church of glitch

Viz. Menkman : the artefact created/discovered by accidents of digital processes, or intentionally accidented digital processes – how can these machines create? Computers are only supposed to do as exactly as they are told.

Glitch points to the error, the flaws woven into material reality. Artefact as scar tissue. Computing is built on the user’s illusion, the information perceived on the screen. How it works – for most users, the digital platform is completely foreign.  In Kabbalah material reality is located in ‘the depth of evil’ in part because of the nesting boxes of illusion presented by personal story, point of view, and the layers of imperfection, brokenness, etc. that humans are confronted with in this world. The tension between the imagined perfect and the flawed ‘real’.

Glitch art operates in this space.

In glitch one finds the revelation of the imperfection of the digital, an ongoing criticism / pointing to / celebration of the underlying flaws of the platform.

How each artist harnesses the dilemmas of the medium becomes the interesting thing.


Of course people like to mimic the sexxxy-broken aesthetic. With enough determination and a cracked copy of Photoshop one can create the echoes, colorselected copy pasted pixels, the “look”. Recently there was a fistfight in an online glitch community on this point. Its only when a photoshop artist argued that “image manipulation in photoshop is the same as image manipulation in audacity” that I called the discussion dumb as a bag of hair* and found my church of glitch.

All artistic media needs boundaries of ‘what it is not’. While “painting” as a class can contain objects of ‘watercolor’ and ‘oil’, a watercolor painting is not an oil painting. “Digital art” as a class can contain objects like ‘glitched photography’ and ‘photoshop painting mimicing a glitched aesthetic’. A glitched photo is not a photoshop painting.

A glitched photo points to/critiques/exposes the flaws of the medium that supports the perceivable image. A photoshop painting unquestioningly uses the platform of digital media to create a perceivable image.


The thread has been since deleted, perhaps because the argument can go on endlessly. People take it personally, and all those feels get in the way of considering the truth in the media object.

We can only see the object of the image file through the mediating screen & other equipment of the computer. Its all sort of unreal, and becomes tweedledum and tweedledee arguing over their rattle in the forest. *Hence the ‘dumb as a bag of hair’ comment.

I said this sort of thing to the art school bros who claimed they were ‘glazing with oil paints’ when they weren’t, at my undergrad. Same with incalmo hot glass work – there’s a technical baseline, one that’s much harder to meet than opening a .jpg in word pad. Those who claimed the were making incalmo (but weren’t) were informed as such . . . but glass art and oil painting both have the history of tradition and the authority of that established tradition to make the claim. Still, the determined continued to claim they were right, telling themselves they were participating in that history.

All I got’s Rosa Menkman**.  I’m glad I’ve chosen to read some of her theory, explore the ideas around the activity. It lends additional meaning and context to what I’m doing, helps me draw that line around glitch and explain to curators why glitch as a process is important to the meaning in the work I’m making.

I don’t know why its important for people to jump on a bandwagon, when are not doing the thing. Is it that important to belong to the group? To say you are doing the thing, when you are? I suppose all the digital is a mimic, but the 50-50 split of ‘this isn’t glitch, it mimics it’ in that community was interesting to me.

The ticket to participation in this activity is computer ownership, determination, and enough ego strength to post shit online for other ppl to see.  I gotta take Alice’s tip and leave T.& T. to their rattle, my own working definition of the media I’m making and screening tucked under my arm.


** This isn’t really true, I’ve also got Jon Satrom & Jon Cates & Nik Briz and all the stuff happening with the dirty new media people here in Chicago. I read/see their stuff & think about it too. In the context of that online community, cited Menkman only, so that’s where this blog post went. I am imperfect in my church making.

where I explain how chuck close is a painter

@golan @cynthialawson chuck close: a painter with a recognizable aesthetic now living its own life in his viewers’ experiences #letgo

* * * * *

Chuck Close makes paintings with a particular visual vocabulary. They play with the viewer’s faculty of sight, that tricky biology of perception thresholds. They happened in part as a consequence of biology, perhaps in response to his own experience of face-blindness, but also in consequence of a seizure-stroke that changed the way he could use his body to paint. Although I expect those who read this blog to already know this, Chuck Close’s career and health issues are summarized succinctly on wikipedia.

Digital artist Scott Blake created the Chuck Close filter. A free, web-based tool transformed a still image into the close cousin of a Chuck Close image. Note that I did not use the word ‘painting’ – the output from Scott Blake’s program isn’t a painting, its an image made using the visual conventions of a Chuck Close painting.

You can see how Chuck Close responded to Scott Blake’s work here, at the page where the project used to live. The placeholder page representing the former project includes a quote from Mr. Close: “it may be an amusing project and many people might like it, but it is MY art that is trivialized, MY career you are jeopardizing, MY legacy, which i have to think about for my children, and MY livelihood. i must fight to protect it.” Chuck Close, November 2010

* * * * *

During my undergrad, one of the ongoing discussions I had with a collaborator was the seeming strategy of those attempting to conquer the art world with a ‘clear vision’. We called this a ‘schtick’. We had to memorize and regurgitate the ‘schtick’ of these artists to pass art history classes on our way to that little piece of paper, the BFA. Oh, yeah, Chuck Close was fragmenting the image in a way that played with how we read the image; there’s a perception threshold the viewer can play with by spending time far away or coming up close and watching the image dissolve. Cool. Next.

