Cyberpsychedelic Abstraction in the World of Glitch!

The work of Allison Tanenhaus, Aleksandra Pieńkosz, and Esteban Gutiérrez at /`fu:bar/ 2021
jonCates

This year I served as a curator for /`fu:bar/. I am honored to be invited into the curatorial team of the world’s longest running Glitch Art festival,to be among friends, colleagues, and to meet Glitch Artists through their latest projects. I have previously been a part of /`fu:bar/ over the years. Since 2015, I have participated as an exhibiting artist, given talks, and also traveled to Zagreb for the European premiere of my Glitch Western film 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown). During this time I have gotten to know and love /`fu:bar/ on many levels. I would like to begin by thanking Dina Karadžić & Vedran Gligo, the amazing organizers of the festival who make it all happen. In addition to Dina and Vedran, who also curate, I want to thank Ejla Kovačević, Ras Alhague, and Kaspar Ravel, all of whom also curated this year’s festival.

This text takes a sometimes conversational approach to discussing Glitch Art at /`fu:bar/ 2021, looking specifically at the work of Allison Tanenhaus, Aleksandra Pieńkosz, and Esteban Gutiérrez.

Always wonderful to see folks i know, online and in person, to catchUp with you and your new work. This aspect makes /`fu:bar/ a family, one which we love, and love to be a part of. We are a chosenFamily, choosing to be together as glitchfam, brought together by our loves of glitches and Glitch Art: netbless us, everyOne.

As a curator, I’ve had the goodFortune to get to know yawl who have chosen to be a part of /`fu:bar/ this year. In getting to know you, Glitch Artists, through your work, i reviewed and experienced your projects. New encounters, with folks whose work was new to me, are especially important to my curatorial approach. This text exists as my contribution to the curatorial process, a reflection of mine on Glitch Artists whose work I met for the first time this year. In this text I will talk about the work of: Allison Tanenhaus, Aleksandra Pieńkosz, and Esteban Gutiérrez. I will organize these three artists together in a framework, an idea, which serves as the title of this text: Cyberpsychedelic Abstraction in the World of Glitch!

Breathing – Allison Tanenhaus (2020)

Allison Tanenhaus’ work Breathing is cyberpsychedelic Glitch Art. Included in /`fu:bar/ 2021, the artist herself refers to her work as psychedelic. Beautiful flowing rhythms ripple through Breathing. We float along, at first buoyed by the sound of breathing and captivated by gentle glitch aesthetics. The artist herself speaks of her visuals being kaleidoscopic. Through this work we can imagine Glitch Art itself as a kind of kaleidoscope: a small opticalDevice, made of mirrors, that we hold in our hands, turning, to observe beautiful forms. This is Glitch Art as multilayered patterns that reflect, fold in and feed back on us, breathing, brought to life like the natural forms of fractals.
Music by Maria Finkelmeier and Tim Hall heightens the connection to natural human forms with a focus on the sounds of a person slowly breathing. The sound of breathing builds into the structure of the piece. A human rhythm surrounded by electronics, breathing in and out. Breathing in the glitch. Swimming in the glitch. Initially created for a live performance held at the Boston Center for the Arts (in November of 2020), Tanenhaus’ video emerges from and stays close to feelings of flow. Glitch Art flowing in and through human bodies breathing.
Glitch Art is often cyberpsychedelic. We can think of the term “cyberpsychedelic” as referring to influences and aesthetics from computing (cybernetics and cyberpunk for example) combined with psychedelics. Small-scale tools for consciousness expansion can be one way to define psychedelics. Individuals and cultures have and do use psychedelics in these ways, for transformation. Countercultural origins of cybercultures have always included these types of combinations, creatively combining psychedelics and the ‘cyber’. As a result, small-scale cyberpsychedelic technologies for personal and cultural transformation are tools for conviviality, expanding our technosocial consciousness.
Cyberpsychedelic Glitch Art simulates and even stimulates internal states: journeys we take, inside, on our own adventures through glitch worlds, individually and together, in shared experiences. Tanenhaus’ Breathing, with its connection to the flow of live performance in the music of Finkelmeier and Hall, brings us into itself, into us, and into the moments of the initial performance. As the piece continues, we go deeper into geometerics, rippling shapes open and carry us to a place where Glitch Art aesthetics cycle through many modes of creation.
We can trace Tanenhaus’ Breathing to earlier cyberpsychedelic arts, especially those from early Video Art, computer programing, and games of the 1970s.
My work on the Media Art Hystories of New Media Art, glitch, and games connects Tanenhaus’ work, for me, to these earlier forms. I curated an exhibition focused on these intersections called Chicago New Media at the Ars Electronica festival and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Artists, scientists, and designers created similar approaches in the past, exploring electronic forms and patterning for live performance and artmaking. Almost 50 yers ago, in 1973, Phil Morton and Dan Sandin performed their realtime happening “Inconsecration of New Space” on Sandin’s newly invented Sandin Image Processor. The Sandin Image Processor is a modular patch-programmable analog computer optimized for processing and synthesizing audio and video signals. Phil Morton’s more well-known video art work “General Motors” from 1976, alongside Dan Sandin’s video art work “Wandawega Waters” from 1979, share these commitments as flowing experiments with cyberpsychedelic collaborative systems: coded, programmed, performed live, captured in realtime, unfolding, and processing signals that are both technological and importantly human.

