Attempting Glitch Art

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 by asobol

After reading through the pieces on glitch art, I was taken in. Change an image file to a .txt file and play? Let’s do this.

Unfortunately, what had occurred was an hour of frustration and friction with technology. Converting an image to a .txt file and the playing with glyphs and data ended up corrupting files beyond recognition. I thought, at first, I was deleting too much and there was no image left to display. I tried deleting only a single glyph and the same thing occurred. I copied portions of the code and still this terribly frustrating error message appeared: the file appears to be damaged, too large, or is corrupted.

Several attempts forced me to research an answer. The first site I found gave me the exact same process I had been attempting. Change .jpg to .txt, play, save, return to .jpg. This wasn’t working. Eventually I discovered that those were Mac instructions. Windows computers, for no clear reason, would not glitch jpeg files. They preferred .bmp or .tiff files. And one has to use the program WordPad—not Notepad (the difference between programs is entirely a mystery to me)—to edit the data.

I found a few .bmp images and, hey, the process worked. (One can expedite the process by right clicking on the image and opening it with Wordpad instead of changing file extensions.  This allows you to preview your image alongside the data, so as you delete data you can file the image change immediately once you save.) This is my first successful attempt.1 It involved copying some portions over and over and over again. There was some deleting, too.

lena - Copy (2)

Unfortunately, this was the only image that remained this clear. Every other one basically turned to static no matter what I did. This was one of the orca is the only other one that retained some of the initial image.

orca_seaworld-380 - Copy

The next few looked more or less like this:

plums (1) - Copy

It’s half-disappointing, because this originally was just a picture of plums. I didn’t delete any data. Instead, I entered the text of that infamous William Carlos Williams’ poem. If you convert the image to text, you will find “This is Just to Say” within the data. The interplay between image and poem would be more effective, I think, if you could tell the above was plums. It could probably be done. Maybe it would require a different image. Probably a lot of trial and error.

It leads me to this idea of a digital glitch chapbook (probably not entirely a new idea). A series of glitched images with poems written into the data. The reader becomes a scavenger, looking for the hidden messages, the hidden passageways. This is what happens, the images would say, when poetry gets embedded into the background. From there, one could manipulate the image on their own, manipulate (glitching?) the poem2 itself into something else.

On a more macro level, having played with this, I don’t consider glitch art as an interruption of our technology-mediated lifestyles. If I look at glitch art, I think about how the image or the video or the audio must have been manipulated to achieve that result. It’s only when something malfunctions on its own or when I’m causing it to malfunction that I’m forced to consider the relationships between me and the image. It seems more likely that creating glitch art is what creates the awareness our relationship with technology.


1. WordPress doesn’t allow .bmp file, so I had to convert the image to a jpeg, which I did by renaming the file to “.jpg.” Again, the whole process is semi-mysterious, though it does make think about what files we are allowed to disseminate. What if the conversion from .bmp to .jpeg didn’t work? I wouldn’t be able to show off this little image.

2. Poetry (hell, all writing) is an interactive medium. I think back to Homer, back to the oral tradition. When people added, changed, or forgot pieces of the poem. It’s a kind of interaction, a kind of manipulation, a kind of glitch.


2 comments on “Attempting Glitch Art

  1. angelarovak says:

    In response to #2 – (which I find to be a fascinating question) can there be a glitch if there isn’t a confirmed original? Have we created the ability for there to be a glitch over humanity’s obsession with preserving and duplicating how a poem/image/story “should” read?

  2. Lori Emerson says:

    Adrian, I really appreciate your willingness to jump in and try creating glitch art – with all the frustrations and additional glitches that come along with that! I love your idea of a chapbook of glitch poetry and I don’t recall anyone doing this…yet! I do wonder, however, why you want there to still be some clarity in your glitched images – wouldn’t this defeat the purpose of glitch, especially since, as you rightly point out, much of the power of glitch lies in the process itself and very little in the product (for how would we ever determine whether something is an instance of good or beautiful glitch art?).

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