Module Reflection: New Aesthetic

Thanks to the previous groups who covered this module, I’ve learned that “New Aesthetic” is a term coined by James Bridle. It describes the blending of virtual and physical. We live in a world that is infused with software and code. The new aesthetic encourages us to view things through a digital lens and has produced a lot of interesting work. With a simple Google search, I am greeted with pixels, colors, and geometric shapes combined with common physical objects.

One facet of the movement which caught my attention was the rise of glitch art. Glitches are a brief malfunction in a machine or device. It can point to an error in digital circuits or software codes. While traditionally disliked or avoided, glitches have evidently become a feature of new media art. I was inspired to explore ways of producing glitch art during my study of new aesthetic.

traditional glitch reflection

In my search for tutorials, I came across an image glitch tool that was created by Georg Fischer. This allowed me to simply upload an image and adjust the sliders located in the control panel. These controls alter the type, size, and prevalence of the glitch, and the changes made to the image are updated in real time. I generated some really cool graphics with this tool, but I wanted to dig deeper and try to manually corrupt the image.

glitch

I soon discovered the term databending, which is the process of manipulating information from within a media file of a certain format, using software designed to edit files of another format. I found a couple of common techniques. The first is known as the WordPad Effect, which utilizes features that are accessible to any Windows user.

The WordPad Effect is more likely to be successful with certain image files, so I opened my image (a JPEG) in Paint and saved it as a bit map. Then, I opened that file into WordPad. I learned that this reformats the image to fit the screen, adding line breaks and what not, so a lot of glitches occur just in that step. I was able to manipulate the image even further by deleting characters or copying and pasting chunks of the code in other areas. With this technique, the smallest change has very drastic effects. Here’s what happened to the image after reformatting in WordPad.

WordPad effect reflection

The other technique that I learned is a method of sonification, or the reinterpretation of non-audio data into audio data. For this, I downloaded Audacity and tricked it into opening my image by importing it as raw data. Audacity has several built-in audio effects. I realized this method is successful because these effects are applied to the image file as it would an audio file.

Audacity Reflection

Audacity was my favorite program to use because the possibilities seemed endless. I could control how much of an effect was used and could combine different effects in the same image. While Georg Fischer’s image glitch tool offers a similar amount of power, the effects that Audacity provides are much more flexible and predictable. The WordPad Effect allows a more hands-on approach with the code but is rather aggressive; the color is displaced and the image itself becomes incredibly distorted without much effort.

Glitch art was really exciting to work on. I learned details regarding image file formats and even gained some experience with an audio editing software. I discovered new terms, concepts, and techniques that will benefit me in the future. Glitching isn’t as easy as I though it would be, especially if the goal is to tinker with the image and not just apply a filter or effect. I’d like to continue working through the list of tutorials that proved helpful throughout this module.

audacityechoreverb

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