glitch politix Man[ual/ifesto]

by Curt Cloninger && Nick Briz


Computers don't make mistakes, people do. if all variables remain the same, given the same input, a computer will always render the same output; However, often times a programmer slips, she forgets to close a loop and/or accidentally leaves a memory leak. Other times a user opens a file in a way they may not have intended and/or he might pull his USB stick before files have finished transferring. These slips result in entirely predictable, yet unexpected output. We tend to place the onus on the computer and call this moment a glitch.


Maybe it helps to think of a glitch as an interruption in a system. More pragmatically useful for our purposes is how specifically the contours of the system are revealed upon its interruption. There are a thousand different ways to fail, and each new way enacts a unique (uniquely exploitable) contour of the system's behavior. Heidegger's broken hammer causes us to stop and examine the entire world (all our other cobbler tools, our cobbler bench, shoes, our workshop, the hillside, cow hides, rain, awls, sledgehammers, nintendo entertainment systems), a world we had been using implicitly, a world with which we were entangled unawares. But so what? Stop looking at the broken hammer and break some more hammers. A thousand broken hammers.


Maybe it is helpful to think of politics as shared matters of human concern that congregate around things in the world. Things in the world are connected to other things in the world. Indeed, things connected to other things are what make the world. No things, no world. Maybe it is helpful to own this understanding of politics, things, and the world without having to constantly refer back to Latour and Heidegger.


a glitch reveals itself as political when it reminds us that technologies are not neutral tools, but rather are symptoms of our worldview and cultural norms: when encryption breaks, leaking user credentials—how have we come to view privacy when facebook fields feedback into themselves—how have we come to view identity when emails garble and voice/video over IP slip/drop—how have we come to view relationships.


"The very conditions that make the State or World war machine possible, in other words constant capital (resources and equipment) and human variable capital, continually recreate unexpected possibilities for counterattack, unforeseen initiatives, determining revolutionary, popular, minority, mutant machines." Indeed, there is no need to fear or hope. There is not even a need to look for new weapons. We just need to tweak the weapons we already have.


If politics are simply shared matters of human concern that congregate around things in the world (and they are), then the glitch event, as a thing in the world, is always already inherently political. But then so is toothpaste (and it is).


A glitch is [more] political when it's intended to be.


We need not create glitches in sterile glitch laboratories and embed them into currently existent world systems. That is muddleheaded modernist thinking. The glitch naturally arises from within our currently existent, already entangled systems. These systems have their own technologies, but they also have their own politics, laws, economics, histories, memories, and possible futures. The anecdotal wooden shoes were already there on the workers in the factory. They didn't have to smuggle in their weapons. There is no need for artificially "embedding" saboteurs. We saboteurs are already embedded.


“There is a noble tradition throughout architectural history of signature buildings leaking, cracking, or otherwise failing to live up to the basic necessities of good engineering. Apparently the Sata Center was suffering from the same fate, for the building began to fail in various ways, so much so that the university sued Gehry in 2007 for alleged design and construction shortcomings. The irony is clear: Gehry has built his reputation on a very specific form of aestheticize breakage, yet here he is blamed for his buildings breaking.”


There is a difference [ in effect ] between something that looks like it’s breaking and something which is “honestly” breaking. “Honest informatic failures - failures of function - if they are pleasurable or ‘artistic’ in any way, are typically recast under a purely aesthetic aegis. Hence there exist a number of artists creating beauty via the corruption of function.”


A glitch is less effective when it's expected.


The machine can't recognize a glitch. Only humans recognize a glitch as a glitch. Because the machine has no cause/effect expectations. It simply does what it does. A glitch is experienced when a human mis-expects one thing and winds up with something else. Without hope, anticipation, and expectation, without a sense of rightness and the way things are supposed to be, there is no glitch. There are merely events in the world. When humans filter out the glitch as so much noise interfering with their status quo signal, when humans refuse to engage with and be thrilled and terrified by the nuances of the glitch event, they are making a [con/pre]servative political decision.


