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Error 415: Glitch Art, The Newest Unsupported Media Type

In partnership with Click | Gallery, TriTriangle Gallery hosted works by artist/programmers Jon Satrom and Daniel Temkin. The artists’ preferred medium is glitch art, which is made by corrupting or altering digital code for aesthetic effect. I got to speak with them about their interest in the medium, organizing the GLI.TC/H conference and the compulsive nature of interacting with machines.

Mackenzie Wilson (MW) : So how did you guys get started on glitch art?

[A long pause]

MW: Or why is that difficult question to answer?

Jon Satrom (JS): It’s an interesting question because “glitch art” as a proper noun is sort of a new thing. I prefer the term “dirty media art” that people in Chicago have been rallying around since 2004, 2005. Chicago in particular has a unique perspective and spot in this realm. We’re a dirty city. We’re a loud city. People respect real hard work. People know improvisation history of jazz and blues, worker’s rights. It’s not a one-to-one comparison but I think the clouds come together here uniquely.

A lot of my work deals with the promises of technology. Sometimes I’m afraid that I come off as a curmudgeon but all these upgrades and service agreements, all these new things we have to bend over and take to get the next cool gadget? They want you to spend $400 on a phone to get something that is supposed to change your life but it didn’t. I’m disillusioned.

Daniel Temkin (DT): I went to school for photography but I’ve worked as a programmer. From the very beginning, glitch appealed to me because it was a way to investigate different file formats and what would happen when you broke them in different ways.

Computers teach us to think in a compulsive way. We want things to line up. For me, glitch brings together this collision between computer logic and the messiness of human thinking. I’m interested in works where people try to get things exactly right in a way that no longer makes sense. Or it’s very organized but isn’t useful to anybody. For example, I have a series called Straightened Trees where I take photographs of very twisty trees and I straighten the image so that the tree is completely straight and the landscape just warps around it. It’s the sort of thing that’s tempting for us to do with machines because we can but it’s not a useful way to organize information. That compulsiveness is something I like to explore.

MW: It seems like both of you are involved with glitch art in a foundational way. Jon, you helped set up the GLI.TC/H Conference. Can you tell me about that?

JS: Yeah I help out with the GLI.TC/H gatherings. There are a lot of other collaborators Rosa Menkman, Nick Briz, Evan Meaney and Daniel who last year did what we call “the thread.” He was like a project leader. GLI.TC/H has provided a space for a lot of people to dig into this very ephemeral, complicated idea of being inspired by glitches. There’s some techheads there’s some hackers, there’s some theorists, there’s teachers, there’s nerds, there’s a ton of different people coming at this because it’s elusive. It’s funny to organize something structural around something that’s not structural.

DT: You know, before the GLI.TC/H conference existed there were people who I knew of online. I knew Rosa Menkman through Flickr and there were certain online communities where we would talk about glitch. But in terms of the theory behind it and getting deeper into ideas (besides seeing the images and seeing the products) GLI.TC/H Conference kind of brought people together in a way where we could have dialogue. Jon is really heavily involved in bringing that together.

MW: But, Daniel, you are also really involved too in a foundational way. You wrote a paper with Hugh Manon that was 50 or so notes on glitch?

DT: Yeah, over about a year Hugh and I were emailing back and forth, talking about glitch. He was writing about it from the theory side and I was writing about it as someone who is making glitch art. So we had this online dialogue for a while and eventually we put it all together into a paper. It was a very exhaustive discussion about the history.

JS: One thing I ought to mention you implied earlier that glitch is sort of a new thing. I think it’s really important to note that it’s not new. Artists have been working with technology in this way since technology was available to artists. It takes a creative individual to think this way about a system. That system could be painting. That system could be sound. We’re forced into this system that’s always new so like any art form it’s reactionary. It’s contemporary, reactionary work.

Jon Satrom. Screen shot of Storm Cloud Computing, 2013.  (Image courtesy of Click | Gallery)

MW: Do you consider your pieces to have beauty? To be beautiful?

DT: I hope that they’re beautiful!

JS: Yeah I think so! When you get into art with a capital “A,” people get all weird about stuff but, yeah. I am struck when things tear in interesting ways or when colors happen that you couldn’t pull together. Glitch is more about choosing a process and a technology and seeing what comes out rather than choosing a palette. It’s like spelunking. Exploring rather than developing. There are moments where I just hang back and I’m amazed where I got. It’s like going on a hike and coming over a pass and seeing a nice valley or something. That metaphor seems so placid though because usually it’s more like BR-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-T-T-T!

[At this point one of the gallery managers came over and informed Jon that one of his pieces had put up a screen saver and he went to go fix it.]

MW: Daniel, I wanted to ask about your Unicode piece at this exhibit. It has a time lapse element to it. Is this some kind of narrative piece?

DT: I did a whole series called “Unicode frenzies” that explores the aesthetics of Type on the web. So what this piece does is it selects certain Unicode characters and prints them on top of each other. Then it slowly changes. It makes the letters smaller and at the same time it blows up the canvas that they’re on. It looks like they’re staying the same size but the resolution is getting smaller and smaller. It feels like something heating up. You see these lines that look like you’re looking at something through heat. Then eventually it kind of explodes and turns into this big red rectangle at the end. But all that it’s doing it’s just changing the resolution over time. It starts at 1200/1200 pixels and it tells you the whole time what the ratio is.

Daniel Temkin. Unicode, 2013. Tritriangle Gallery, Chicago, IL. (Image Credit: Mackenzie Wilson)

MW: As I was researching glitch, I started thinking about some future world where we have sentient machines and I wonder: what does that look like in the context of glitch? If there were a self-conscious machine, would it glitch itself? Could it correct a glitch? Would it be pleasurable or painful?

DT: Would a machine glitch itself? As a something sentient, would that be like giving itself a neurological disorder of some kind?

MW: Or like doing drugs?

DT: Yeah that’s interesting. I’m not sure what the answer to that is!

MW: So what do you each have coming up next?

JS: I am always playing stuff in Chicago so I’ll be playing different noise shows here but right now I’m doing a show in Boulder later in the year for their Media Live Symposium and then I have a couple things on my website. I’m kind of in the process of hunkering down to look forward.

DT: I’m going to be doing a show at Transfer Gallery in New York and that might tie into GLI.TC/H conference this year.

You can find more examples of work by these two delightful artists at their respective websites: Daniel Temkin and Jon Satrom. Also be sure to check out Click | Gallery for their new online exhibitions.

Header Image: Jon Satrom. Installation version of Storm Cloud Computing, 2013. Tritriangle Gallerym, Chicago, IL. (Image Credit: Mackenzie Wilson)

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3 Responses to " Error 415: Glitch Art, The Newest Unsupported Media Type "

  1. Harlene says:

    Really interesting article. Liked learning about the emergence of Glitch art. Enjoyed photos, too.
    Looking forward to MW’s next piece.

  2. SEO says:

    A big thank you for your article post.Much thanks again. Will continue reading…

  3. Im thankful for the article. Want more.

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