What the ¶b≠ôÆ is Glitch Art?

Ask Me Anything by Pau Waelder

Ask Me Anything is a series of articles in the form of conversations, aiming to clarify certain terms, techniques, and debates related to digital art. Our Senior Curator puts 20 years of expertise in digital art at your service to answer your questions, taking only 5 minutes of your time.

Mark Amerika. Mobile Beach, 2007

Hey, what happened? The screen is broken!

What? Ah, don’t worry, the screen is fine. What you are seeing is glitch art.

This is art? But there’s something wrong with the image, it’s not loading properly. Did you check the cables?

Yes, precisely that is how the image is supposed to look. The glitches are what this type of art is about. 

Oh, you can’t be serious… How can this…? I mean, ah… I can’t concentrate with this image jumping around and… and getting all pixelated and broken…

I understand. Let me recommend a simple exercise: take a deep breath… and stop trying to fix the image, just look at the changing patterns on the screen. Don’t think of it as an image of a river, or the portrait of a woman, or whatever it is you are trying to see there. That is just an illusion. The image does not exist, it is just information interpreted by a program and displayed on a screen. 

The image does not exist, it is just information interpreted by a program and displayed on a screen.

I don’t understand. When I download an image to my computer, it is always an image. I see a thumbnail on the desktop, I click on it, and there it is: an image.

Yes, because it is interpreted as such every step of the way by the operating system. But try this simple trick:

1. Click on the filename. Change the extension from .jpg or .png to .txt

2. Open the file. The operating system will use a text editor.

3. You’ll see strings of weird characters that make no sense. Select some and erase them.

4. Save the file. Change the extension back to .jpg or .png

5. Open the file. The image has changed, it is probably broken or cut at some point.

This shows you what I explained before. When everything goes well, you are deceived into seeing a sharp, beautiful image, but when the data is corrupted, not properly transmitted, or there is an error in the program interpreting the data, this is what happens.

Ok I get it. But then, why is this art?

Glitch art is mainly about exploiting an error in a computer system, exposing its inner workings. It is hard to offer a specific definition, since there are many types of glitches and ways of interpreting what a “glitch” can be. Artist and researcher Rosa Menkman, who has extensively worked and theorized about glitch art, puts it this way: 

“A glitch is the most puzzling, difficult to define and enchanting noise artifact; it reveals itself to perception as accident, chaos or laceration and gives a glimpse into normally obfuscated machine language. Rather than creating the illusion of a transparent, well-working interface to information, the glitch captures the machine revealing itself. Glitch artists make use of the accident to ‘disfigure’ flow, image and information, or they exploit the void – a lack of information that creates space for deciphering or interpreting the process of creating (new kinds of) meaning.” [1]

Menkman argues that glitch art goes beyond the aesthetic or the machinic, revealing flaws that are also present in social, political, and knowledge systems. 

Raoul Hausmann, fmsbwtözäu, poster poem. 1918. Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne-Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Photo: Philippe Migeat

How can art be about error and nonsense?

Different art movements have explored the creative potential of errors and played with the absurd. Take for instance the Dadaists, who proclaimed the futility of art and their distrust of the art system. “Everything one looks at is a fake,” said Tristan Tzara in his Dada Manifesto of 1918. The Surrealists also wanted to disrupt the creative process and access less formal and rational ways of creating art by introducing randomness and spontaneity. 

Ok, but the Dadaists and Surrealists did not use computers.

No, but they faced structured systems with codes and an internal logic that they wanted to disrupt. Using random words to create a poem or creating one out of unintelligible words, such as “dll rrrrr beeeee bö fümms bö,” as Kurt Schwitters did in his Ursonate (1932), is akin to creating a glitch in language, understood as a formal system, and actually developing a different kind of language. Similarly, Glitch Art is not simply about creating a disruption in a computer system, but exploring the creative and expressive capabilities of integrating glitches into a digital image, video, text, sound, or software, among other mediums.

Rosa Menkman and Johan Larsby, Monglot (2011) glitch software.

Hold on, you’re saying that the artists create the glitches?

