 1969. Curated by Jan van der Marck, the exhibition consisted of artists literally phoning in their works to be created by other artists/fabricators on site, and in my final post, I will examine the glitch possibilities that emerged from van der Marcks proposition.

Exhibition catalogue, Art by Telephone, 1969. Sound recording, 12-inch vinyl record. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Publication Archive 1969 MCA Chicago

DISPATCH: GLI.TC/H, CHICAGO By Steven L. Bridges


For the past two years, GLI.TC/H has taken over numerous sites in Chicago as part of its program series encompassing events, workshops, exhibitions, lectures, screenings, and real-time audio/visual performances. By all accounts, the festival has made remarkable accomplishments, engaging hundreds of people daily through its extensive program lineup that has brought together over 100 practitioners to present, discuss, and expand upon the nature of their work and spark new debates. With artists from over 30 countries represented,[1] the festival acts as a meaningful litmus test of the present state of glitch-related practices. A core group of artists have served as organizers of the festival from its start: Chicago-based Jon Satrom and Nick Briz, and Amsterdam-based Rosa Menkman. The artists came to know each other by participating in online discussions and feeds relating to the ever-accumulating amount of imagery, videos, tutorials, etc., that the Internet ceaselessly archives. When Briz moved to Chicago in 2009 to pursue his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he and Satrom further established their shared interest in tinkering with electronics, digital systems of production, and, perhaps most importantly, art. Menkman was always present, even if remotely, all the while sharing Jake Elliott, Dirty New Media: Art Activism and Computer Counter in the flow of ideas and developing her Cultures. (screenshot) (formidable) theoretical stance with regard to the subject of glitch. Almost inevitably, the impulse arose to work further with their larger online communityto re-create in a more substantial form the community-driven nature of online glitch practices. The definition of the event as a festival/conference/gathering was quite intentional for Briz, Satrom and Menkman. Together they toed the line of being organizers as well as community members, with the organizational structure of the event itself a system open to being glitched by the very practitioners creating and participating in the system. [2] But why Chicago? What is it about Chicago that makes it such a hotbed for the breeding of glitch art practices? I always had a strong feeling that somehow Chicago made sense, somehow the experience of that city (itself an elaborate, at times corrupt system) had the same kind of grit and grime as the parsing out of digital pixels, the wrenching visual incongruities of glitch. But each attempt at articulating the slippery connections I fabricated in my mind inevitably became nonsensical once written out; in the end, a forced argument. As it turns out there is a much stronger history to be mined to explain the current situation here in Chicago.

Generally speaking, the DIY spirit inherent to the tinkering and playfulness of glitch has a long history in the city; Briz and Satrom directed me to Chicago-based artist Jake Elliot, whose presentation Dirty New Media: Art Activism and Computer Counter Cultures is a crucial introduction to both the genre and its implications for developments such as glitch. Going back even further, the Electronic Visualization Lab of the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) has been producing so-called dirty new media before the term existed. It was there that, in 1971, George Sandin began work on what would become the Sandin Image Processor, an analogue computer that could manipulate video images by manipulating the gray-level input.[3] The lab is still operating today and remains an innovative site for pushing the boundaries of new media art. Finally, Deadtech, a gallery that was operating in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago until 2008, and which among numerous other groundbreaking exhibitions hosted Beige collectives show Post-Data in the Age of Low Potential Pt. 2.[4] This, as it turns out, is a much more direct and meaningful description as to how and why Chicago is the dirty new media and glitch art hub that is today. Now, back to GLI.TC/H. Through the vast array of programs offered during the first two iterations of the event, there emerged a wide-range of voices and perspectives. The more I learn, the proposed terms and ideas involved in this research become more unstable. Rather than putting on display any kind of coherent, singularly-minded presentation of glitch to an invited Jon Satrom and Ben Syverson, Introducing Satromizer OS. (screenshot) audience, the fundamental premise of the event seems to hinge on the variability of practices and ideas that fall under the umbrella of glitch.[5] In fact, there remains a significant amount of debate as to exactly what constitutes glitch art the framing around and types of glitches; its historical precedents; its aura (think Walter Benjamin). One thing that has become evident, however, is that glitch artists and all those invested in the practice self-identify as such. And furthermore, they like Briz, Satrom and Menkman participate in the growing community actively, even fervently. Glitch artists invoke the term to denote a working methodology as well as an aesthetic pretense, but what remains unexplained is how other artists whose work is related to glitch determine not to label their work as such. In other words, the works of art and aesthetic underpinnings of glitch are community-driven and determined (at least for the present). While I am inclined to strip down the language around glitch in order to understand a much larger (historical, geographical) interest and aesthetic impulse, Briz and his fellow organizers albeit to varying degrees feel that this type of approach overlooks something unique and particular about contemporary glitch practices. For Briz the answer appears relatively definitive: We could expand the glitch umbrella to include any and all errors/accidents/failures, but wed be dismissing the terms digital [or at least mechanical] origins + specificity, and as a result sacrifice potential realizations about our technological times. So we should say instead Clint Enns, spider-man vs. macrovision (screenshot) that a glitch is a break in a digital/mechanical system, an unexpected occurrence [or output] which by catching us off guard reveals the system[s] at play.[6]

