On Vision Machines:
We are surrounded by digital images. The digital camera is the reigning tool of inscription of our time. We frame, capture, edit, enhance, upload/download, re-imagine and re-shape our world by the digital image. The window, the frame, the stage, the screen, and the monitor are, today, superfluous objects marking a historical trajectory: of vision and its transparent boundaries—our minds have been conditioned to see the world as a flat glowing plane filled with images, the world seen through a lens, beamed directly to the retinas.
The Glitch is a signifier, a flag, indicating the interruption of this flow of data underscoring daily routines.
The End of Photography?
There is still a question as to the legitimacy of the digital image in the realm of photography, at least in my mind. The knowledge, skill, and craft that goes into the photochemical images produced by pre-digital photography is perhaps mirrored in the digital domain through the utilization of algorithms and processing tricks; however, it’s clear the cultures of both practices are vastly different. There is no need to lament, simply to observe that the hand has been supplanted by the algorithm, by mathematics. The great benefit is now that the image is free of a definite physical manifestation (the negative), it can be mapped onto any surface and manifest myriad physical forms.
The print no longer holds the power it once did. It is seen merely as a fixed (and rather boring) screen. The best an artist can hope for is to create ambiguity which holds attention for more than a single glance. If we are lucky, a second glance, but a considered gaze is a rarity.
Everything is being digitized and presented on a glowing screen, smudged by greasy fingers. That doesn’t prevent us from using film, from continuing to learn from the practice of pre-digital photographic techniques. Although now the effects can be reproduced using a clever combination of digital filters, perhaps the difference is that we still have not found the right equations to capture the individual nuances of expression, the hand.
Though I do not have a preference for analog works over digital works (each is equally problematic), I can see the appeal of the former from the traditionalist’s perspective: the hand of the artist is evidenced, remains as the invisible referent. Beyond the image acting as an arrow pointing inwards through the lens to the person standing behind the camera, there is still something of Walter Benjamin’s idea of the “essence” of the creator embedded within the object as a consequence of its making.
The Digital Dark Age
We are still in the digital dark age, groping around for something new, beyond the scope of re-combination. Digital technologies offer a new way of formalizing information, one that is directly amenable to mathematics, and yet common knowledge of mathematics has not progressed much (one may say that it has been in retrograde). The dependence upon mathematics for innovation in the digital era requires us to out think mathematics in a system where mathematics is the absolute rule. Over-formalization of the problem is in essence part of the problem. Mathematics is but a veil which glosses over complexities until they can be resolved, and as they are, the veil becomes increasingly transparent and revealing, yet it will always fail in striving to become the object it enshrouds.
Everything up until now has been the reproduction of old forms within the digital domain. We are no longer surrounded by an array of specialized electronic objects; the computer is everywhere and not even a phone is a simply a phone anymore but also a camera, a calculator, a planner, an entertainment center. It has only been a matter of formalizing and encoding behavior. Software may be that new site of innovation, and there is strong evidence that we do have some very compelling and truly new software, but the barriers of its underlying system are still to be overcome.
Glitch Art has popularized the surface features of algorithmic interpretations of what a system designer would typically call noise, interference. There remains the issue of output. If a file format is corrupted, how is it to be presented? A disc image can easily be played back as audio, the zeros and ones translated directly into the force pushing a speaker cone, setting the air in motion. Does the image necessitate output on a screen, or a print? To weave a tapestry of a fragmented image allows us to do literally what we are doing symbolically: wrapping ourselves in images, accepting the faults of technology as an integrated part of day-to-day life. Whatever the forms may symbolize, the respect of file formats is preserved and an image becomes another image mapped to an object, a mosaic. What would it look like opened into a 3D modeling environment? Could these forms be constructed?
Are we approaching the moment of a new line of thinking in architecture? Could Glitch escape the realm of surfaces and obtain real depth? As an architectural manifesto, Glitch could provide a new way of approaching behavioral design through scripted space by throwing away the script altogether.