“‘I DON’T SEE YOU BECAUSE I THINK YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE TRANSPARENT’: GLITCH AS CRITICISM”, BY DAN THORPE
[helvetica 12] As artists, we often feel that what we are allowed to say is limited by our political, economic, and social situation: whether the scene will like it, whether the government will allow it, or what our mum would say. However, in
[e backspace cmd+i] Excitable Speech
[cmd+i], Judith Butler frames
[censorship backspace] limitation as a means of production; a field of circumscribed possibilities preceding cultural expression. The framework in which the creative process takes place is designed to produce art according to explicit
[y backspace] and implicit norms: “
[cmd+i]The question is not what it is I will be able to say, but what will constitute
[d backspace] the domain of the sayable within which I will be
[hin backspace]gin to speak at all”.[i]
[cmd+i cmd+s filename: ~/Documents/liftedbrowcommish.docx]
[cmd+s] uses either figurative or literal breaks in the encoding, transmission and reception of art as a point of departure for critically engaging with media. It
[cmd+tab finder Rosa Memk backspace nkman]s
[dynamic contribution to media theory relies backspace] effectiveness relies, in part, on its inability to be singularly codified. It thrives at the tipping point — what Rosa Menkman refers to as the glitch moment(um) — the threatening loss of control, hurtling towards a void of meaning and the catalyst for either complete failure or a forced knowledge of the information f
[cmd+s] low mechanism of a system.[ii]
[cmd+s] As the grammar of the medium begins to break down Butler’s “
[the backspace] domain of the sayable” shifts, constructions outside of the usual intelligibilities of the medium form — reflecting critically on its inherent politics and priorities.
Menkman’s work as an artist and as an academic introduced me to glitch. Her work,
[r backspace]ister Compression
[cmd+s], offers a succinct introduction to the glitch aesthetic.
In her Glitch Studies Manifesto, Menkman talks about breaks in the grammar of a medium, “artifacts”, as
[cmd+v] “a nebula to shroud the technology and its inner workings and to compel an audience to listen and watch more exhaustively.”
[cmd+s] Dear mister Compression uses procedural glitches, like databending[iii]
[cmd+s] and datamoshing[iv] to obscure Menkman’s typed performance. The poetry
[cmd+s evolves backspace] cycles through levels of readability, strings of words and stanzas are revealed and obscured in such a way that the poem is never experienced as linear — despite being presented as such. The audience
[experiences th backspace] interprets the work repeatedly, and out of order; its meaning is constantly reinterpreted in fragments. This undermines and re-evaluates the the standard information flow of written English, meaning is not the cumulative result of a linear reading, but of a process of isolation; a repeated questioning of its limitations.
[cmd+tab sports bar? openframeworks installation cmd+tab cmd+i] Overscan by So-So limited
[for example, takes backspace] is an example of a more figurative approach to breaking down the reception of data by
[d backspace] audience, using custom software to analyse and reprocess data from a TV signal across five screens.
[cmd+v] [the software]recognises patterns in the video, such as faces, and maintains a memory of what it has seen. The text of the closed caption feed is extracted and analysed with language processing software. Certain words, such as emotional language and selected topics, are highlighted and recorded. Repetitive phrases are catalogued and displayed, verb tenses analysed and compared, and faces are tracked and counted.”
The unprocessed signal is always visible in the left-most screen. The “glitch moment” occurs when the audience becomes privy to the patterns in the signal; the underlying
[poetics backspace] politics of the TV programming are exposed through breaks in standard viewing procedure.
[reflects backspace] is a collective bargaining process between the end user and the engineer over the framing of cultural production, a “genealogy of conventions”.[v] Glitch allows for speech outside of the language of this relationship, a criticism of mass culture. We are challenged to
[cmd+s] expand the domain of what is sayable, use the breakdown of media to criticise the political landscapes from which they emerge. Use art as a discourse of critical awareness.
Dan Thorpe is a multidisciplinary artist based in Adelaide.
[i] Butler J. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative: Routledge; 1997:2.
[ii] Menkman R. The Glitch Moment(um). Network Notebooks. 04. Amsterdam, NL: Institute of Network Cultures; 2011: 30
[iv] Procedural removal of keyframes in compressed videos.