For many artists, glitch art is especially marked by its relationship to mechanical systems of production (with an emphasis on digital culture). I feel inclined to point out that mechanical systems do not necessarily rely on electronic circuitry as their power source. However, it is undeniable that the word glitch derives from the realm of electronic engineering, and so it would appear that this notion of electronic signaling and pulsing is in fact a fundamental characteristic of the term.[7] Menkman, on the other hand, presents a slightly more nuanced and theoretical description in an essay she contributed to Video Vortex Reader II: moving images beyond YouTube. In her statement there is something more open-ended and seemingly less bound to the electronic-digital systems that are most often used to frame glitch art practices and modus operandi. Towards the end of her essay she posits that: The glitch exists as an unstable assemblage in which materiality is influenced by the mediums construction, operation and content of the apparatus on the one hand; and the work, the writer, and the interpretation by the reader and/or user the meaning on the other. Thus, the materiality of glitch art is not (just) the machine on which the work appears, but a constantly changing construct that depends on the interactions between the text and its social, aesthetic and economic dynamics and, of course, the point of view from which different actors are able to make meaning. This articulation of glitch seems to allude to the very possibility that the term glitch is a signifier for an aesthetic and conceptual quality that is not necessarily form or mediumspecific, and could ostensibly be applied to systems and processes outside of the world of electronics. And to this point, the organizers have exhibited works by artists that are object-based, static representations. However, the driving force in all of the work that pertains to this genre derives from an interest in glitches, in meddling with and revealing the very operating systems that control and shape our daily existences, and more and more, global culture at large.
JODI, MY%20DeskToP%40. (screenshot)

Despite my other inklings, I am inclined to agree with Briz, Satrom and Menkman that there is something different about how we relate to technology today (particularly digital technology). Looking more specifically at glitch as it pertains to electronic and digital media allows for critical insights into contemporary culture. For one, we have the Internet (and while obvious, this is no small matter). As Briz put it, Never in the history of the world have so many people been able to share their transmissions through a nearly open+democratic network.[8] But along with increased access to information, and seemingly infinite content, there are a number of political, social and cultural issues that pertain to the present moment, which mark it as unique in the history of civilization (here, Menkmans formulation returns with particular gravitas).

From Left: Jimmy Joe Roche, Pascals Room (screenshot); Rosa Menkmen, The Collapse of PAL (screenshot)

