The Surreal Wonder of Glitch Art

While digital photography certainly qualifies as both digital art and new media, it’s roots lay in the analogue.  Many elements of a modern digital camera are at least somewhat anachronistic; film advance arms are a thing of the past, as is film speed, yet both are still present in the form of hot-shoe grips and ISO “speeds”.  A new manner of processing digital photos (or at least digitized photographs) is gaining in popularity and can only exist in our digital world.  It’s called glitch art and it’s pretty intense.  Throughout this post are examples by Berlin-based photographer and film maker Polina Efremova and Italian artist Giacomo Carmagnola.

  Carmangola runs images through an algorithm to distort their information in specific ways.

Carmangola runs images through an algorithm to distort their information in specific ways.

Efremova was born in Russia where she studied journalism, but quickly discovered her passion for photography, and while she shoots mostly in digital now, her photos have a distinctively filmic quality to them, which she credits to “all that pushing, pulling, [and] cross-processing” present in developing film. Efremova said in a recent interview with the Creators Project that she discovered the style accidentally: “The accidental discovery happened when Efremova installed a new video player on a very old PC. When she tried to play her videos on the player, glitches would appear from time to time, which she would eventually capture as screenshots, turning the glitchy scenes into still photographs.”  The random and temporal aspects of this method stood out to Efremova, who enjoys the unpredictability of using older computers, perhaps due to their similarities to film. 

I know it might seem like a bit of a stretch, but certain aspects of glitch art, or at least this particular type of it, seems very similar to developing a photo.  Both developing and glitching involve a specific procedure that produces a relatively controlled product while still allowing a one of a kind image.  There’s an element of surprise, of excitement in it, happy accidents are at every corner and they propel you to keep pushing, to see what else can be made.  Efremova has collected the work under the name Destruction, and is continuing to work on it regularly. 

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I know it might seem like a bit of a stretch, but certain aspects of glitch art, or at least this particular type of it, seems very similar to developing a photo.  Both developing and glitching involve a specific procedure that produces a relatively controlled product while still allowing a one of a kind image.  There’s an element of surprise, of excitement in it, happy accidents are at every corner and they propel you to keep pushing, to see what else can be made.  Efremova has collected the work under the name Destruction, and is continuing to work on it regularly. 

I personally find myself drawn to these images for their surreal quality, as well as the processes behind their creation.  The idea that all of a sudden an image becomes degenerated or destroyed in some way, whether it’s because an older computer can’t process the amount of data in a modern image, or because the artist ran the image through a sophisticated algorithm (as is the case with Carmagnola’s images) fascinates me.  As we continue to develop new ways of processing images and video, we are surely developing new ways of distorting them without even realizing it, it’s just up to us to remember to break things every now and then to see what can be made from their destruction.