Aesthetic Exploration: Glitch

An aesthetic that I have fallen in love with is the Glitch Aesthetic. Glitch, in a sense, aims to reveal and enhance the beauty in mistakes that would otherwise appear messy and unwanted. It really took off in the mid-to-late 20th century. Malfunctions in technology that would otherwise be undesired are taken advantage of in this aesthetic. In its music form, malfunctions that have been used include vinyl/CD skipping, bitrate change, and circuit bending. The latter is a process of modifying regular electronic devices, such as children’s toys with speakers, in order to create new musical synthesizers.
This video by Simon The Magpie (2017) demonstrates a toy trumpet hacked into a drum synthesizer. Simon ( creates instruments out of unconventional objects.

Glitch music is commonly characterized by atonality and stuttering. Mille Plateaux is a record label known for their glitch music artists like Alva Noto.
Alva Noto – Neue Stadt (Skizze 8)

Glitches spawned more purposeful techniques to creating similar effects. Often, software synthesizers are constructed to produce atonal, stuttering, “glitch” sounds. Atonal music can be composed with more familiar-sounding music to enhance the “surprise” effect, while also being echoed in the background to create layers of texture. To me, the following track by electronic musician BT exemplifies the beauty in glitches. Also, in the beginning, the glitch aesthetic appears in the video.

BT – Ω (2017)

I wanted attempt a hands-on approach to the Glitch Aesthetic. A common technique is to edit a piece of digital media in a program it wouldn’t normally be used for. Sometimes, this can be done by changing the filename extension, but often any filetype can be opened in a certain codec using a text editor like Notepad++. Much of it will look like gibberish. I took the banner photo from this site, opened it in ANSI encoding, and added “aesdes” to several lines, usually near where I saw a Copyright or TM character. This was to play on how glitch artists commonly borrow others’ material and enhance the “glitchiness” of it. Although WordPress re-converted the exact file, the results are below:

Banner photo from by Jean Hertzberg. Edited by Luke Collier.

Several details emerge like a pixelation and sputtering of the text that might suggest how the JPEG format decodes the image. Being able to explain conceptually how something works without words is very appealing to me. The following is an example of how the glitch aesthetic is employed in “datamoshing” to create a morphing video that is difficult to understand yet oddly charming.
William Ranieri (2013) shows a datamoshing video that blends techniques common to the art.

The Glitch aesthetic has the potential to turn a technical glitch into a statement of artistic expression. Glitches can appear in any project, but leverage of this aesthetic can turn a project failure into one of profound success.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • […] Aesthetic Exploration: Glitch […]

  • Nicole Maggio
    January 27, 2019 6:01 pm

    I really like the glitch aesthetic, too. I definitely agree with the idea that it enhances the beauty in mistakes. And it’s interesting how it has been picked up for many music videos/digital media in the hip-hop industry today. One piece of media that comes to mind and has used this aesthetic perfectly is “Yamborghini High” by ASAP Mob. If you are interested in the datamoshing/video side of the glitch aesthetic you should check out Unkleluc, producer of Yamborghini High and other music videos that have the same style like Khlorine by Sango.

  • Hadeel Al Gallaf
    January 27, 2019 2:05 pm

    I’ve always been a fan of glitch art. Its poetic how we find beauty in broken things. Normally, people would find malfunctioning pieces as useless. However, there are also those who seek it and add these imperfections for the purpose of making their artwork more beautiful, or aesthetically pleasing. However, the overuse of this aesthetic might result in a truly corrupt work, which might be the artist intention. But when implemented smartly, it can send powerful messages. For instance, when glimpse of disturbance or corruption is juxtaposed against pure artwork, it stirs something inside you making it a thought-provocative aesthetic.


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