neurapink I and II – Aleksandra Pieńkosz (2020)
phototropism I and II – Aleksandra Pieńkosz (2020)

Aleksandra Pieńkosz abstracts computing to create new glitch realities. Pieńkosz takes the key Glitch Art approach of using systems ‘the wrong way’ or ‘against themselves’ to create new glitches and amazingly beautiful Glitch Art. Her recent artworks included in /`fu:bar/ 2021, neurapink I and II and phototropism I and II, materialize out of these techniques, locating us at the place in which computers are pushed to misunderstand the worlds we live in and instead render out Glitch Art abstractions.
Pieńkosz expertly misuses specific hardware and software combinations. She chooses these specific combinations in order to net new results, to create new Glitch Art experiences. As she says, she is using software “against its main function” in order to bring out or reveal new possibilities of expression. This approach of hers is a critical strategy in Glitch Art.
She locates herself here, at this interface of expectations, exploring a fundamentally important aspect of our relations with computing and computers.
Exploring the unintended consequences of the hardware and softwares’ design, Pieńkosz, as a designer herself, skillfully pulls from the unintended consequences that result. She selects or frames moments that convey more than mistakes. From hacking and cracking to Glitch Art making, creative ways to rethink our technosocial systems may provoke new problems and/or problematize previous assumptions. Pieńkosz’s abstractions take me in this direction. She reconsiders what is possible in the spaces between AR (Augmented Reality) software, mobile phones, realtime 3D imaging, sensors, and the JPG format. She purposely confuses the hardware/software, glitching its machinic expectations. She finds the interface poetry in the interstices between these expectations, processes, and outcomes. Her interface poetry, the term she uses to describe/define her work, is also a form of beautifully poetic Glitch Art.
In her text “System errors in intimate places*. Experiencing glitch art” Aleksandra Pieńkosz asks with a knowing wink: “Doesn’t glitch mean something unwanted or terrifying anymore?” She answers her question, continuing that system errors might be more troubling for older generations but still pointing out that nonetheless: “there is something disturbing
about” glitch, glitches, and the Glitch Art that is made either out of or invokes those errors. She continues in the text in this direction, articulating examples of times when we are still disturbed by the potential or actual disruptions presented by glitches and Glitch Art.
Disruptions and interstices, in-betweens and ambiguities, can be hard to find. As she says in the same text: “the computer is quite unwilling to reveal the secrets of its operations.” Here is where the datapoints converge on cameras and spatial mapping, triangulating us into a meshwork of glitch abstraction: Aleksandra Pieńkosz leads us here, as an interface poet, to the place where hard-to-find computational operations of her chosen hardware/software systems misbehave. She has purposefully glitched their expectations (misusing them) to produce abstractions. And from this vectorview she shows us poetic possibilities of Glitch Art.

