Spring 2010

Famous for fifteen megabytes

Glitch: Designing Imperfection

Mark Batty Publisher<br>USD32.95, €24.95

In digital culture, nothing is ever perfect or finished. Glitch art and design celebrates the imperfections that are an inevitable by-product of our reliance upon computers – the work speaks to an audience that is intimately familiar with malfunctioning Apples and Microsoft error messages.

This is nothing new – you could argue that Andy Warhol’s entire career rests on bad registration. But the glitches of computer error (or misuse) have acquired an aesthetic all their own, so now is a good time to publish something about the way this phenomenon has crept into current sound, music, design and art.

Glitch: Designing Imperfection is far from perfect – but not in a good way. This largely visual, minimally captioned book begins with text-only intros and Q&A sessions with digital practitioners including Ant Scott and O. K. Parking, with no attempt to contextualise the work, or link it to the examples shown in three mysteriously untitled chapters of digital eye candy.

Angela Lorenz (aka alorenz, featured in Eye 49) is upbeat and pragmatic about the phenomenon while sound artist Kim Cascone is pessimistic about the ‘famous for fifteen megabytes culture’ in which glitch ‘is a tactic of subversion that has become a fashion statement.’

There are striking visuals – from alorenz, Norbert Pfaffenbichler, Mathias Gmachl, Kristiano Pronin and others. However there are rather too many dull screen shots – several merely credited as ‘Video still’.

Bournemouth ‘artist / mathematician’ Ant Scott, who has used glitchy images in his work since he first made use of malfunctioning computer games in the 1980s, provides the least pretentious summary: ‘Irrespective of whether glitch still is, or ever was, cool and interesting, I personally still very much like art with straight lines, blocks of colour and repeating patterns.’

First published in Eye no. 75 vol. 19 2010


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.