Assignment 5 – Feedback Notes

Following on from my discussion with my tutor and looking of the feedback given; I thought I would provide more information regarding the Assignment.

One of the issues I just could not overcome was trying to cover all the salient points whilst remaining within the word count. So I have decided to follow up the assignment with more information based on the feedback.

Glitch Art and Glitch Photography

Glitch photography predates digital imagery in that errors in working with cameras, plates, film and developers meant that images could become corrupted in some way through either light leak, accidental double exposure, developing errors causing colouration distortion or just noise and grain from the film stock itself. These errors were not overcome by the digital process as corruption of digital data could cause these errors to be recreated. Artists working within these mediums used these glitches to deliberately introduce errors into the images to create a new and interesting aesthetic and works within that aesthetic.

One of the first forays into Digital Glitch Art was Digital TV Dinner (Fenton.J/Zaritsky.R, 1978) which was produced using a Bally Video Game Console and Videotape

Screenshot from Digital TV Dinner, showing simple block graphic corruption. Screen is red with white lines and blocks.
Still Frame from Digital TV Dinner (Fenton J./Zaritsky R. 1978)

The full video is available below.

Digital TV Dinner (Fenton J./Zaritsky R. 1978)

This style was further built upon by a development in what was called at the time net.art and the integration of video editing and manipulation of footage by television editors and artists. One offshoot of this was the purely non-digital creation “Max Headroom” who I feel was a deliberate satire of the 1980s late night talk show and the commercialisation of TV personalities. The use of green screen technology, makeup and modelling was used to artificially create a digital entity, who would glitch, scratch and repeat through cutting and pasting of video tape.

Screenshot of Max Headroom the faux digital TV presenter.
Still Frame of Max Headroom (Copyright Shout Factory – Fair Use)

These experiments into the realm of digital art, and experimentation of deliberate failure using analogue film helped drive what would become Glitch Art. Deliberate manipulation of stored information or “DataMoshing” created more and more interesting movements within the field as artists experimented and influenced each other with new and interesting techniques. The link between visual sense and an inherent feeling that something is wrong, was used in the film trilogy “The Matrix” (Wachowski, L &L 1999). The film used Japanese Kanji, the green screen of the VT100 terminal, the idea of cyberspace and simulacra to build upon Glitch and Glitch art as a metaphor for by trans individuals through the representation of an individual being able to change what is perceived to be reality and hidden identity.

The use of green text and a black background once again entered the visual conscience and resulted in an influence on Glitch Art. I myself used the combination of Green and Black in my own piece in Assignment 5.

The roots of Glitch Art extend back into early photography and is indelibly related to Pop Art itself; the visual colours linking the two together as early computer games used the vibrant colours of Psychedelia to attract people to play the games.

Psychedelic art itself is tied to the printing process for handbills and the posters used to advertise bands, concerts and album covers. The colours used are certainly related to the mineral oil and alcohol mixtures which were placed between glass plates and then placed over coloured lamps. The bright moving colours helped to depersonalise the individual and help them detach themselves from reality through the combination of light, music and chemistry.

Mineral Oil and Alcohol glass plate covered a bright display lamp.
Oil and Alcohol Light Gobo. 1968. No Copyright.

The idea of psychedelic colours was to choose two colours of the same intensity and value that were opposite each other on the colour wheel. These polar opposites created a vibrant combination/clash which stood out, especially when mixed with non-Euclidian geometry and nonstandard typesets.

Colour sheel, split into multiple segments subdividing colour
Colour Wheel

Designers like Wes Wilson and Victor Moscoco used these principles to create posters. Wilson became the major proponent and he invented a style that is now synonymous with the peace movement and the psychedelic era. Wilson is also known for inventing and popularizing a psychedelic font that made the letters look like they were moving or melting.

These initial works started to be reflected in album covers allowing the listener access to a visual companion to the music and experience at home. Many of the artworks which graced album covers of the time were heavily influenced by the artists coming out of the psychedelic movement. These artists then helped to influence others in graphic design, comic book artistry, and the art world itself.