Paisajes del Aislamiento – Esteban Gutiérrez (2020)

Esteban Gutiérrez’s Paisajes del Aislamiento is a beautiful mesmerizing work of Glitch Art Cinema. Paisajes del Aislamiento moves slowly through glitched landscapes and cityscapes. Identifiable by the torn edges of mountain ranges and urban skylines. Landscapes are simultaneously made of both the so-called ‘natural’ world as well as the built environment. Architectures and mountain ranges make up the iconic visual language of Gutiérrez’s Paisajes del Aislamiento. In this film, the artist constructs all of these simulated physical spaces, enframed as interfaces.
We are to view this work as and through an interface: computational, digital, rendered, glitched. Gutiérrez shares this “net.art project created to be experienced through the web browser” online and onscreen, unfolding a map made from mosaics, frames arranged to be interlocking panels, sometimes separate, sometimes crossing over into each other, shifting…

Technology is an engine that shifts the ground underneath us.

Nature is a category of experience.

The technological is a category of experience.

Glitches can illustrate technosocial movements we are experiencing. Glitch Art can illuminate these experiences of ours. The ways in which we are reconfiguring our own grounds of understanding the worlds, the categories we have for human experience, reshape our conceptions of ‘nature’ and ‘technology’ in the context of Glitch Art, glitch aesthetics and realities.

Instabilities create glitches.
Glitches are instabilities.

The unstable arts now known as Glitch Art often highlight aspects of our Glitch Era.

In the technosocial times in which we live and breathe, at the in-betweens, where glitches appear, we are constantly reconfiguring our worlds, for better and for worse. The Anthropocene of this Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Second Machine Age) is characterized by our interventions into the once-natural worlds. We generate human-caused climate catastrophes that remap the physical world. We have ever-changing relationships with the nonhuman systems that we previously built but which have now become too complex and autonomous for us to understand. We build cities by design and by accident. We change the once-considered-to-be “natural” world in ways that currently seem to be perilous and permanent.
Our definitions of ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ are changing over time. These human understandings are in and of themselves a technosocial ground: a foundation, flowing, an unstable basis for knowing, interpreting, and even for seeing/perceiving thin borders that both join and separate us.
Viewing and/or experiencing technosocial systems in isolation, “during pandemic isolation in Medellin city, Colombia” (as Esteban Gutiérrez explains), opens windows onto Glitch Art. Gutiérrez’s own vectorviews from the city, from the skyscrapers, into the mountains, contextualize and globalPosition this work, Paisajes del Aislamiento, as a site, online, and in the territory known as the Aburrá Valley, a central region of the Andes Mountains.
To return to that thin line which defines ‘nature’ and ‘technology’ – this is a subject of Gutiérrez’s Paisajes del Aislamiento.
A thin line is subjected to glitches.
Flipping a ‘Gestalt switch’ Gutiérrez uses our expectations to see a landscape as a way to disorient/reorient us to mountains exchange places, flip-flopping, becoming sky, becoming ground, being both simultaneously. Gutiérrez also implicates the cityscape in this instability, all constructed out of computational forms, digital interfaces, and glitch aesthetics.
In the world of Glitch Art, to observe a world of glitches, we could say we are making observational glitch. In the sciences, particularly astronomy, as people stare out at the distant stars, they use the term ‘observational glitch’ to mean the ways in which we may see incorrectly. What if we were instead to say that ‘observational glitch’ means we see glitches correctly? We observe glitch and certain artists (recall my descriptions of Aleksandra Pieńkosz’s work, her processes, and intentions) show us how to see glitches better, even errors more beautifully, unhiding what ‘goes wrong’ from their vectorviews into technosocial systems, revealing previously unseen or unacknowledged possibilities?
Observational Cinema is a type of filmmaking in which filmmakers purposefully show time movements, spatial relations, and (often anthropological or ethnographic) dynamics through techniques that counter traditional cinema. One such countertechnique of Observational Cinema is slowness. Michael Taussig writes that in Observational Cinema: “We see and comprehend hidden details of familiar objects’, and thus, we become aware of patterns and necessities that have hitherto invisibly ruled our lives.” We can, in the context of Glitch Art, imagine some Glitch Artists thinking and/or feeling similarly about their art, intending to capture and share ‘hidden’ aspects of computational systems that ‘rule our lives’, the algorithms, and blackboxed operations of closed source corporate hardware/software for instance.
I am remapping and applying this term observational to Glitch Art as Observational Glitch. We see (observe) glitches shown to us by artists, for us to consider in their/our own technosocial times. These glitches are occurring in the glitch worlds in which we live and breathe. We are ‘already cyborgs’ as Dr. Donna Haraway would say, and as such we are enmeshed in vasty tingleTangles of wires, protocols, and people, technosocial systems that seem to expand endlessly like fractals (cyberpsychedelic), networking us together algorithmically. Our worlds are so deeply (often invisibly) technologized (by industries that hope to hold us engaged in consumer electronics) to the point that we may consider all of this to be ‘natural’, the ‘natural world’ in which we live and breathe in the ideas of ‘nature technologized’, ‘nature as technological’, and ‘technologies naturalized’ into the fabrics of our lives, across thin shifting shimmering borders that shift, slide, ripple, patterning in and out of our expanding consciousness, even bringing us together in errors; through Glitch Art, through our adventures in the cyberpsychedelic abstractions of our shared worlds of glitch…


