A glitch may be a disruption to a system, but as an art community and a scene, it is a system unto itself. Last weekend, GLI.TC/H Fest manifested itself in Chicago, growing out of the DIY new media art scene that’s largely supported by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s robust program in that field. The event, which was funded entirely by a more than successful Kickstarter campaign, was organized by media artists and theorists Rosa Menkman, Nick Briz, Jon Satrom, Jon Cates, Theodore Darst and Evan Meany.
The event included a gallery show that ran through the weekend, artist talks, VJ performances, workshops and video screenings. GLI.TC/H Fest spread out across several different venues in Chicago that felt more like DIY punk houses than they did art galleries. Although glitch isn’t considered a specific niche of net art, the fest’s variety of events represented how broadly the genre is still defined. This is not to disparage it as elusive, but to express how multifaceted the art form can be. Glitches can be culled and deconstructed from systems in a variety of ways, generating a lush ecology of works spread out across multiple aesthetics. Video games, desktops and browsers, music videos, photographs and even human-driven voice recognition systems can inspire the most vibrant and unwieldy effects.
Ustream tower ladder.
The festival’s gallery showed that glitch can exist within the context of a traditional gallery space. Video-based works were juxtaposed with installations, as well as physical manifestations of glitch motifs. If nothing else, the exhibit successfully showed how glitches, and net art in general, vary in presentation and material. Ranging from screen-based works, televisions, computer screens, a coin-operated love test machine, and even an Activision start screen woven on a Jacquard loom, many of the works featured in the show appropriated the glitch aesthetic into mediums such as print, acrylics and paint.
A work such as Anthony Antonellis’ Impulse stood out by contrasting the unchanging block ASCII print and the ever fluctuating ASCII projection. Other notable works included jimpunk’s wooden cabinet-encased interactive geometric vortex touch screen, and Ant Scott's 29 Parallel Stripes, acrylic on fabric wrapped to a palette hung to the wall. In all, the gallery show felt like a fusion between a speed show and a white cube exhibition.
jimpunk’s interactive work.
Performances were not merely contained to VJ sets, but included real-time executables, and even “lectures-as-performance.” Jon Cates ‘read’ a paper he wrote on Glitch, adding multiple layers of noise and recordings of the reading over each other until it was completely indiscernible. The same program included an “IRC conversation as performance” with Jeremiah Johnson (aka Nullsleep) speaking to Barcelona-based net artist Francoise Gamma entirely in ASCII characters on IRC. What’s fascinating about these types of performances, besides how entrancing they are, is that they represent a new system of language built entirely on noise and visual phenomena that gives way to real interpersonal communication.
One of the most memorable experiences was I <3 Presets’ total post-apocalyptic visual/aural desktop-browser assault late Friday night. Rob Ray, Jason Soliday and Jon Satrom took something as mundane-sounding as surfing a browser to usher in a sensory annihilation. The sound hung thick in the air, its noisy ambience transforming the room into a sealed vacuum, where the aberrations were so all-encompassing as if to become normal.
The crowd during I <3 Presets’ performance.
Theodore Darst and Evan Meany curated a screening of various glitchy videos that ran anywhere from one to seven minutes long. When the audience watches this type of work in a dark room, much the same way one would watch a movie, it practically creates an obligation to stay put. So no matter how overwhelming or overloading or disorienting, there is a feeling that you need to endure the presentation. You can’t go to another tab, click it off, or, as you could in a gallery, simply walk away. The experience is exhausting, but in the end, fulfilling. Featured artists included Kim Asendorf, Jennifer Chan, Yolk, Evan Meany, Andrew Benson and of course, net art anthem writer Yung Jake.
Of course, an event of this nature would be incomplete without an online component. So in addition to the IRL events, net artist Kim Asendorf curated an online gallery as well. Names of art works fly from a white void, leading visitors across the web to a variety of different experiences. As a ‘gallery,’ it provides a fairly unique experience, sending visitors to the sites where the works originated rather than gathering them at one specific location. This online gallery offers a possible solution to how net art pieces can be curated when they are so firmly connected to their original platforms, and is a step above the otherwise uninspired list of links format.
Artists were also offered the opportunity to submit their own glitch works to the t.rashb.in in an endless Tumblr-like cascade of random images.
GLI.TC/H Fest was as informative as it was celebratory of the art form and its practitioners. The online portion included a wiki filled with glitch theory and tutorials, providing a broader context and history for what exactly the art form is and does. The theory included online was printed into a small pocket-sized reader that was sold at the festival. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of how glitch is written about is that form very much gives way to content. Often the texts themselves will operate as representations of glitch in and of themselves. Texts will be collages, corrupt files and messes of words that visually stimulate the mind intellectually and help communicate some of the concepts contained therein in a non-verbal fashion.
Theo Darst and Mary-Ann Benedetto.
The Chicago scene presents an interesting symbiosis between academia and a DIY anti-establishment aesthetic. The city provides a tight-knit community akin to the kind of scene I grew up in. People create with a strong sense of urgency rather than for the sake of artistic practice, yet with a shock of robust intellectualism that makes it both sustainable and substantial. It’s like a large (deep dish) pizza party where everyone is friends with each other and supports one another’s work, rather than a group of individual geniuses keeping to themselves. Professors and students alike are equally as likely to participate and perform.
This is the second year for the festival, which will be traveling to Amsterdam (where co-organizer and Glitch advocate Rosa Menkman is originally from) and then to Birmingham, in the UK. Menkman has also just released a book on Glitch Theory, which can be downloaded here.
Check out the program for Chicago’s leg of the event as well as its next two stops here.