In 1962, the first American astronaut John Glenn gave an account of the slang term Glitch as a technical problem, a simultaneous malfunction, caused by a change of voltage in an electrical circuit. Glenn did not invent the term himself; in the 1940s, the word glitch was frequently used in the vocabulary of the radio and later television to describe a range of deviations from the smooth flow of broadcasting, such as an erroneous recording, a misarticulated word or any perceivable technical issue. Today, Glenn’s definition is frequently cited by scholars from various fields, namely, media and cultural studies, art theory and aesthetics; however, its meaning has become increasingly extrapolated to metaphorical significance. Glitch is often presented as something opposite to a smooth operation of a system, efficiency and flow conducted by advanced technologies.
In academic literature, Glitch was frequently used already in the 1990s, beginning 2000’s. In 2001, media scholar Alexander Galloway discussed in his PhD thesis “Protocol, or, How Control Exists After Decentralization” the aesthetic and ideological implications of visible errors. In 2004, Iman Moradi classified glitches by their technical origin and developed terminology that is still in use today. From the mid-2000s onwards, many researchers, such as Lev Manovich, Olga Goriunova, Vendela Grundell, and Elvira Zhagun, among others, have theorized errors as an aesthetic and strategic entity, approaching it largely but not exclusively, given the interdisciplinary appeal of Glitch, through the lens of Digital Culture.
Cultural studies scholars, such as Michael Betancourt, Susan Ballard, and Mark Nune, regard Glitch in the context of Digital Capitalism, an economic model, which interfaces society through digital technologies. Thus, artists employing corrupted codes, distortion, noise, broken links and other unconventional manipulations enter the ideological dimension of Glitch, unveiling the otherwise invisible apparatus hidden inside advanced technologies. Vendela Grundell, in her PhD thesis “Flow and Friction: on the tactical potential of interfacing Glitch Art”, departs from the concept of a black box, whereby visible errors are as relevant as the smooth operation of digital technologies. Such a reading of Glitch Art’s properties points towards a process of active spectatorship and the viewer’s experience.
Glitch, as a facet of digital culture, has attracted the attention of artists, who have striven to explore the expressive capacities of errors by engaging with such errors and malfunctions through conceptual as well as material methods. Many artists — namely, Nick Briz, Olga Goriunova, Rosa Menkman, Elvira Zhagun, Mark Amerika, among others — actively seek a place for their respective practices within established and emerging art scenes. One such example, where simultaneous processes of creation and contextualization can be observed, is the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics (MOGA), an online project by American artist Mark Amerika. MOGA has been made by the efforts of volunteers across the globe and presents an artistic path of a fictional character Artist 2.0. He states: “MOGA is one practice-based stream, that would investigate the relationship between creating, transmitting, streaming, exhibiting, historicising and canonising works of art.
Such a multifunctional entity could be seen as challenging the established tradition, specifically in regards to relations between creator, mediator — namely, an art institution — and audiences. However, taking into consideration that MOGA is presented as an institution, it prompts an enquiry as to what extent does such a self-contextualising aspect fits into the established perspectives on Glitch Art practice? Although the institutional format of MOGA has been mentioned by Elvira Zhagun, there is still a lack of knowledge on this project. In order to clarify the position of MOGA within the current discourse on Glitch Art practice, the first chapter of this thesis will be devoted to a study of the established perspectives on Glitch Art, with specific attention directed towards the aesthetic characteristics, as well as a discussion on the critical capacities of Glitch. In the second chapter, I will elaborate on the visual and conceptual strategies which Mark America undertook in creating MOGA and Finally, I will contextualize the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics with regards to perspectives discussed in the first chapter, which will assist in understanding and situating the position of MOGA within the discourse on Glitch Art practice.
Chapter I: Defining the characteristics of Glitch Art practice
Media artist Alice Salyer states: “One can not actually capture a Glitch, yet it is possible to record a visual representation of the effects of Glitch processes.” indeed, It’s conceivable to record evidence of the failure, but not the failure itself. In this vein, the analyses presented in this chapter will be orientated around the aesthetic characteristics and critical capacities typically attributed to Glitch Art, drawing on the existing theoretical and art historical frameworks that have largely dealt with these two trajectories.
