Pomylka / The Tipping Point of Failure
29 October - 05 December 2010
Galeria NT / Imaginarium
ul. R. Traugutta 18, 90-113 Lódz, Poland
Today many people enjoy their time watching super 8 tapes, while listening to poorly recorded vinyl records or endlessly copied cassette tapes. They enjoy the discolorations, cracks, and noises of these media. This retro-fetishism shows that we find ourselves at an aesthetic turning point; the good quality of the old image is no longer important. Instead, we are attracted to the traces of "old" media, that seem to be absent or at least imperceptible in the "new" media of today. Artists such as Rosa Menkman aim to show and evaluate the flaws that we haven't yet learned to appreciate or even recognize in our new media - the imperfection.
Rosa Menkman (1983, Arnhem, Netherlands) is a leading international theory-practitioner of glitch art. She has written extensively on digital artifacts and noise, including the Glitch Studies Manifesto (2010). Her videos and real-time performances have been included in festivals like Cimatics (Brussels '08 + 09), Blip (Europe and US in 2009), Video Vortex (Amsterdam '08 + Brussels '09), ISEA (Dublin '09) and File (Sao Paolo '10). She was also one of the organizers/curators of the successful GLI.TC/H festival that took place in Chicago in 2010. She has collaborated on art projects and performed together with Alexander Galloway, little-scale, Govcom.org and the Internet art collective, Jodi.org. Menkman received her Master's degree in 2009 and is currently pursuing a practical PhD at the KHM Cologne, writing on the subject of Artifacts.
Roman Jakobson identified various functions of communication in the primary axis between the addresser, the addressee and the message. When communication revolves only around the message itself, it has, according to Jakobson, a poetic function. Such a message does not communicate anything but its structure. Glitch is a radical implementation of this postulate on the grounds of visual arts.
The aesthetics of glitch, which continues traditions of structural film, comes from the interest in the medium itself, and thus, the process of image formation. The medium and its inherent specificities has become radically important for contemporary art, since many significant contemporary artworks use some form of exploitation of the material of (modern) media, or are known thanks to documentation done within these media.
The exhibition of "Pomylka / Tipping point of failure" ("Pomylka" means "Mistake") aims to pinpoint a quintessential phenomenon of aesthetics and contemporary art - the phenomenon of glitch. The aesthetics of glitch stems from an interest in the structure and research on conditions and characteristics of each medium.
Technically, this is can be accomplished by the exploration of the opportunities offered by for instance circuitbending and databending. These techniques that are often used by artists that are working within this field of art can be divided into several main types. Firstly, they focus on observation of the audiovisual effects caused by reconstruction of hardware, such as soldering wires, the changing of values (of resistors or data), introducing external components to the integrated circuit, etc. A second type is intentional damaging the media. A third type is damaging and redesigning data in digital files, when the artist gets to the content of the file and changes it manually by typing in a variety of values (computer graphic programs perform the same actions but in a mechanical way). A fourth type is the action associated with the transmission of the signal and its modulation. Artists repeatedly send the same files between devices up to the point when some of them commit certain errors. A fifth type of activities are actions related to the repeated compression of files or using errors of various compressed audio-visual materials.
To this collection we can also add many other related strategies such as the usage of TV interlacing or "freeze frame" in the VHS machines, the scrolling of the preview of DV devices, exposing differences in the frequency of images' refreshing and scanning rates in the camera and TV systems, the usage of differences in the lighting of different parts of the old style kinescopes that are invisible to the naked eye or the large variety of feedback techniques, etc. It is an extremely interesting field of aesthetic exploration, which influences design, advertising industry and popular culture.
Often, the artists within this field treat each of these tactics as a research in the extensions of the human senses. Such orientation places them close to the position of for instance scientists. Artists, similarly to scientists, set up a research context and let the examined matter speaks for itself. But in glitch art, the word mistake has also become a synonym for the natural consequences of actions and gives right to a following and a following trial, which might cause different effects every time. From this perspective, glitch art could become a chapter in the history of art by just a simple exploration of the aesthetical relationships between a first and a subsequent mistake and its references to known canons of composition. Each of the redesigned devices can produce dozens of interesting abstract images per second and disrupt a yet to be constructed history by the inherent impossibility of capturing ephemeral artifacts - mistakes.
However, this kind of art can also, and maybe more interestingly, be understood in a metaphorical or even political or ethical way. Glitch is obviously related to the aesthetics of punk or DIY strategies. Striving for a poor quality image (Low Quality) or deliberately destroying or redesigning a final message, or to recapture the creativity of a medium can be described as the key features of an anti-corporate attitude.
Rosa Menkman aims to show and evaluate the flaws that we haven't yet learned to appreciate or even recognize in our new media - the imperfection - and sets out to create an awareness of the many questions and different dichotomies inherent to these imperfections are brought to the front.
"Within a high-tech world, consumers are blinded by the sparkles of the latest protocol. They are on an elevator that seems to take them to a realm that functions cleaner, better and faster. However, during this trip in the elevator they never seem to arrive at a final destination - the holy grail of perfection. New media are not perfect and will never be perfect. Diverging and sometimes even opposing retro-fetishism, we need to be aware of the doctrine of our flawed, yet superficially perfect new media."
The essence of Rosa Menkman's art does not lie in achieving visual effects or within the development of just another glitch aesthetics. Instead she is conducting an advanced glitch studies, in which she strengthens practical research in aesthetics and design by scientific research, with focal points on politics, art-history and technological forms and discourses.
While artists are no longer interested in achieving results, but they want to explore the material and are open to the strangest sensory conclusions, it must be a meaningful sign that we live in a time in which totalitarian and fascist aesthetics of ideal projections, or the principle of so-called art without randomness, are fading into oblivion.
Instead, once again, art has become the domain of creative experiment. This is why, if the history of art wants to explore this strategy, it has to go very deeply not only into the artifact, the mistake, but into a process of creating these images and the unveiling of their hidden logic. The artists no longer create finished works of art or even exclusive artistic ideas, but instead they produce creative platforms, where the addressee has the power to become the creator of the final work of art. In this sense, glitch is a constantly mutating entity, that can move from a ephemeral form of randomness to a new paradigm. This is where we can find the tipping point of failure.