jonCates
October 30, 2021
from the traditional homelands of the Indigenous People and Nation of the 泰雅族 (Atayal), in the city of 台北 (Taipei), and the nation of 台灣 (Taiwan)

ARTISTS

Breathing – Allison Tanenhaus (2020)
https://allisontanenhaus.com/project-daydream
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eK44FFq2buo

neurapink I and II – Aleksandra Pieńkosz (2020)
phototropism I and II – Aleksandra Pieńkosz (2020)
https://alepienkosz.pl

Paisajes del Aislamiento – Esteban Gutiérrez (2020)
https://vimeo.com/513988701


FURTHER READINGs

Chicago New Media exhibition of Art and Games, curated by jonCates, at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria and the University of Illinois at Chicago: http://chicagonewmedia.works

Phil Morton and Jane Veeder: Our Desired Futures and the mobile Media Art lab – jonCates (2014) https://joncates.medium.com/phil-morton-and-jane-veeder-our-desired-futures-and-the-mobile-media-art-lab-57f9ba527fdc

Radical Software – jonCates (2018)
http://www.westdenhaag.nl/publications/Jon_Cates/Radical_Software

Tools for Conviviality – Ivan Illich (1973)

Glitch art is dead – Aleksandra Pieńkosz and Zoe Stawska (2015)
https://art.alepienkosz.pl/glitch-art-is-dead/glitch-art-is-dead-a-book/

Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses – Michael Taussig (1993)

Rethinking Observational Cinema – Anna Grimshaw and Amanda Ravetz (2009)

A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century – Dr. Donna Haraway (1985)


/`FU:BAR/

This text is a part of the /`fu:bar/ textMode verbose, a selection of texts (defined broadly) addressing Glitch Art from text-based perspectives.
https://fubar.space/


/’fu:bar/ is organized by the AKC Attack association in collaboration with the Format C Artist Organization producing the festival. It’s supported by its media partners Subsite and event partners mi2 and Institut français de Croatie.

The festival is supported by contributions of a number of volunteers, collaborators and participating artists, via donations and/or volunteer work. The 2021 festival program is financially supported by the Kultura nova Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia, the City of Zagreb and our many glitch art supporters. The extended program is co-funded by the City of Rijeka, powered by the SKART Gallery, KA-MATRIX Association and the FUSE festival, as well as our extended program partners CIM, PEEK&POKE and the 27th MFRU festival. [♥]


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