Technological advancements over the course of the past two decades, the influences of which permeate many spheres of our everyday life, have instigated the emergence of a new digital culture featuring distinct aesthetics. Such aesthetics are entangled with the functional apparatus and are thus integrated within the visual and audio interfaces of technological devices. However, these technologies prompt interest beyond their operative capacity – in particular, the interest of an artistic orientation – and offer diverse tools for not only exploration and creative expression but equally critical and potentially subversive reflections, which have the potential to bring the materiality of such digital media and its limitations under examination. In this regard, such artistic engagement and the resulting praxis acquires a dual position – on the one hand, as a participant or user who employs such digital technologies in creative practice, and on the other hand, a critic attempting to bring new perspectives on the human-machine relationship.
In academic discourse, this still evolving praxis is studied under the umbrella term New Media Art, which, despite its broad and nebulous implications, indicates the distinct usage of technologies, and further points towards a demarcation from older, object-centred traditions in art theory. Another quality that is essential in New Media Art is its fluidity and ability to shift, due to its experimental nature, responsiveness to new technological and social and cultural conditions.
Such flux can be observed not only within the term itself, given that it encompasses many modes of engagement with new technologies – namely, Soft-Art, Game-Art, Net-Art, Dirty Media Art, Glitch Art, to name but a few possibilities – but also within the complex interplays and individual development trajectories amongst these aforementioned movements. Indeed, with regards to Glitch Art, many scholars apply the term in ways that bear implications beyond its primary technical description. For instance, artist Jessica Patrice Braccio considers Glitch Art as aesthetic exploitation of accidents in the information flow. She considers examples sourced from the pre-digital era, locating similarities with what we call today Glitch Art. Moreover, in Braccio’s understanding, Glitch Art functions in much the same manner and pattern as memories that recount traumatic experiences; in other words, much like the neurological manipulation of memory – an organic Glitch, which encodes the experience in an undecidable way yet leaves traces – processes of Glitch Art similarly have the potential to bring forth a state of sublimation and a psychological healing effect.
Braccio’s example reflects that Glitch Art is not solely concerned with digital technologies and the virtual domain, and its application is not necessarily bound to a strict reflection on the human-machine relationship. Rather, Braccio’s example proposes that processes of digital media can function as an allegorical device through which to reflect on the human condition – the defining properties of human nature. Thus, in order to provide further clarity about the Glitch Art practice, it is essential to consistently consider the fluidity of its term and, as reiterated by Braccio’s perspective, its potential applicability in areas of thought that do not directly pertain to digital technologies.
Moreover, even within the framework of digital technologies, Glitch can be understood as pertaining to conceptual operations that are active in the work; in this regard, such operations are not necessarily visibly detectable. In her lecture “Aesthetics of Errors”, Elvira Zhagun discusses the conceptual nature of Glitch Art’s fluidity. She proposes a metaphor that suggests a parallel between artistic interpretations of reality and data loss in telecommunication signal transmissions, the latter of which inevitably causes technical glitches and noise. She refers to Glitch as an existing but empty element; by interacting with such emptiness, artists create and imbue (new) meaning. One example to which she refers so as to illustrate her interdisciplinary perspective is Empty Folders (2003), a work by Luciano Testi Paul. Empty Folders literally entails a number of empty folders, containing no files. Although this work has no visible disruptions, it conveys Glitch through its subversion of the audience’s expectations: through their engagement with the work, its activation, the audience discovers that the work’s seeming emptiness is, in fact, its contents. ‘Contents’ here pertains to both the work’s visual aesthetics and its critical position. Here onwards, l provide an interrogation of how such properties manifest in the established traditions of Glitch Art.
Aesthetic features of Glitch
The practice of using errors and malfunctions began much earlier than is formally acknowledged in the established theoretical tradition; nevertheless, as previously stated, in western academic discourse the term Glitch Art appeared at the beginning of the 2000s. One of the first theorists to discuss the artistic application of technical errors was the media scholar Alexander Galloway. In his PhD thesis “Protocol, or, how control exists after decentralization” (2001), he describes glitches as existing outside of the normal functionality of the data flow. Galloway considers the creative outcome of such practice as having a marginalized character: it resists mainstream culture by employing alternative methods of engaging with technologies and therefore carries its own and specific aesthetic language, based on the use of corrupted codes and bugs.
