Glitch Art: Digital Teratologies & Computational Aestethics.

Glitch art takes temporary pixelations, interruptions, bugs and errors in multimedia files and turns them into visually arresting pieces, questioning the forms and traditions of art using digital techniques.

Wikipedia says that what is called “glitch art” typically is made by either “capturing” an image of a glitch as it randomly happens, or more often by artists/designers manipulating their digital files, software or hardware to produce these so calles “errors”. Michael Betancourt identified 5 areas of manipulation that are used to create this types of artworks: changes made to the digital file, its generative display, or the technologies used to show it (such as a video screen). He includes within this range changes made to analog technologies such as television (in video art) or the physical film strip in motion pictures:

Glitch art starts conversations that traditional art forms can’t really access, just by the nature of how it’s created. Artists began actively connecting around this aesthetic on a larger scale as early as 2002 at the Glitch Symposium and Performance Event held in Oslo, but the medium only picked up serious momentum much more recently. In Mallika Roy´s opinion as we become more and more wrapped up in technology, glitch art begins to be taken more seriously as a movement with a unique potential for timely cultural commentary, rather than just an aesthetic embraced by individual artists. The musician Kim Cascone in his Classic essay “The Aestethics of Failure: Post-Digital Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music” wrote that ‘failure’ has become a prominent aesthetic in many of the arts since the late 20th century, reminding us that our control of technology is an illusion and revealing digital tools to be only as perfect, precise, and effi-cient as the humans who build them.

So as we advance in the aesthetics analysis of this new kind of digital teratologies, an analogy can be made with this branch of embryologic science concerned with the production, development, anatomy, and classification of malformed embryos or fetuses. If this kind of artworks -products of technical and mechanical errors- are to be conceived from a biological point of view, maybe not only should welcome a new form of art, but also a new aestethic that takes account of this new creative outcomes. That is where  Computational Aesthetics can be helpful, a subfield of artificial intelligence (AI) concerned with the computational assessment of beauty in domains of human creative expression (music, visual art, poetry, and chess problems). Such technology can be more reliable and consistent than human assessment, which is often subjective and prone to personal biases. Computational aesthetics may also improve understanding of human aesthetic perception.

When intelligent machines start generating their own designs and art pieces, free from our aestethic constraints, how are we as human beings going to be able to understand their own original outcomes? Are we ready to adapt and fall in love with non-antropocentric forms of creativity? Maybe if we keep advancing into a new understanding of our biological substrate we wil be a little closer to accepting that this new age of cognitive digital machines is a very special time for a colaborative state of mind…

*(Picture: Aiete park in San Sebastian, databending by Mikel Arbiza).

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