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.
Glitch music is commonly characterized by atonality and stuttering. Mille Plateaux is a record label known for their glitch music artists like Alva Noto.
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.
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:
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.
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.