They sometimes appropriate them, or create the conditions for the glitches to happen. Musicians working with electronic synthesizers already experimented with disrupting the circuits to create noise. Also artists like the duo JODI, who are among the pioneers of net art, explored the aesthetic capabilities of the code hidden behind every website and also with the first modifiable versions of videogames such as Wolfenstein 3D or Quake. Some artists appropriate glitches happening while using computer software, as for instance Ant Scott, who in the early 2000s built a blog collecting screenshots and photos of software crashes and offered an initial definition of glitch art. Others initiate a process aimed at making glitches happen: this is the case of Mark Amerika’s experiment with mobile video in the late 2000s, forcing the capabilities of the mobile phone and the limitations of streaming HD video to generate “datamoshing,” a visible error caused by video compression. Rosa Menkman and Johan Larsby created in 2011 a glitch generator software called Monglot as a way of teaching about glitch at a moment in which it had been widely adopted as a purely aesthetic visual style in music videos and graphic design. More recently, glitch has been frequently adopted in the NFT art scene, as can be found in the work of Domenico Barra, or notably in generative art projects such as Kim Asendorf’s Sabotage. Then some artists are inspired by glitch art but move beyond it, as is the case of Yoshi Sodeoka, whose work connects noise music and glitch into an audiovisual language of his own.

Yoshi Sodeoka, Synthetic Liquid 7, 2022.

Wow, you went full art historian mode there.

I just scratched the surface.

Understood, but now that we have increasingly better high resolution screens,  hyperrealistic 3D simulations, and immersive virtual reality devices, what’s the point of glitch? Isn’t it a bit nostalgic and passé?

I would argue quite the opposite, that as the means to create a convincing virtual reality around us are getting better, we need to counter this sleek, fake hyper-reality with a bit of glitch. Besides, glitch is fun.

Yes, I have to say that once you “get it,” it’s quite fun.

Told ya.

[1] Rosa Menkman. The Glitch Moment(um). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2011, p.29-30, 33.

What is digital art, then?

Ask Me Anything by Pau Waelder

Ask Me Anything is a series of articles in the form of conversations, aiming to clarify certain terms, techniques, and debates related to digital art. Our Senior Curator puts 20 years of expertise in digital art at your service to answer your questions, taking only 5 minutes of your time.

Illustration generated using OpenAI’s DALL-E 2

So, what is digital art?

Digital art is art created with digital technologies, namely computers. It is also art that addresses how digital technologies are changing us humans, our societies, and the environment.

But nowadays everyone uses computers. What is so new about digital art?

Actually, digital art is not new, it is at least 60 years old. It was in the early 1960s that mathematicians, engineers, and visual artists started creating drawings using computers. They wrote algorithms that described a visual composition and had the computer execute them using a plotter drawing machine. Back then, what they did was called “computer art.”

Two drawings from the series P-10, “random walk” (1969) by Manfred Mohr exemplify the use of a computer program to generate endless visual compositions. Source: emohr.com.

So the machine did everything? Where’s the art in that?

The artists wrote the program and set the main instructions that the computer would follow, leaving some space for randomness, and then selected from the outputs of the plotter the compositions that fitted their vision. In digital art, artists often leave part of the control over the appearance or the behavior of the artwork to a computer program, realtime data, and even the viewers’ actions. The machines and systems involved can play a more defining role than, say, a paintbrush or a chisel, but still it is the artist who creates the artwork.

The machines and systems involved in digital art can play a more defining role than a paintbrush or a chisel, but still it is the artist who creates the artwork.

Wait, did you just say “behavior of the artwork”? You mean that a digital artwork “behaves,” like a person or a puppy?

Behavior is a way of saying that the artwork is active. It is not like a painting, a sculpture, or a photograph, which are the end result of a process previously carried out by the artist. Some digital artworks are generative, which means they can create new outputs endlessly, or they are interactive, which is to say that they react to what is in front of them, for instance the presence of a viewer. Also, some are connected to an external source of data, such as the weather forecast in Wyoming or the latest news from CNN. These artworks are not static, they do something. They are constantly changing according to an algorithm, a storm approaching Cheyenne, or the movements of a person who just stepped into the room. Since they are doing something all the time, we can call the way they do it a behavior.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Surface Tension (1992) is an early example of interactive art

Ok, full stop. You started talking about “digital art,” then “computer art,” and now it’s “generative,” “interactive,” and “connected.” Why all these terms? Isn’t it all just art?