Many psychedelic colours and artworks graced book covers, especially those written in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre, more than likely because the person listening to psychedelic music was probably also going to be a reader of these genres.

Examples of Moorcock book covers showing highly psychedelic imagery.
Example of Moorcock Book Covers by Bob Haberfield (Fair Use)

The punk movement took the handbill and poster philosophy but at the same time reduced the complexity of colours to black and white due to the items being produced quickly and cheaply on a photocopier. This process using cut and paste, monochrome low-quality images and simple typeset introduced a concept of the glitch as an anti-establishment movement. The errors showed that the work was being produced without a large budget or media influence and was dealing with a home-grown independent market that was not reliant on the mass media for influence.

Typical front page of a punk fanzine. Photocopier paper covered with monochrome imagery and cut and paste text.
ZD9. Punk Fanzine

This post psychedelic, low budget arts and crafts movement produced hand crafted collage which was politically and socially conscious. It wanted to show the disenfranchisement of the members of the community and their non-reliance on conventional art composition.

At the same time as this, the introduction of games consoles in homes, which looking at the now, produced low quality blocky shapes which were at best only mildly representative of what the game concept was trying to produce, started the movement back towards simple colours and shapes. Arcade machines were given bright eye catching blocky representations on the sides to attract customers. These first shapes, such as space invaders.

Space Invaders pamphlet presenting arcade machine against background example of the game
Space Invader (Tiato, 1978, By Source Fair Use)
Galaxian pamphlet presenting arcade machine against background example of the game
Galaxians (Namco, 1979, By Source, Fair Use)

Which were clearly influenced by the psychedelic colour scheme, reminiscent of the album and book cover artwork of Rodney Matthews and trying to establish themselves as clear representations of what the game is trying to enact.

Rodney Matthews painting which is the cover to the Magnum Album The Eleventh hour. It shows a man seated in an throne, talking to children against a dystopian background.
The Eleventh Hour (Matthews. R, 1983, Copyright Rodney Matthews)

As development in both graphics cards and storage continued, games developers found that they could not only create more complex gameplay but better graphics. These developments fed into the mainstream mass media which then used the concept of AI, computer-generated graphics and arcade games to create films and TV programs. The colour concepts of films such as Tron (Disney, 1982) reflected the simplicity of computing terminals at the time, using bright vibrant colours against black backgrounds. This helped establish the visual meme of the cyberspace as a 3d wireframe which became more detailed the closer to got to an object. This technology, of course, is not without its own issues and again the glitch appeared as an accidental fault in the system.

It is only when we return to Glitch art that we see the colour schemes, theology and concepts that influenced this movement. Now, however, the fault in the system is no longer accidental, it is a deliberate and intentional fault in the system created by the user. Glitches now represent the control or lack of control that an individual has within a system. Glitch art tries to show the ghost in the machine and give it a name and representation within the physical world.

Coming to understand the aesthetic of glitch art, I started to look around at the main practitioners of it and also at the work of artists who had incorporated movement within portraiture. I looked at redesigning the brief so that I could again work within the topic of isolation during this pandemic; which has driven people like myself to large amounts of introspection and examination of one’s own mental and physical health; to produce a set of self-portraits using these themes with the intent to finalise, in assignment 5, a number of images influenced by surrealism, photomontage and Glitch or movement within the works.

While working on updating my skills to create the images, I started to investigate not only how to create works which have the Glitch art aesthetic but also how to create new visually interpretive pieces which linked these ideas with surrealism.

My research covered a number of artists working mainly in one or other of these areas. These artists included Sabio Visconti, who used the “pixel drift” software created by Dmitriy Krotevich as a starting point for his work, Phillip Stearns, who uses high voltage to create psychedelic patterns on treated film, Adam Scott Miller (“Flux Connector”, 2014), Roger Dean (“Dream”, 1978), Rodney Matthews, whose worked graced many of the LPs I have listened to and books which I have read and Karl Ferris, whose work with Photography, Psychedelia and album covers could be described as the innovator of psychedelic photography and whose work again has graced many an album cover.

