Before these modern times were in full swing time itself was merely a “river in which human beings were immersed, moving steady on the current, never faster than the speeds of nature.”1 Horses were the primary mode of transportation, and people knew what time of day it was by listening to the church bells that would ring on the hour. Nature itself was never faster than itself.
However, according to my research, the railroad gave birth to speed at a rate of travel not natural for human beings at that point in time. Depending on what side of the fence you chose situate yourself, the railroad was seen as a way of liberating humans from the nature of things, or the railroad isolated us from the nature of things.2 The speed of which everything was developing was accelerating and there was this desire to freeze the passing of time as a means of preserving it. The camera at this point in history became a known agent which attempted to slow down the accelerating world.
Eadweard Muybridge was famous for his motion studies that helped to establish and propel photographic innovations that inform the world of cinema to this day. Muybridge highlighted the seasonal and geological time of landscape in which his studies exposed differences between the time we experience with our own eyes (in real time) and what the camera is able to analytically represent as it breaks down a mere second into 24 photographic stills. Muybridge gifted us the ability to perceive things we already see in a different way: Truth and fiction dancing with each other.
“The speed of Muybridge’s invention allowed real motions to be recovered at their own pace, though watching them meant stepping out of one’s own time... The very essence of that solidary experience in the landscape, however was its immediacy. Its situation in a resonant here and now while representations are always about there and then, a substitute, a reminder.”3
The space in between departure and arrival shrinks when speed increases. The railroad shrank the distance between things. Time, along with the space it defined, were destroyed. Fast forwarding to present day, we move throughout the world at a rate much faster than our bodies can naturally produce. I am taking the position that the speed of which technology has propelled us has detached us from nature, because the space we used to claim no longer exists. This leads me to consider bodies. I question the fragility of them. How long can our bodies take us before they fail us?
As humans, we have already replaced so much of our basic functions with/on the dependency of systems, software, and machines. How is it that we ourselves, as artists begin to evolve? How do we evolve if our bodies cannot keep up with our accelerating environment? How can our physical bodies exist in this virtual nature? In this digital age? Does privacy compromise our bodies? What happens to the self? How can you maintain the past memory of the current machine and feed the future possibility of yourself at the same time? The answer is an infinite destruction.
I love to destroy but there are times in which it seems to perpetuate a desire to rebuild. At times this urge to fix becomes as strong as destruction. When does it stop? I have come to a point where I’ve realized this urge to destroy, cause error, or fail, is an important part of my process. I see the intersection between destruction and reconstruction as a glitch. This glitching marks an error which departs us from the truth, and shifts us into fiction, and then back to the real, back and forth forever, in an infinite loop over the course of time.
Digital technology runs in/on/with a binary language comprised of ones and zeros. It's important to consider how humans interact within/out of this simple system. Digital technology is limited by its binary constructs so expressing aspects of fluidity and phenomena associated with nature and human complexity proves an impossible feat. However, I have come to terms with the idea that the art may actually lie in the failure to translate and when I try, there is almost always a glitch.
The term “glitch” is notably associated as an artifact that arises as a result of an error. The glitch allows us to cherish the presence of idiosyncrasies that happen to be absent from perfect machines.4 Often times these glitches are a result of corrupting or manipulating hardware and/or digital data/codecs/file types. In an effort to evolve my practice, I began to use the glitch as a metaphor to modernize surrealistic strategies of feminine subjectivity in post-human language.
In terms of new aesthetics and thinking back to Muybridge, I wonder if the glitch could reprogram what we already see in a new, virtual way. The glitch in a nutshell allows me to explore complexity in a binary system, exposing the inner world of the surrealist subject as digital abstraction clashing with the outer world of representational imagery. To explain further, the contrasting notions of polarities of the inner and outer world, exist in simultaneity within the help of the glitch. The glitch therefore becomes a powerful aesthetic tool for blurring legibility between dichotomous concepts. The abstraction as a result of the glitch represents the ambiguity of the self and its boundary as temporal: the phenomena of the self in-between a space containing infinite noise.
I see the glitch as metaphor. It evokes notions of an alternative other, a virtual self-informed by the digital/cyber space it exists in. It is capable of reaching infinite forms, and complex notions of agency. By abstracting and provoking a slip in the binary, the glitch challenges the grounding ideas about being in-between and is represented as a form of virtual prose. Glitch can and does at different times, create openings for new interpretations. This places the authority on the random, offering the perceiver agency in the un-authored glitch. Therefore, one can suggest the glitch as having universal attributes.
It's hard to write accurately about the complexities of the glitch. Language fails most of the time because the glitch is a process that relies on abstraction to exist poetically. In the static/photographic form, the glitch is simply a notion. It is a specific and momentary glimpse. The glitch as it exists in video references a phenomenological and metaphorical marriage between dialects: pattern and randomness, and absence and presence over the course of time.