When I was in grad school in Boston, I’d visit the MFA just about every day. I’d touch base with a particular Chuck Close painting, when it was up, because I liked it, and because repeated viewings of a single work of art over a long period of time provide me with a different kind of insight into that work and what it is doing. I remember seeing postcards of that painting in the museum gift shop.

I understand museum gift shops, with their postcards and books. I’ve always preferred to see art in person. Not everyone has that privilege.

* * * * *

Scott Blake had his own experience of Chuck Close’s work. He translated the aesthetic he associated with that work into another medium. This point is particularly important to me – Mr. Blake did not take a patentable process (the mechanics of painting the image); he did not take a copyrighted image of a painting, he took an experienced aesthetic and created with it.

Close told him to knock it off, and Blake did.

Close had the balls to claim he “makes digital art“. No, Sir, you do not. You make paintings with a particular aesthetic that can be more easily associated with color separation technology used to print newspapers. Digital art uses computers as the primary method of production. While your photographs may be digitally enlarged as part of the production process, the computer is not essential to the mode of production. Your paintings can be made without the use of a computer. (Additional media-metaphor description of digital art in the last section of this post as well).

As an artist who has staked her claim to a digital platform, whose work cannot exist without digital technology to store, exhibit, share, or produce it, I’m going to ask Mr. Chuck Close to go back to what he knows how to do much better than me – move a paintbrush on a canvas. Mr. Close’s paintings can exist in a future without computers. Mine can’t. Is this better or worse? I’m not interested in a ‘whose medium is better/cooler/etc’ conversation right now – I’ll leave that for those who like to play king of the mountain. Computers are, for better or worse, deeply embedded in ordinary human life, at least for 80% of humans (those who have access to the technology and use it daily to achieve a variety of tasks). I’m interested in how information moves there, lives there, and how the way we use our technology is changing our way of interacting with everything else. Chuck Close makes excellent paintings.

* * * * *

While I think that Hyperallergic’s My Chuck Close Problem article gets at many of Scott Blake’s struggles with Chuck Close, I’d like magnify something I see underneath the discussion.
The audience has its own experience of the work. No artist can control what the audience does with that experience. Scott Blake had a really inspiring experience of Chuck Close. He took his experience of Chuck Close’s aesthetic to a different medium. He used that experience to create artwork that does something entirely different from what Chuck Close does. This is not about first-second, derivation, or anything else. Its about translation.

Computers translate. As a machine, the computer translates information coming in via the user interface (designed with human logic) through the operating system to the firmware. The firmware simplifies and translates that input to the hardware, which then does what the user asks of the hardware with the information the user refers to along with the command information. As a digital work of art, Scott Blake’s translation of Chuck Close’s aesthetic into a user-friendly image-translater is, in my humble opinion, quite beautiful and, in its form and expression, truly excellent digital artwork.

It is also art of a different class than Mr. Close’s painting. Chuck Close needs to ‘protect his legacy’ because he works in the world of things. He’s making trophies to be purchased by museums and collectors in the closed economy of the art world. He has to protect the aesthetic stuck on the physical surface of the canvas.

Here we go again, the gift economy of the object providing an experience to the viewer interfering with the object economy of the ‘art world’. Why are we comparing pomegranates and seashells? They have different functions.

Oh, and, one more time – Mr. Close – you are a painter.


how do we talk about it when we talk about atrocity?

They supposed it was a muslim terror cell.


Its easier to talk about Amy. Especially in the creative community, we know people who struggle with that self-destructivity.

What happened in Norway traumatizes every member of the human community. Its a trauma because it is unfamiliar. Its a trauma because we don’t have words for it. We do not want to imagine ourselves among the hunted.

Mass killing by a single person only is familiar through our violent films and video games. Those arenas provide us the privileged illusion of control with our game controllers, our remote controls.

We feel powerless witnessing Norway. Who wants to feel powerless?


schadenfreude : pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others

‎”Our media though is more interested in tragedy than talent, so the ink began to defect from praising her gift to chronicling her downfall. ”

Russell Brand on Amy Winehouse: ‘We have lost a beautiful, talented woman’

This particular poison, schadenfreude, allows the witness the vanity of feeling superior to someone who otherwise would be an object of jealousy. Schadenfreude’s cheap ego boost also provides an out. One does not have to offer a helping hand to someone one snarks while stepping over them as they lay dying, while giving you their best.


I think that we need public rituals for witnessing distant atrocities, distant suffering. We need ritual mental and emotional space for what we see in the media.

Once I went to New Orleans to figure out what it meant for that place to survive a hurricane. I don’t know how to get to Norway from here. I only know the media, with its cheap made-up stories built to ‘tell us something first’, fails us.

Just look at his picture. You know, of the highly-organized, white-faced, conservative Christian.