In their article “Glitch” (2006), scholars Olga Goriunova and Alexei Shulgin elaborated on the idea of specific aesthetics and regard glitches as an integral part of computer culture. For them, Glitch is always a spontaneous malfunction, produced by machine, “a manifestation of genuine software aesthetics.” As Galloway, they see Glitch as an unexpected break-in conventional logic, in which an artist is seen as an attentive explorer who is “hunting” these visible errors – collecting, saving, expanding, conceptualizing and sharing them. Goriunova and Shulgin emphasize the aesthetic qualities of Glitch as visually satisfying and beautiful and conclude that errors have the potential to be commercialized and used in the design. Although Goriunova and Shulgin have indicated important features of Glitch Art, such as being spontaneously discovered and claimed, they have not touched upon examples whereby Glitch can be controlled and voluntarily created by the artist.
For Iman Moradi, such a situation, whereby a glitch can be found and appropriated or deliberately designed, is obvious. In his thesis “Glitch Aesthetics” (2004), Moradi presents two categories: a pure glitch, which he describes as a machine-made accidental error, and a glitch-like, which he regards as digital artefacts. As he states, these artefacts “resemble visual aspects of real glitches found in their original habitat.” Compared to the technical accident, the glitch-like, which is the result of artistic manipulation, has features of an artistic medium. Moradi elaborates upon the concept of glitch-like by classifying it into categories, such as fragmentation, replication, repetition, linearity and complexity (Fig. 1). These classes are different not only by the method of code disruption but also by their capacity to carry a certain visual effect – for instance, dramatisation or exhaustion and saturation of the optical stimulus. For Moradi, Glitch aesthetics have many applications in visual art and popular culture. He examines cinematic examples such as Vanhanen (2001) and Darren Aronofsky’s π, Armageddon (Fig. 2.), among others, and discusses how visual distortions, flickering, noise, and interference emphasize the storyline and evoke an emotional response from the spectator.
A similar observation about the aesthetic properties of Glitch is discussed by Rebecca Jackson in her thesis “The Glitch Aesthetics” (2011). She examines the use of visual technical errors and malfunctions in various ways, including in popular culture, and concludes that: “The appearance of Glitch aesthetics in film, television, and videogames confirms its place as a new sensibility.” Jackson also mentions that “Glitch aesthetics interrogate perception while reminding viewers of the cinema’s veil.” Such an interrogation in the realm of mass culture creates, on the one hand, friction in the visual flow, yet, on the other hand, the intensity of that friction is limited by the boundaries of such narrative-driven genres. Glitch aesthetics are therefore embedded in the cinematic or any other illusionary space and do not strive to break such a frame but rather to involve the spectator even more so.
Compared to the Glitch aesthetics that are widely utilized in mainstream culture and that are, in spite of their resulting friction, a part of its visual lexicon, Glitch Art by its notion goes beyond the aesthetic banality of Glitch. As a consequence, Glitch Art has the capacity to breach the visual comfort of a spectator, which on the one hand brings new perspectives on ideas of digital aesthetics and, on the other hand, allows for a critical distance towards the invisible mediation of digital technologies. In this regard, artists employ glitches not only to satisfy aesthetic curiosity but also by exploring and to communicate critical, ideological messages.
Critical capacities of Glitch
“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.”
451 fahrenheit, Ray Bradberry
As with many research institutions with a great mission, ARPA (Advanced Research Project Agency, US), which was responsible for a major breakthrough in national defence technologies during the 1960’s, has its own legends, touted in a spirit of freedom and weirdness. The writer Stewart Brand has documented one such legend from the words of a former ARPA staff member, computer scientist Alan Kay. As Kay narrated:
“…one of the guys wrote a program called ‘The Unknown Glitch,’ which at random intervals would wake up, print out I AM THE UNKNOWN GLITCH. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, and then it would relocate itself somewhere else in core memory, set a clock interrupt, and go back to sleep. There was no way to find it.”
Although this event at ARPA was not claimed by any means as a work of art, this legend shows the coexistence of two central albeit contradictory modes of system engagement, represented by protocols: the reinforcement for maximum performance and error-free operation, and the urge to breach the system’s defence and challenge its efficiency. If the latter is an unavoidable part of our reality, which affects all spheres of our existence, the former confronts us and forces us to take a distant position and to reflect upon our existence within unaltered systems, regulated by sophisticated algorithms.