“The political glitch implies and implicates human bodies. The last mile of all media is analog -- sound waves, light waves, smell waves, touch waves, the waves of empathetic mirror neurons, the haptic waves of bodies in space. We don't taste in binary. The political glitch travels from silicon machine (still physical hardware) to human wetware, glitching as it goes. Like Tony Conrad's flicker films -- the projector doesn't have an epileptic seizure. The glitch happens when the media runs (last mile) on human bodies.”


The glitch becomes personally political at that very moment when the human experiencing the glitch feels herself implicit in the entangled systems that give rise to the glitch. This is the moment of personal onus, of personal implication, of personal responsibility. Beyond the initial "a-ha" revelatory moment of uncanny tripped-out-ness, and on toward the subsequent "oh shit" moment of personal implication.


A glitch is as political as a car door catching a finger; a glitch becomes political when it catches your finger.


The path between "a-ha" and "oh shit" can be almost intsantaneous, because the machine accelerates lived time/space affects. The digital visual glitch can have a jarring effect that overcomes our initial "trained" resistances to slower analog affects. Unlike the numbing/narcotic effect of the filmic jump-cut, this glitch jar can affectively slap us into feeling a part of.


let’s make a distinction between the glitch(y) as in aesthetic [ datamosh(y), noise(y), pixel(y), artifact(y) ] and the glitch as in the “a-ha” and “oh shit” [ break, crack, interruption, slip ]. Two different sets of qualities which at times are shared by the same occurrence and at times not.


The other day I was skyping with someone... I started losing interest and then the video glitched; I immediately screen captured it... but then, I always do.


OR... the path between "a-ha" and "oh shit" can be much more gradual and corrosive. Hours-long, multi-person, multi-location, networked video chat sessions can contain recurring lags, irruptions, interruptions, drop-outs, and feedbacks -- until we gradually feel the distances and failures of the time/space network in our bodies, in our language.


All glitch art achieves an initial "a-ha" epiphanic moment (by definition, otherwise it would not be "read" by humans as "glitch"). The initial "a-ha" is a given. The implicit "oh shit" takes some doing on the part of the artist. The goal of the "political" glitch artist is to stage/wire/infuse/pre-load her glitch event so that it purposefully unfolds from "a-ha" to "oh shit." The "political" glitch artist is (eventually) dis-satisfied with the production of trippy looking shit. The "political" glitch artist (eventually) seeks to glitch out shit in ways that lead to an implicit awareness of our human/system entanglements, and an implicit onus on the part of the "viewer" to move those entanglements higher up and further in. Political glitch art means to endow its "viewer" with a feeling of her own agency and the heaviness/obligation that accompanies it.


If a file corrupts on a server and no one is around to say “oh shit,” it does not make a glitch.


The "political" glitch artist is lazy like a fox. Code once, run everywhere, always already. She seeks out tipping points, state change thresholds, fulcrums of agency -- locations within systems where the least little tweak irrupts in an exponential modulation. She's constantly folding, recursively escalating. Lather, rinse, repeat.


That sweet spot of agency, that fulcrum of most-bang-for-the-buck, often lies in the file's source code. Change a file's header and leave the rest of its descriptive information intact. You get a duck that runs like a car. No need to add wheels, just inform the duck it's a car. It's going to crash in a million different ways. Let me count the ways.


"Political" glitch art doesn't always "look" glitchy. It isn't always digital. Sometimes you can't even "see" it. You may only hear it or touch it; you'll always at least feel it. Political glitch art is simply a catch and release program for a thousand ghosts in a thousand machines. It foregrounds the funk that was already there, and foregrounds the fact that you were already there too, knee deep in funk.