Issues pertaining to copyright law, intellectual property, commercialism, and consumer rights[9] are just a few of the major tags that glitch artists negotiate constantly. The DIY spirit that accompanies this growing community comes hand-in-hand with an underlining sense of activism that pertains to the tools and appropriative techniques that are common in glitch art. Many of the artists present at the festival engage in forms of digital activism, fighting against such practices as designed/planned obsolescence (see the work of Benjamin Gaulon), the so-called walled garden of control as exercised over applications, content, etc., by carriers and service providers (see the (hilarious) work of Jon Satrom and Ben Syverson), and digital rights management (see the work of artist Clint Enns). In addition, Briz also pointed out that a number of sub-genres within the discourse have come to be identified. This act of naming and categorizing (dare I say, art historicizing) offers a slightly more definitive look at the practices most commonly referred to as glitch today. These included works that engaged the particularities of the digital interface (see the work of art collective Jodi), cyber-psychedelia (see the work of Jimmy Joe Roche), upgrade-culture (see the work of Rosa Menkman), and a particular kind of retro-nostalgia (see the work of No Carrier). Sifting through these examples, taking time to absorb their differences as well as their similarities, has pushed me further to see the uniqueness of what is called glitch art. I will maintain, at least for the moment, that there is a larger, much more multi-faceted discussion to be had about the underlying impulses that find elegance in noise.[10] Notes: 1. Nick Briz, personal communication with the author, June 8, 2012. 2. Nick Briz, Jon Satrom, and Rosa Menkman, personal communication with the author, June 11, 2012. 3. Joel Kuennen, GEOslant: Joel Kuennen on Chicagos Dirty New Media, from ARTslant.com,http://www.artslant.com/chi/articles/show/29885 acces,sed on June 11, 2012. 4. Beige collective consisted of members Paul Davis, Cory Arcangel, Joe Beuckman, and Joe Bonn. 5. Nick Briz, personal communication with the author, June 8, 2012. 6. Nick Briz, personal communication with the author, May 27, 2012. 7. Rosa Menkman, Glitch Studies Manifesto, in Video Vortex Reader II: moving images beyond YouTube, edited by Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2011: 345. 8. Nick Briz, personal communication with the author, May 27, 2012. 9. For an introduction to legislation in the US concerning many of these issues one can refer to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. 10. Jon Satrom, personal communication with the author, June 11, 2012.

DISPATCH: GL(ITCH): ScanOps By Steven L. Bridges


You may recall from the introduction to this research project that it was after a studio visit with Andrew Norman Wilson that the term glitch first began to consume my thoughts, and it was in regard to his work that many of my initial questions arose. So in this installment, I will focus my inquiry on the work of Wilson, and specifically his project ScanOps (2012). The title of the series, ScanOps, refers to a particular class of workers employed by Google at their international headquarters in Silicon Valley, who are responsible for the Andrew Norman Wilson. Installation view of ScanOps at Document, digitization of the worlds books for the media Chicago, 2012. Photo courtesy of the artist. conglomerates highly contested and controversial Google Books initiative [1]. As a one-time contracted employee of the internet giant back in 2007, Wilson became intrigued with this group of workers, specifically because they did not share the same famous perks as other Google employees, and were neither free to comingle with other staff nor discuss the nature of their work. Employing a system of color-coded badges (think Aldous Huxleys Brave New World), Google has gone to great lengths to keep this population of workers segregated and relatively anonymous within the larger organizational structure. In fact, Wilson was fired from his position for his attempts to interview and film these workers, an affair which he documented in his 2011 video Workers Leaving the Googleplex. With his dismissal, one would think that Wilsons investigation into the ScanOps workers would have come to a halt, but after a friend directed him to Krissy Wilsons tumblr page, The Art of Google Books, a new investigatory approach presented itself to him [2]. What Krissy Wilson had begun to document and compile were anomalies culled from Google Book scans, in which glitches in the scanning and editing system were revealed and catalogued along with the rest of the pages of

From left: Andrew Norman Wilson. Mechanick dyalling: teaching any man, to draw a true sun-dyal on any given plane, however scituated 60, 2012; Andrew Norman Wilson. Motor Age 7, 2012. Photos courtesy of the artist.