The information in the body of the video file as well as the image of the body filmed in the video, both become destroyed in such a way that echoes notions of simultaneity as mentioned earlier. The abstract moments of the video with the body plays peak-a-boo in this virtual space. This visual aesthetic is very reminiscent, to me, of the gestures used by impressionist painters. The reduction of natural forms has allowed for simple 2D pixels shades to replace the complexity of dimension and information. Nick Briz, a Chicago based artist and well known contributor to the glitch community, has compared these glitched media aesthetics to another painting movement known as cubism.
“This analysis and the subsequent reduction into forms can be easily compared to the process that an algorithm executes when encoding a media file. Glitch exposes that process resulting in aesthetics reminiscent of Cubism. Cubist paintings were often 2-dimensional broken-up studies of motion, not dissimilar to the relationship a codec has to a video when it breaks down and studies motion vectors in the compression process. When these codecs are disturbed (hacked/glitched) what results can be easily formally compared to the cubist works. In this way glitch art is like Cubism.”5
What can we take out of this new reality? What can we take out of destroying time? Destroying space? What new position can He/You/We/Me/She/They/All take as humans in the digital age? What is this new virtual nature?
I have a new position.
I have destroyed my previous one,
This one rose from in between the glitch.
I am destroying the space in between things,
I am interested in your response when I share this with you.
“What the Water Gave Me” by Frida Kahlo (1930)
‘‘What the Water Gave Me” was painted in 1930 by Frida Kahlo, and is also known as ‘”What I Saw In the Water”. The representational images are referring to aspects of the artist’s life: Frida’s strained relationship with Diego, her inability to find solace in America with her strong Mexican heritage, and the constant pain she lived with as a result of a terrible bus accident when she was an adolescent. Most of the history of the reading of this painting have attributed it to a visual biography of Kahlo’s life. Some even would classify this as surrealism, but to me, this painting is much more than just an autobiographical, surreal representation of her life. This painting challenges the position of both her body and being in between time: specifically, the space in between the past and present.
This painting challenges the artist’s agency and illustrates the anxiety the body has in this intersectionality. Considering Frida with all herstory and complexity, I cannot lean solely on the traditional & surrealistic aspects of this painting. I cannot lean on the representational subconscious or that of the dream world. I lean on the metaphorical representation of simultaneity depicted in the painting. Frida was an artist triggered by the water. She was simultaneously constructing and deconstructing her memory, time, and reality: past dying and future growing. The intersectionality of the two creating a present in flux triggered by the water.
To me water is mysterious. There is a history of it giving life. It is associated with the fluid in the womb: feeding us, cleaning us, providing us with vitality and life. But then again there is another side to water. It can smother us, drown us, and consume us. I see the tub in Frida’s painting as a womb in which we can reflect, transform and renew. At the same time, the bath as a tomb. The old dies in there to make room for something new. A bath is a way to reset, rebirth, change, and die. To wash away the past like the dirt we embodied on the surface of our skins. We see it all rise and fall, floating on the surface of the tub.
I think we all have been in a tub and have seen our feet at the other end. I think we have all been hypnotized by the surface of the water. We have been drawn into the soothing aspects of it.
Water relaxes us. It slows us down. It changes time. Inside of the bathtub we reflect on the day, days, years past. We reflect on the here and now, and then, and what may be, or is to come. In that moment we subvert into ourselves and think about the events of the day. We rise and fall with the water. We live at such a fast speed at this day and age, that the reciprocal relationship to this would be a moment in the water, in the tub, in the slowness of the bath.
The water acts as a trigger for our bodies. It opens us to the sensory experience of arousal. The wet, ever changing pressure on our skin, touches us in a way that makes us feel more. Even the sound of the water as it pours out of the faucet into the bath-tub can hypnotize our bodies in a way which triggers an arousal. We begin to feel some sort of way. We begin to change some sort of way. What our bodies were, before the tub, no longer exists. We are now cleansed of the past and in transition to another.
This cannot be explained in language. This cannot be seen. This is abstraction. This is the glitch. A change in the code. An error. A failure that becomes a portal for another/the other/them.
This abstraction has philosophical and metaphorical power. The glitch gives permission to the perceiver, to rise or fall into a place of the other. Together, at the same time, like breathing, the artist and the perceiver can begin to think fluidly about what is in between these/those, this/that, it and all of the things at each or all of the types of times.
What does/did/is the glitch give/giving you?
1 “River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West” by Rebecca Solnit // p.18
2 “River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West” by Rebecca Solnit // p.21
3 “River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West” by Rebecca Solnit // p.23
4 “Glitch Aesthetics” by Iman Moradi 2004 // Defining the Glitch Pg.9
Briz, Nick. Glitch Art Histories[s] (contextualizing glitch art). Nick Briz Online 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.
Hayles, Nancy Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, literature and informatics. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2010. Print
Howell, A. (2006). The Analysis of Performance Art: A Guide to it’s Theory and Practice. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Print
Klee, Miles. The Long, Twisted History Of Glitch Art. 1st ed. The Kernal, 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.
Menkman, Rosa. Glitch Studies Manifesto. 1st edition. Amodern.net, 2017. Wed 6 May 2007
Moradi, Iman. Glitch Aesthetics. Organized Info.com 2004. Web. 6 May 2017.
Solnit, Rebecca (2003). River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. New York: Viking. Print