Political glitch art doesn't always involve the machine. Yes, sometimes things start off non-computery and then get massaged via computery processes; and sometimes things start off computery and then get massaged via non-computery processes. Lather, rinse, repeat. But really, there's not a discrete, computery world that exists outside of a discrete, non-computery world. We live in a word, and sometimes that world gets computery. Glitches live and play in the world world -- alongside computers, bodies, rocks, aunts, sentences, hammers, ideas, and manifestos.


Political glitch art must always involve the machine; it is etymologically and culturally a technical occurrence in a biological world. It is no more the corrupted file than it is the device interpreting the file than it is the person who is interpreting the device's interpretation of the file. It exists between these things. Glitches didn't exist before machines and they will cease to exist when the distinction between people and machines collapses. A glitch is of the times, and can only be political in the moment.


The political glitch refuses to function as a mere signifier, a mere symbol, a mere glyph of visual language. Maybe it is all those things also. Who knows? Who cares? It is indifferent to its own semiotic status. It aims to affectively jar bodies. "No page in history, baby; that I don't need / I just wanna make some eardrums bleed."


There are all sorts of significant differences between glitch sabotage and situationist detournement. Glitch sabotage and situationist detournement are pretty much the same thing. There are all sorts of significant differences between glitch sabotage and computer viruses. Glitch sabotage and computer viruses are pretty much the same thing.


A glitch ceases to be political when it becomes a [mere] image.


Glitch sabotage occurs when a glitch is sent out into the network in a way that purposefully resists recapture, recontextualization, and normalization. Like a virus, it glitches-up all it contacts, not necessarily technically, but always human-cognitively.


How might glitch artists purposefully load/lade their glitches and release them back upstream into and beyond the entangled systems that initially birthed them? What short-curcuited explosions might be triggered? What system modulations might such chain-reactions engender?


How might glitches be intentionally rigged to {buffer} overflow their containing systems? Within (and without) the machine?


The most efficacious glitch art begins to eat away its own frames. Like glitchr's art on facebook and google -- his glitched text over-runs the neat div[ision]s and borders of the corporate web. Derrida's parergon gets a second coat of sulfuric acid. Like William Pope L.'s "Black Factory" -- a mobile performance unit that takes "black" objects and physically converts them into other objects. The Black Factory is a machine that modulates the "aura" of discrete/singular objects. As an object-modulating machine, it resists being easily transformed into an object (via art-historical canonization or institutional archiving). The Black Factory effectively throws a boot into any institutional machine that wishes to transform it into an object. In the archiving process, said institutional machine is immediately revealed for what it is (A Memory Factory? A Culture Factory? A sterilization factory?). The Black Factory intentionally self-sabotages its own eventual/inevitable recontextualization as an archived art object.


Political glitch art passes through the systems of the world, and in so passing, it exposes, resists, problematizes, confounds, and ultimately transforms the way in which the systems of the world function.


There is no pure, clear, clean, natural, normal, transcendental “signal” to be dialed-in. There never has been.


“The attempt to regulate and filter out irruptive ‘noise’ and return to the ideal of a pure signal is the same metaphysical/Platonic attempt to downplay the immanent and maintain (the myth of) the pure transcendent. Subverting… this dichotomous, binary metaphysical system is a radical (root level) ‘political’ act… [Political] glitch art is not merely ‘symbolic’ of a politics of noise tolerance… [It] doesn't merely ‘symbolize’ a political stance; it actively practices one.”


"Presentation... is presented in its very inadequation, adequate to its inadequation. The inadequation of presentation is presented." Visual political glitch art takes "symbolic," mimetic, figurative visuals and places them under performative erasure. The visual glitch image is the trace which remains, flickering in limbo between figuration and abstraction. The visual glitch (often) makes present the process of digital re-presentation, while still leaving a remnant of the "source" image visible. The glitch image is a fecund remainder rather than an impotent/naught remainder, a remainder that makes visible the violence inherent in the system. (Come and see the violence inherent in the system.)


plz gltch[ual/ifesto]