I also looked at Richard Avedon, who used a colour technique based on the Sabatier Effect to photograph the Beatles. This effect was named after Armand Sabatier, who discovered it in 1862. It is an intentional darkroom process which when used produces tone reversals. Avedon used strong directional light to create high levels of brightness and shadow in the portraits. This technique produced the famous solarisation portraits of each of the individuals in the Beatles, the chemicals used producing different colours and tone for each person.

The Beatles Solarisation portraits by Richard Avedon.
The Beatles 1967, (Avedon. R. 1967) Copyright Richard Avedon)

Note regarding Melting Glasses.

This piece was influenced by two opposing works. First of all it takes the still portrait of a person wearing glasses. In Victor Moscoco’s work, you can interpret the glasses as a way of viewing the alternative realities of psychedelia. And secondly, the other influence is Max Headroom, the “animated” head and partial torso, against a moving computer generated background.

Here I chose to use the vibrant psychedelic colour scheme for the glasses as I wanted the bright moving colours to introduce an element of uncertainly and unreality, hailing back to the depersonification of the individual and loss of individual consciousness to reality.

I kept the same colour scheme for the moving starfield background as I wanted to reflect the simple graphics of the 1980s screensavers which used simple graphic pixel moving methods to prevent burn in to CRT screens.

References

Art Musuem, S.A. (2019). Wes Wilson | Smithsonian American Art Museum. [online] americanart.si.edu. Available at: https://americanart.si.edu/artist/wes-wilson-27389.

Betancourt, M. (2017). The Invention of Glitch Video: Digital TV Dinner (1978). [online] . Available at: https://www.michaelbetancourt.com/pdf/Betancourt_TheInventionofGlitchVideo.pdf [Accessed 21 May 2021].

Bishop, B. (2015). Max Headroom: the definitive history of the 1980s digital icon. [online] The Verge. Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2015/4/2/8285139/max-headroom-oral-history-80s-cyberpunk-interview [Accessed 21 May 2021].

Chapman (2012). Guerrilla Television in the Digital Archive. Journal of Film and Video, 64(1-2), p.42.

Downey, J. (2004). GLITCH ART. [online] Available at: https://jonas.do/assets/essays/glitch-art-jonasdowney.pdf [Accessed 24 Dec. 2019].

Marc Schmidt, C. (200AD). Artistic Data-based Visualization. [online] Form Follows Behaviour. Available at: http://www.formfollowsbehavior.com/2007/09/17/artistic-data-based-visualization/ [Accessed 21 May 2021].

MoMA (2020). Victor Moscoso | MoMA. [online] The Museum of Modern Art. Available at: https://www.moma.org/artists/4117.

PBS (2012). Off Book | The Art of Glitch. [online] http://www.pbs.org. Available at: https://www.pbs.org/video/off-book-art-glitch/ [Accessed 21 May 2021].

Pomerleau, C. (2019). Glitch art design: an inside look at the history and best uses of a modern trend. [online] 99designs. Available at: https://99designs.co.uk/blog/design-history-movements/glitch-art-design/.

SAAM (2020). Victor Moscoso | Smithsonian American Art Museum. [online] americanart.si.edu. Available at: https://americanart.si.edu/artist/victor-moscoso-18206.

Stearns, P. (2013). Software we need. [online] . Available at: https://phillipstearns.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/stgo_glitch_workshop_day1.pdf [Accessed 21 May 2021].

Studios, R.M. (2021). The New and Official Rodney Matthews Website. [online] Rodney Matthews Studios. Available at: https://www.rodneymatthewsstudios.com/ [Accessed 21 May 2021].

The Matrix is a “trans metaphor”, Lilly Wachowski says. (2020). BBC News. [online] 7 Aug. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-53692435.

TypeRoom (2020). Wes Wilson: an ode to the anti-war pioneer of rock’s poster psychedelia – TypeRoom. [online] http://www.typeroom.eu. Available at: https://www.typeroom.eu/wes-wilson-ode-anti-war-pioneer-rock-poster-psychedelia [Accessed 21 May 2021].

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