Failure as Aesthetics
To some artists, Jeroen Glas (1981, Groningen, NL) included, it has become a personal matter to break the assured informatic flows of media. Normally, transparent media generate conventional impressions of immediacy, meaning that you can see the interface as a window that opens up to a new world that lies behind it; the world of information such as texts and digital images. Due to the concentration of the user on the content, the interface is being forgotten and becomes transparent.
However, there is a desire to force the viewer to think beyond this comfort zone. The glitch has become a tool to do so. Glitch artists like Jeroen Glas make use of the “accident” (a software bug, a snow screen on the TV, a CD that skips) to disfigure flow, image and information, or they exploit the void: a lack of information that creates space for understanding the process of meaning creation. Through these tactics, the technology behind the information is being revealed and critical sensory experience is being enabled.
The glitch artist tries to somehow demonstrably grasp this “accident”, something that is by nature unstable and ungraspable. In the case of Glas’s Probe 32 it’s the moiré pattern, the undesired result of two identical patterns that are overlaid on a flat surface while being displaced or rotated from one another. The resulting image changes constantly because of the movement.
The term originates from moire (moiré in its French adjectival form), a type of textile with a rippled or “watered” appearance. But it is mostly known as the secondary effect of images produced by various digital imaging and computer graphics techniques, for example when scanning a halftone picture or ray tracing a checkered plane. Moiré patterns are also commonly seen on television screens when a person is wearing a garment of a particular weave or pattern. This is due to interlaced scanning in televisions and non-film cameras. As the person moves about, a moiré pattern becomes noticeable. Because of this, people who appear on TV are instructed to avoid clothing which could cause the effect.
Jeroen Glas takes this “error”, this break from the expected or conventional flow of information within (digital) communication systems, which is usually avoided, as his starting point in Probe. He took photographs of the white walls of the exhibition room and digitally translated them into black and white grids. These seemingly random patterns were attached to the walls and photographed again for the online exhibition. The aim was to create a show that is different for every viewer of the Probe website due to the different interfaces (resolution, size etc.) used and the different screen movements (scroll, zoom etc.) made by the viewer that can cause the moiré pattern.
The artist wanted the online exhibition (normally the representation of the real life exhibition) to become the real life exhibition, since the idea was to let it change from person to person. For each visitor of the website the image of the exhibition would be created by his/her own movements and his/her personal interface. However, due to technical limitations of the camera used to capture the exhibition the moiré effect only appeared on one photograph. The desired error became an unintentional failure.
This commitment of the artist to an unconventional utopia of randomness, chance and idyllic disintegrations is not only aesthetic, it is potentially critical. The core of a work of glitch art is best understood as the articulation of an attitude of destructive generativity. It is invested in a process of nonconforming, ambiguous re-formations. It is about breaking categories open, uncovering what is in-between and beyond.
Metaphorically, the choice to accept the glitch, to welcome it as an aesthetic form, means to make room for error within the history of progress. These aesthetics show a medium in a critical state: a ruined, unwanted, unrecognized and accidental moment. This transforms the way the user perceives the normal performance of the medium; technology turns out to be as flawed as the users of the technology themselves.
With this exhibition, Jeroen Glas examines and questions Probe as an online exhibition space. He wanted to change the idea of an online representation of the exhibition to an ever-changing online exhibition, he wanted to transform the viewer into an active participant, but he became victim of his own success in trying to grasp the ungraspable accident. Now failure is not only the subject and the form of the exhibition, but has become also the working method.
Loes van Beuningen