Such duality can also be observed within digital cultures and, in particular, Digital Art: for example, Ed Adkins (Fig. 3), Bill Viola, Golan Levin, among others, employ technologies and contribute to the mystery and visual illusion of the digital world. Whereas Philip Stearn, Ant Scott, the art collective Judi, and Jon Satrom (Fig. 4) challenge to differing degrees the technical and logical limitations of digital technologies, locating alternative modes of application and thereby taking a distant position from the original intention of such technologies, which in turn proves to be a core, defining feature of their artistic strategy.
Such an approach has been well elaborated by cultural studies scholar Vendela Grundell. In her PhD thesis “Flow and Friction: on the tactical potential of interfacing with Glitch Art”, Grundell examines photo-based examples in which errors and malfunctions, as she states, “mirror, create and question a flow of information that affects spectatorship in the wake of ubiquitous computing.” For her, the role of the spectator is essential, as they possess the capacity to recognize and perceive the errors, or in other words, to activate the work. The artist, in this regard, creates circumstances in which such recognition can be evoked: “The friction of glitches makes visible a flow that is trivial and abstract enough to be invisible to a viewer. An act of making-visible thus holds a tactical potential: it reveals a pervasive system.” She continues with examples that reflect the simultaneous existence of both smooth operations and frictions, both of which are caused by artists’ manipulations. For instance, she refers to a project by Phillip Stearns, titled Year of the Glitch, in which the artist created pictures by means of a digital camera with corrupted software, a dysfunctional scanner, or a low-resolution video camera, and shared such outcomes on the social media website Tumblr. For Grundell, Year of the Glitch demonstrates the coexistence of corrupted visual content with the structured interface of Tumblr, which she identifies as flow and friction. Indeed, when positioned within the standard template of Tumblr – a website developed with much attentiveness for high performability and usability – these abstract images manifest the fragility of constituting the images codes, behind the Graphical User Interface, as well as its digital materiality.
With regards to the artistic strategy, Stearn engages with errors in a playful way: he explorers the limitations of digital technology dissects its structures and rejuvenates the material through situating it in a new context – not only by publishing the outcome on a blogging website, but also by means of printing and selling the trace of glitches on textiles. Thus, Stearn creates new glitches by engaging with technologies in an alternative way, and at the same time, he brings this production back into the economic circuit. With this example, Grundall’s concept of flow and friction, whereby the artist interrupts the smooth and invisible operation of the data, could also be twisted in reverse and regarded as friction and flow.
While Phillip Stearn challenges the stability and performability of digital technologies yet accepts to be in the flow – economically, structurally – artists such as Aram Bartholl, Jon Satrom, the collective Judi are preoccupied with what Galloway has described as the radical potential of errors. As Stearn, they explore the digital aesthetics and the manifestation of its algorithmic language, yet besides this exploration, these artists challenge ideological structures, represented by interfaces – social, cultural and economical – conducted by protocols.
This can be observed in how such artists respectively frame Glitch operations in their works. While Stearn chooses to publish his projects on platforms such as Tumblr and Vimeo – social media websites that have a distinct appearance, shaped by social and cultural stereotypes and the commercial priority of facilitating user accessibility – the aforementioned artists comparatively appropriate all possible browser space, often displaying data-heavy pages, visually saturated by flickering and dynamic content, typically featuring a complex navigation system (Fig. 4). Such a mode of presentation creates an alternative environment, the friction of which breaks the familiar comfort and accessibility of such technologies, which in turn confronts users and prompts a more conscious engagement with the media at hand. At first glance, such an environment may appear practically unproductive; however, Casey Boyle argues, that errors force us “to reveal and foreground knowledge of otherwise transparent structures enacted with our software, infrastructure, and technological policies.” If Casey Boyle sees the critical potential of errors and their productivity as predicated on their capacity to open new rhetoric discourses, Elvira Zhagun expands upon this position and mentions the ethical aspect of glitch-making practices, whereby artists often hack and corrupt data. Such a radical form of Glitch engagement is known as Dirty Media Art and, as stated by participant Nick Briz, has economic and political implications. Dirty Media artists target immaterial commodities of what Michael Betancourt describes as Digital Capitalism. As can be observed, one of the most typical strategies of Dirty Media artists is to corrupt the interfaces of popular services, such as Facebook, Google ( Fig. 5.), etc. without affecting their functionality.
