Character, flaws and glitches

by glennrickwood

In connection with this enquiry into “Humanity”, I’ve previously said that some attention would be paid to “Character” and “Flaw[s]/[ed]” (certainly in my post of 28 October), and as I look to refine my FAT1 ideas within FAT2, I’m keen to assess how aspects of both might be incorporated visually into my ongoing creative work. …There’s much that’s both characterful and flawed in the artworks I’ve considered in these postings – notably that by Adbusters, Warhol, Myerscough and Menkman, as well as in the examples of cave art and ‘found’ pictograms of the human figure – while research into mankind’s relationship with animals has prompted reflection on the more primal, cruder facets of the human psyche. Now, sketching some ideas for some public art interventions, I’m still minded to update some Paleolithic imagery for the ‘edification’ of 21st century consumers, with analog mark-making techniques well to the fore, but also think that it might be interesting to counterpoint this with some manner of digital manipulation, and thus think it could be valuable to take a further look at glitch art… (…A personal link to the term “glitch” being that it was, allegedly, coined, in 1962, by astronaut John Glenn, the man after whom I’m named.)

Eelco den Heijer’s paper, Evolving Glitch Art, chronicles attempts to establish the digital equivalent of a genetic genotype that can be applied, as a glitch art process or ‘recipe’, to digital imagery so that it might be altered in a systematic and controlled manner: acknowledging that glitch art is a new and emerging form of art about which there very few scientific publications have been written, the purpose of this investigation is to ask “can we evolve aesthetically pleasing images that are different from images we know from previous evolutionary art systems?” (Heijer 2013: 110). However, in assessing whether engaging imagery is reducible to the computation of an effective formula – reviewing existing glitch art generators such as the GlitchBot programme along the way – it soon becomes apparent how easy it is for artistic content to be subsumed within a complex mathematical process. …Unless, of course, that becomes the point of the exercise and the process itself is the [art’s] message, but relative to Heijer’s agenda to create appealing images, this would not seem relevant in this case.

GlitchTechsFig. 1 Eelco den Heijer, examples of glitch art operations (2013),
‘Evolving glitch art’, Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design. [online], p114

As I’d presumed in my post of 28 November – following my own blundering experiments with glitch generation – it is entirely possible for those with sufficient technical acumen to rationalise and categorise a wide range of effects resulting from targeted disruptions of image-code, a full account of her team’s visual probings being presented by Heijer (Fig. 1), almost all of which manage to avoid the destruction of the image through ‘over-recoding’. …But, again, such forensic dismantling of the glitch art process may be seen to devalue it and, definitely, diminish any mystery that might be inherent within this young artform: it is as if by scientifically analysing the composition and production of Picasso’s Guernica, one had removed all reference, and emotional response, to the subject matter (…for I’d contend that the ongoing value of this kind of digital art will be in [artists] responding emotionally to the sociopolitical conditions that have given rise to such media opportunities.)

The lack of substantive academic research on glitch art makes it difficult to gain a balanced view of the form’s substance or clearly identify its key practitioners – little biographical detail being available through recognised media channels – but here are a few of the more interesting examples I’ve chanced upon…

(Mathieu St. Pierre is an experimental artist from Canada, who has applied his experience of working with video and photography to the area of digital generative art, disrupting the data held within individual video frames…)

Fig. 2 Mathieu St. Pierre, untitled image from Melting Ice Cream series (2012) [image online] Available at:
[Accessed 22 December 2014]

(Sabato Visconti is a Brazillian photographer/illustrator who has experimented with glitch imagery in recent years, looking to recreate certain of the distortions he saw as a child on analog TV…)

Fig. 2 Sabato Visconti, untitled image (2014) [image online] Available at:
[Accessed 22 December 2014]

(Canadian illustrator and musician Stephen Lofstrom has applied glitch art techniques to a variety of digital outcomes and physical merchandise…)

Fig. 3 Stephen Lofstrom, untitled image (2014) [image online] Available at: http:
[Accessed 22 December 2014]

(Mischa Henner, Manchester-based photographer/artist has taken aerial photographs of landscapes that include secret military installations, pixelating the politically sensitive areas…)

Fig. 4 Mischa Henner, untitled image from Dutch Landscapes (2011) series [image online] Available at:–/q-95/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/10/24/1382604926322/Art-work-by-Mishka-Henner-001.jpg
[Accessed 22 December 2014]

The final point to mention here, is that, as a result of guidance in a late-November tutorial, I’ve become aware of the potential for glitch techniques to be applied to the creation of three-dimensional artworks, the extraordinary manifestation of this being a wooden cabinet hand-carved by Ferruccio Lavani that appears as depicted in a distorted digital photograph…

Fig. 5 Ferruccio Lavani, Good Vibrations cabinet (2013) [image online] Available at:
[Accessed 22 December 2014]

…Perhaps this intriguing approach to linking the discrete character and flaws of digital and analog media could be utilised by disrupting the frame of a hoarding displaying an image relevant to my proposed art interventions.


den Heijer, E. (2013). ‘Evolving glitch art’, Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design. [online] pp.109-120. Berlin: Springer. Available at:,
[Accessed 24 November 2014]


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