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Almost everyone with regular access to a computer has had a time where technology was not their friend. Be it a corrupted file, a fried hardware component, or a dreaded application crash, computer issues can be inconvenient at best and rage-inducing at worst. But some artists are using these imperfections of technology to create a bizarre form of modern art: Glitch art.

What is Glitch Art?

Experiments with creating art from electronic malfunctions can be found as far back as the 1960s when Nam Jun Paik used an industrial magnet to disrupt TV broadcast signals. But glitch art, as it is known today, came about in the mid-1990s, when the internet was in its infancy.

Around that time, glitch music was emerging as an underground genre and many artists made intentionally glitched music videos or ep art for their work. Now, glitch art has become less tied to its musical origins and is an art form in its own right, most commonly found as still images, videos, or gifs.

How is it made?

Each artist has their own different way of producing glitches. Some delve into the code of a file and tweak it to alter the file at random. Some open a file in a program not meant for that type of file, like opening an image file in an audio mixing program or a word processing program. For those select few willing to make extreme sacrifices for their artwork, a more drastic method is to rewire the computer's circuitry or damage the internal components in order to force the hardware to fail.

With just some basic coding knowledge or the right freeware programs, anyone can be a glitch artist.

Why glitch art matters

Glitch art's appeal varies from person to person. For some, it is a part of the general glitch aesthetic; erratic and disorganized, filled with saturated colors and garbled pixels. For others, it speaks to the nature of a chaotic universe, where things happen without rhyme or reason, only by chance. Sometimes, it just looks nice for reasons we can't explain, and that can make us look inward and ask ourselves what beauty truly is. The appeal for glitch artists may come from its unpredictability. Because you can't directly see what the changes you make will do to the final product, you don't really know what it'll be until it's staring you in the face. From that point, you have two options: Either repeat the process over and over again until the computer produces a piece that's aesthetically appealing or take what the computer has created and run with it.

Who's the artist: Man or machine?

Truly the most captivating thing about glitch art is the fact that it's a collaboration between artist and machine.

Unlike traditional mediums like paintings or sculptures, glitch art is created through the artist interacting with a thinking system capable of running complex processes. Many within the glitch art community believe that many of the more popular methods of glitch art production, like opening and altering files in incompatible programs, are uncontrollable, or at least that the result of a specific input cannot be predicted with significant accuracy. This means in the time between when the alterations are made and when the image is created, the work is completely up to the machine. Could glitch art be the first glimpse into a future of AI artists? Only time will tell.

Glitch art revels in being strange, yet beautiful. It pushes the boundaries of what art can be, and challenges us to find art in the meaningless, and make our own meaning from it. It reminds us that in randomness, we can always find meaning, and in chaos, we can always find beauty.