the book or manuscript. Most curious of all, however, these glitches sometimes revealed the hand of the actual worker in the midst of preparing or moving on to a new scan. So it was in this way that Andrew Norman Wilson was able to reconnect with the people he once worked in the proximity of, but was never able to fully engage. Still removed, he now directs his searches for glitches in Google Book scans in a very thoughtful and calculated way, looking for signs of the very workers whose presence the system goes to great lengths to obfuscate, that is, the very evidence of this system at work. A key point not to overlook here, and as Wilson has himself pointed out, the workers compose part of the photographic apparatus, which, conceived in a broad sense includes not only the machinery, but the social systems within which photography operates. [3] This adds a more discrete dimension to the rather generalized system that I have been referring to, where the discussion doesnt merely concern the technological or mechanical processes for production, but also the social, political, and cultural systems that have produced such processes as well as the different classes of workers that are involved in such. This understanding of the glitch may differentiate Wilson from many other glitch artists, and when I questioned him on his relationship to the glitch movement, Wilson explained to me: I appreciate the movement but maintain little to no participation at the moment. Im not interested in or experienced with the coding, hacking, and technical manipulation that the movements makers employ. The focus in the movement hones in very closely on the particular technologies they engage and the effects they can produce. While Im always interested in and attentive to technical specificity, I try to fold in a broader range of concerns. [4] In fact, there does seem to be a difference between Wilsons concerns and those of the glitch artists I have spoken with. While they all find meaning and significance in glitches, what they do with them beyond the specificity of the digital realm may differ. Normans interest is clearly in how his practice can begin to ravel and unravel glitches as part of larger histories. In a recent email exchange, I asked Wilson about his emphasis on materiality and his rejection of the idea that digital artworks, net art and the like, are immaterial in nature. His response elucidated a number of key elements of the ScanOps project, as he explained: The ScanOps project is most effective for me as imagesculptures, in a book, or presented as parts of a performance. Theyre both indexical, and medium-specific. Their processes, digital distortions, and material supports are folded within them. The fingers and software distortions that obscure the pure information in the books complicate Googles technocratic proposals for a utopia of universally accessible
From left: Andrew Norman Wilson. Simon Newcomb 10, 2012; Andrew Norman Wilson. The Encyclopedia Americana 879, 2012. Photos courtesy of the artist.

knowledge. What emerges is an argument for the inseparability of matter and meaning, fusing a discussion of knowledge with ontological, ethical, and aesthetic issues What Im after are traces of materiality, and then in the art objects leaving more traces of materiality through printing, painting, texture, shape, size, etc. [5]

This interest in object-making, and the insistence upon the materiality of digital outputs allows Wilson to further connect his project with the history of photography in generalWilson has cited such photographers as Elad Lassry and Walead Beshty, [6] along with Dorothea Lange, Jacob Riis, and Lewis Hine as influential to his work [7] immediately expanding the parameters of the conversation to engage with a greater historical narrative. On the other hand, the glitch community seems to be invested in articulating how the digital realm and digital technologies represent an unprecedented shift in the flow of information and access to said information in the world today, and this is coupled with an investment in exposing the new systematic forms of governance and control that have been created to manage this new development. In short, this analysis serves to begin to uncover the different intentions, desires and concerns that are at play in the articulation of a community of people/artists, and the reasons for which those people/artists self-select and identify (or not) with any particular community. The term glitch art may refer to a distinct genre of artistic productionalbeit one with a wide array of methodologies and outputsand within which practitioners are self-selecting/identifying members of a broader community which includes artists and other types of cultural producers alike. It is also clearly evident that glitch art, despite its unique particularities, intersects with numerous other art historical movements and shares a long-standing interest with them in the productive, generative potential of errors, mistakes, and corruptive interventions. [8] In this light, it would seem that glitch artmore loosely defined and loosely boundunderscores an artistic strategy that serves multiple interests, with the tailoring of those interests just as informative as the actual phenomenon itself. Notes: 1 For a good overview of the ensuing legal battle: Carlos Osario, Google Book Search, New York Timesonline, March 24, 2011,http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/google_inc/google_book_search/index.ht ml. 2 Andrew Norman Wilson, personal communication with the author, August 8, 2012. 3 Louis Doulas, Art from Outside the Googleplex: An Interview with Andrew Norman Wilson,Rhizome.org (New York), May 14, 2012, http://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/may/14/conversationandrew-norman-wilson/. 4 Andrew Norman Wilson, personal communication with the author, August 8, 2012. 5 Andrew Norman Wilson, personal communication with the author, August 8, 2012. 6 Louis Doulas, Art from Outside the Googleplex: An Interview with Andrew Norman Wilson,Rhizome.org (New York), May 14, 2012, http://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/may/14/conversationandrew-norman-wilson/. 7 Andrew Norman Wilson, personal communication with the author, August 8, 2012. 8 Nick Briz, Glitch Art Historie[s] / contextualizing glitch arta perpetual beta, in GLI.TC/H 20111: READER[R0R], Tokyo: Unsorted Books, 2011, pp. 5358.