To draw to a conclusion, this chapter has provided an overview of the central characteristics of the Glitch Art practice, whereby artists engage with errors as much on the level of the Graphical User Interface – that is to say, the visual appearance of the work – as well as on a more conceptual or metaphorical level. As discussed, Glitch is associated with data loss and, further, it is inclined to appropriate the language of its environment. Given our daily proximity and interaction to digital media, whereby glitches typically prove to be a mundane encounter, Glitch aesthetics have been adopted by mass culture. However, Glitch Art enables these aesthetics to escape the banality of cultural tropes – namely, by means of relocating such aesthetics in a new, often subversive context.
Concerning the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics, to what extent can these central characteristics can be observed within this project? In the next chapter, I will attempt to shed light on this question by giving an account on the context and conditions in which Mark Amerika created MOGA. Moreover, reflecting on the previously discussed characteristics of Glitch Art practice, I will examine Amerika’s conceptual strategies and the resulting visual outcomes.
Chapter II: Paradoxicality of The Museum of Glitch Aesthetics
Glitch, with all its fluidity, can manifest in the digital realm and communicate itself on a visual level through the Graphical User Interface, as well as take place within abstracted systems and concepts. Glitch appropriates the language of its environment, interacts with the environment’s elements, mimics them, but contains emptiness. In academic discourse, Glitch is often regarded as lost data, friction in an otherwise smooth flow, an unexpected break in the logic, which points to its critical capacity and its ability to create new aesthetic forms. Thus, artists incorporate visible errors in their practice in order to explore the aesthetic qualities of machinery language, as well as to convey an ideological message, which is commonly situated around perspectives on Digital Capitalism. In this chapter, I will discuss to what extent these characteristics are present in the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics – both visually and conceptually. In the process of this analysis, I will reflect upon what constitutes its paradoxicality.
In his public lecture in 2012, held by ATLAS at the University of Colorado, Mark Amerika addressed a question about what it means to be a successful artist. In his response, Amerika juxtaposed the traditional model of success with so-described alternative practices, developed within and in response to the digital environment. The traditional model, which is associated with a creative process situated within the artist’s studio, sees the artist’s success measured by attention from critics and the artist’s presence on the art market. Amerika states that the process of canonisation depends upon the artist’s participation in economic and social structures, which occur independently of the spectator’s involvement. Alternative practices, which according to Amerika do not have a specific location and exist in the virtual realm, also have the potential to be canonized independently of their involvement in these social and economic systems. He presents the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics (MOGA) as a project that investigates the notion of success in both a historical framework and amidst the current moment, whereby artists, entrepreneurs, designers, and other creative minds develop these alternative practices and, to a certain extent, challenge the old model of artistic success.
With this introduction, Mark America offers insight into the context in which MOGA has emerged. Moreover, he locates the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics within that very context. Amerika engages with the elements of this context – a conceptual structure – namely, the idea of canon, artist and spectatorship. Through his project, Amerika seeks to address, modify, and subvert these concepts – applying them in an alternative way. This subversive quality has features of a metaphorical Glitch, as previously exemplified in the project of Luciano Testi Paul. However, in order to better clarify this assertion, it is important to analyse the elements that constitute the project.
The Museum of Glitch Aesthetics presents the oeuvre of an imaginary person, Artist 2.0. Mark Amerika describes that Artist 2.0 is the product of a collective effort, made by a dispersed group of artists and other creative practitioners in the format of a transmedia narrative. He notes that Artist 2.0 is a concept, a generalized image, which in the digital realm could be related to anybody, or in this case, to anything. The fact that Artist 2.0 does not really exist is crucial: the artist is an element in a system that is explicitly present yet does not have content. Such a strategy is similar to what Luciano Testi Paul has undertaken in his project Empty Folders, whereby the Glitch operation exists on a conceptual level and refers to emptiness.
It is noteworthy that generalization appears to be the main strategy of Mark Amerika; he appeals to commonality in his generic modelling of the artist and their praxis, based upon an archetypical, perhaps even stereotypical image. This can be observed on many levels, including the project’s title, its visual presentation and its content. Taking into consideration the concept description of Artist 2.0, provided by Mark Amerika, such generalisation can be regarded as necessary: it shifts MOGA from being a specific case to a paradigm.
