Glitch Theory: Art and Semiotics


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What do glitches reveal about the normally invisible processes behind our interpretations?

Glitches and Glitch Art illuminate the unseen assumptions, ideology of dialectical thinking, and role of established knowledge that shapes as well as determines our engagement with the world. Betancourt builds on the role of perception in guiding these interpretations to explore the possibilities offered by glitches for addressing digital media. Not confined to esoteric questions of semiosis, this study presents an expansive model of ambivalence and ambiguity whose ramifications address how initial assumptions and beliefs create meaning.

Tracking glitches across technical media old and new, and moving from early abstraction's attempts to visualize a transcendental spiritualism through to contemporary AI generated art and media, Betancourt describes how glitches are not just technical failures but products of the instabilities between human interpretations and autonomous machinic operations that create a 'discursive aesthetic' guided by cultural fantasies of digital media's immateriality that idealize it as a perfect, transcendent form.

A journey to the roots of meaning itself, Betancourt offers a paradigm that unpacks how engaging the glitch can become a critical model not only for artists, critics, and academics, but for anyone interested in Contemporary Art, tactical media, and cultural activism.

All illustrations in full color


"This concise yet profound dive into the world of digital disruptions reveals how glitches echo deeper meanings, challenging our perceptions of digital flaws as artistic expressions. A compelling read for artists and digital enthusiasts alike."-Dawnia Darkstone, Glitch Artist and Curator

"What we see as mistakes or errors, are much more than that, they can be a way to express something unique. Betancourt's writing is an exquisite tour de force. By delving into the complexities, uncertainties, past and future of glitches and their relationship with semiotics and media, this book offers artists, enthusiasts and academics, new perspectives and insights. Whether you're after an ontological perspective or the in-depth analysis of glitches through the lens of semiotics, this is a book you should dip into. Its rich reference packed pages, provide an in-depth and current exploration of the aesthetic, technical and philosophical dimensions of glitch art, while emphasizing its significance in contemporary visual culture. It's the book I wish I had 20 years ago." -Shay Moradi, Glitch Theorist and Curator

"Glitch Theory is an essential text for understanding the exciting art movement widely practiced online, and increasingly offline, known as Glitch Art. This book documents the ideas behind these beautiful digital manipulations, and their evolving dance with encoded annihilation. What the reader will encounter is a dynamic and in-depth study of visual noise, electronically hallucinated with intentional/accidental malfunctions." -Michael Jacobson, publisher at Post-Asemic Press

"As one of the pioneers of this niche medium, Betancourt goes through the deeply buried history from analog to digital of Glitch Art with precision, putting into question and creating a metaphysics from our relationship with electronic devices. He ushers mythology, literature and linguistics while peeling the paradoxical relation of how glitches turn into intentional methodologies of creation. The essential connection of the ghost in the machine inevitably will keep accompanying us long into the future." -Uğur Engin Deniz, Glitch Artist and Scientist

"As artistic compressions in elaborate production models, Glitch Art wants (and must) be discovered in a complex way by the audience. Assuming that art would disappear from the Earth and would have to be decoded from the luckily surviving Glitch Art, Michael Betancourt's glitch semiosis would be the theoretical manual with which this reconstruction could succeed. Betancourt once again presents a new standard work, exciting to read for anyone who wants to seriously engage with the theory development within Glitch Art. In the area of tension between Digital Theory and Criticism of Capitalism, Betancourt created a Theory of Discursive Digitality in 2016 with the text The Critique of Digital Capitalism: An Analysis of Political Economy of Digital Culture and Technology. The new publication can be understood as an attempt at Digital Aesthetics in the Post-NFT Era. It implements itself as a subversive stabilizer: in the theoretical foundation of a Glitch Philosophy, which also prepares the audience for an art historical and curatorial reassessment of this art movement." -Verena Voigt M.A., Art Historian, Investigative Curator, Potsdam

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