Multiplication can produce powerful glitches

On: November 11, 2008
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About Rosa Menkman
I like to take photos, make movies and read about new media and art. Last year I graduated on internet art (wrote my master thesis on the internet collective Jodi). Now I am in the Research Master media studies. My blog my Flickr my my


At Haip festival in Ljubljana I met the Piratbyrån, the bureau of piracy which is (one of the) the driving forces behind the Piratebay torrent site. The Pirate bureau came to Ljubljana in the S23X, a Swedish modified city bus that they drove all the way down from Stockholm to Bolzano Italy. Especially for Haip, Ollibolli drove the bus from Bolzano to Ljubljana. The Pirate Bureau gave us a tour through the city of Ljubljana and showed us their analog filing cabinet, which includes an illegal, handwritten version of Benjamins Art in the Age of mechanical Reproduction and over a 100 mixed tapes. On the bus I also met Rasmus Fleischer, who co-founded the Piratbyrån. He attended my lecture on the In-between and glitch art earlier that day, for which as a sharing gesture from my behalf, I will put my slides up here (I also included my secret notes).

After the lecture, somebody from the audience asked me to describe the difference between a glitch and a bug. I tried to answer this question by first defining what a bug is, following the description of its origins I read on internet.

The term bug was first used in 1947, when engineers working on the Mark II computer at Harvard University found a moth, that was stuck in one of the components. They taped the insect in their logbook and labeled it “first actual case of bug being found.” This incident is the first bug-report in history. The words “bug” and “debug” soon became a standard part of the language of computer programmers.

I concluded that, while a bug is often a definable cause for a failure within a system, a glitch is more widely used term and as such often harder (or impossible) to define. After my answer, Rasmus replied to my answer and took it one step further. He resumed his answer on his blog as:
“You can write a bug report, but you can’t write a glitch report. Recognizing something as a glitch already has something affirmative to it. You could have stopped it, turned the process of or restarted it, but instead you let your initial plan be changed by the unexpected occurrence in-between technology and you. Glitch is, in other words, a mindset. It is totally performative.”
I definately share Rasmus claim that digital glitch art is a performative artform (at least the to me more interesting glitch art). Looking at digital glitch art from this point of view has the positive consequence that glitch art doesnt only refer to screen captures or screengrabs, which reflect often a more passive aspiration for a certain aesthetics, but to glitch art as an practice, in which glitches are intended and often more then just a static image, they could even become interactive.
I will change slide number 7 into:
Digital glitch art refers to art that shows a (performative) break of the conventional flow in a system, which often results in a perceived accident (in a technical, social and/or economic sense). Both the artist or the audience can do the act of “perceiving”.

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