The title of the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics bears the explicit indication of its institutional format, namely a museum, which has been traditionally associated with processes of collecting, historicizing and bringing artefacts into the public realm. Indeed, in the context of MOGA, recollections of such a structure are reflected by the way in which the life and oeuvre of Artist 2.0 are framed. The navigation on the homepage of the website has a chronological order, divided into periods that one would typically go through during an artistic career – namely, The Early Years, followed by Art School Studies, followed by project titles with an indication of the time period. Each period, or technically speaking, each category, contains documentation, coherent with the material trends that were at that time common in alternative digital culture. For instance, the video work Pixelmash (2005), described as a digital video projection, features an out-of-focus scene with low-resolution imagery slowly turning into a distorted, colourful stream, culminating as an abstract play of pixels. (Fig. 6.) Another example is the last documented work, titled Getting Lost (The Long Dérive), which presents two modes of recreating reality – a digital recording and a 3D animation – merging into one juxtaposed flow. ( Fig. 7.) Both such examples strive to demonstrate developments in digital instrumentation during the period 2005 to 2012 and are reflective of how artists have engaged with such tools. However, despite the presented chronological structure, it is not evident whether the works indeed were made in this period of time, for the reason that their capture indicates 2012. Moreover, although Mark Amerika in his lecture mentioned collecting as one of the functions of MOGA, the content of the project does not appear to be renewed or rearranged since it has been uploaded on the website.
Notably, MOGA frames the oeuvre of Artist 2.0 by utilizing a standard blog-post template: it has clear navigation, balanced layout, which shows the hierarchically structured content. On the level of user interaction, or the Graphical User Interface, this website has been developed with an attentiveness towards high performativity, in order to provide a smooth flow of information. Compared to Year of the Glitch, a project discussed in the previous chapter, in which Phillip Stearn visually juxtaposes the aesthetics of errors with the unified frame of a popular social media website, MOGA’s presentation seems to avoid any originality. Furthermore, MOGA does not attempt to manifest Glitch aesthetics as such, more commonly associated with challenging visual perceptions and navigation content, as one can observe on the websites of Rosa Mankmen ( Fig. 8.) or Jon Satrom ( Fig. 4.).
Besides the navigation bar, images and MOGA’s logo, the homepage also contains a “teaser” of a project catalogue: an introduction of its content, supported by quotes, the names of contributors and hyperlinks ( Fig. 8.). The catalogue itself appears to be developed from a standard template; all its elements – its headers, footers, page numbers, colour swatches and typographical design – are rather generic.
The catalogue, which can be considered as indicative of MOGA’S belonging to the established method of theorising and documenting artwork, provides a curatorial entry, a description of the project, as well as interviews with fictionalised experts from the field, such as the director of the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics, archetypical scholar-curators and even with Artist 2.0 himself. At first glance, it has all the necessary components to be a proper secondary source: the historical parallels, experts’ reflections and discussions around the Artist 2.0’s practice. However, the vocabulary, the flow of text, as well as the statements contained therein, are phrased in a complex, convoluted and nonsensical manner, and as such it appears to function more as a satire, a mockery of the artworld’s narrative tropes. With regards to the concept of Glitch, which appropriates the language of its environment, MOGA’s catalogue appears to be noise–lost data, a folder without content.
Mark America also mentions that the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics is a part of so described Gift Economy, or Gift Culture, in which valuables are given without explicit, immediate reward. He presents such a dynamic as an opposite of the capitalist model, attributing it to the digital environment’s ability to facilitate the free sharing of software, visual and audio content and other intellectual products between users. However, the creation of MOGA was sponsored – financially subsidized and institutionally supported – as indicated by the list of credentials published on the website.
This evokes the question of whether MOGA is participating in a capitalist system – as much in the sense of financial capital as well as in regards to cultural capital, given that the project’s realisation and seeming validation within the cultural economy of the art world is largely dependent upon this institutional support. If this seeming mimesis of archetypical artworld economics – as reflected by the catalogue, for instance, which, as outlined, emulates many of the narratives tropes found in such publications – is to be considered active participation in the very system that it poses as critiquing, could it be proposed that such mimesis serves as a form of ironic commentary? If so, in what ways does such irony operate as a critical force, given that in practice it remains a reiteration – ultimately, an endorsement – of the established paradigm of institutional dependency and, by extension of this equation, the established premise of artistic success being dependent upon institutional validation.
To draw to a conclusion, Mark Amerika presents MOGA as an institution, with all the necessary museum functions, such as collecting, historicizing, canonizing, etc. Indeed, the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics website features the artistic path of the Artist 2.0 in a very didactic, hierarchical and chronological order. Besides that, it offers the catalogue, with a typical curatorial entry, interviews and discussions by field experts and by the Artist 2.0 himself. With regards to the design of the project, the catalogue has an ordinary layout and the website is recognisable and even banal. In its presentation of the museum as a system, MOGA attempts to operate with prescribed elements; however, these elements are represented in a gestural way. MOGA attempts to convince its audience of its validity as an institution, which canonizes alternative practices; however, as far as the audience’s gaze goes, the project proves to be more paradoxical: it claims to be an alternative to the traditional practice, yet it nevertheless serves the established model and functions within the capitalistic system.
Thus, due to its paradoxical state, does the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics belong to Glitch Art Practice? On the level of visual interfaces and textuality, such a statement appears to be problematic: MOGA avoids the manifestation of Glitch Aesthetics. It does however indicate a shadow of Glitch, which is impossible to catch. Nevertheless, the complexity and peculiarity of the concept appeal to further exploration and contemplation. In this regard, The Museum of Glitch Aesthetics has the potential to initiate a new rhetorical discourse.
To conclude, in this paper I have sought to provide insight into the position of the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics within the Glitch Art practice. In order to achieve this, I examined established analyses by scholars on Glitch Art and defined the aesthetic features and critical capacities of visible errors. Subsequently, I analysed MOGA through these established frameworks. This analysis brought clarity as to what extent the project fits into the tradition of Glitch Art practice.
The introduction of this paper provided an overview of the existing research on Glitch Art by scholars from various fields, including Cultural and Media Studies, philosophy, and art history. The first chapter placed Glitch Art within a broader context as a movement of New Media Art. Emphasis was placed on the fluidity of the term, supported by arguments by Jessica Patrice Braccio and Elvira Zhagun. Both scholars refer to Glitch in a metaphoric way, beyond the digital realm. Besides its fluidity, Zhagun introduced the idea of error missing data. Analysis of both scholars’ perspectives brought forward the conclusion that Glitch appropriates the language of its environment, exists within and mimics such systems, but contains no data.
Existing theoretical sources on Glitch Art indicate that employing visible errors in artistic practice brings forth new aesthetics and expands visual sensibility. With regards to such aesthetics, the perspectives of Galloway, Goriunova and Shulgin were reviewed, specifically in regards to the aesthetics of algorithms. Although traditionally regarded as a break in conventional logic, scholars Moradi and Jackson demonstrated that visible errors, distortions and corrupted images have been adopted by mainstream culture. However, artists who incorporate glitches in their practice through experimentation attempt to escape such banality.
Where the critical capacities of Glitch are concerned, various artistic practices have been discussed that exemplify the paradoxical desire to embrace the maximum performance of technology whilst simultaneously challenging it. The visual outcome of such a pursuit has social, political and ideological implications; however, the outcome mostly exists on the level of the Graphical User Interface and does not affect the operation of these technologies.
Further research touched upon the concept of flow and friction, developed by Vendela Grundell. She emphasises that such friction confronts and absorbs the spectator in the medium, whilst simultaneously instigating a critical distance that allows for the spectator to take note of the medium’s material nature. Casey Boley also sees the critical capacities of Glitch as able to raise awareness and open up new rhetorical discourses.
Taking into consideration these aforementioned characteristics of Glitch Art, the second chapter assessed MOGA and its paradoxical state. Mark Amerika has located the project within the current art moment, in which artists are dependent upon art critics and the art market. He presents MOGA as an alternative practice, which collects, historicizes, canonises and presents works of art. A close study of the visual and textual appearance of the project has shown that though it mimics the concept of the museum it fails to operate as such. This mimesis is present in the website’s interface, the scope of displayed works, the design and text of the catalogue. Overall, these aspects of the project appeal to a stereotypical, generic image. Glitches, which MOGA has promised, disappear with each attempt to identify it. Furthermore, this project, in multiple ways, strives to convince the spectator of its institutional validity and its potential to canonize Glitch Art; however, its absence of data, which substitutes the entire MOGA model, turns it into a paradox.
On the one hand, such a paradox may appear counterproductive, as it questions the belonging of the Museum of Glitch Aesthetics to Glitch Art practice. Indeed, on a visual level, the project appears too weak to break the visual comfort and smooth operation. Besides that, being financially supported by various institutions, MOGA endorses the very economy it stands to critique. Nevertheless, on a more metaphorical level, MOGA appears to be a sophisticated and poetic commentary on the current economical and cultural dynamics in the art field.