Certainly, but keep in mind that digital art has followed the development of digital technologies over the last decades, incorporating new forms of creativity as these technologies became available to artists. The pioneers of computer art in the 1960s were a handful of people who had access to mainframe computers in research centers. Others started creating digital images when they got their hands on the first personal computers. Later on, more joined in creating artworks using websites or video game engines. Nowadays, artists can use artificial intelligence programs, 3D scanners, robots, and all sorts of hardware and software in the making of their artworks. 

Each new technology brings with it new ways of creating art, sometimes changing the definition of what an artwork is and what we can do with it. In order to describe and understand these new art forms, and, well, behaviors, we need new terms. However, you can stick to digital art as an overall term and then remember that some artworks are based on a computer program that constantly generates new outputs, or they interact with the viewers, or they use data from anywhere in the world. Actually, some artworks do all three things at once.

Each new technology brings with it new ways of creating art, sometimes changing the definition of what an artwork is and what we can do with it.

I am familiar with contemporary art. How come I’m hearing about this just now?

Although digital art is one of the many branches of contemporary art, it has been ignored in the contemporary art world for decades, and has even found it hard to be considered art at all. When pioneering artists exhibited their algorithmic drawings in the 1960s, some felt threatened by the idea of a machine that could replace human creativity. Computer art was dismissed by many as little more than a curiosity, not a genuine artistic practice. Digital art soon found its place in electronic and media art festivals, as well as in a few museums and galleries, developing a parallel network that seldom crossed paths with the contemporary art world.

During the last decade, the presence of digital art in contemporary art museums, biennials, galleries, and art fairs has grown, while an increasing number of online platforms and marketplaces are providing ways to access art in a digital form. The pandemic and the NFT boom have brought even more awareness about digital art, although not always in a positive way. Additionally, younger generations of artists and collectors now see digital art as the form of creative expression that more closely represents the world we live in. As you said before, now everyone uses computers, so why not integrate digital technologies into our culture?

“I can’t imagine ARTFORUM ever doing a special issue on electronics or computers in art”, stated editor Philip Leider in 1967. The magazine has seldom published reviews about digital art in the last 55 years.

So everything will be digital from now on? Is this the death of painting?

Absolutely not. Digital art is not about replacing traditional forms of art making, but rather expanding them. Many digital artists are as interested in drawing, painting, and sculpture as they are in pixels, circuit boards, and coding. Some paint with robots and drones, others create sculptures out of 3D models rendered in a computer, and many create installations combining interactive, screen-based artworks with physical objects. Even artists selling NFTs are adding to their blockchain-certified digital artworks unique prints and 3D-printed sculptures. Therefore, artistic creation is now more rich than ever, thanks to the possibilities brought by digital technologies. 

Many digital artists are as interested in drawing, painting, and sculpture as they are in pixels, circuit boards, and coding

In the coming years, we will see even more new forms of artistic creativity developed with artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotechnology, and innovative ways of distributing and displaying digital art, in virtual and augmented reality, and on any screen. 

I see. Well, thanks! Just one more thing: Wyoming? What is there?

That was just an example.

Digital Art >>A Glossary of Terms

When talking about digital art (art created with technology that’s often intended to be viewed or experienced on screens or projectors), inevitably people use a myriad of different terms. In order to help clarify,  we’ve pulled together a glossary of terms.

Digital art is an artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as an essential part of the creative or presentation process. Today digital art itself is placed under the larger umbrella term new media art.

New media art refers to artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, video games, computer robotics and 3D printing that can enable the digital production and distribution of art.


Video art is an art form which relies on moving pictures in a visual and audio medium. Video art came into existence during the late 1960s and early 1970s as new consumer video technology became available outside corporate broadcasting. Video art can take many forms: recordings that are broadcast; installations viewed in galleries or museums; works streamed online, distributed as video tapes, or DVDs; and performances which may incorporate one or more television sets, video monitors, and projections, displaying ‘live’ or recorded images and sounds.



Internet art (often referred to as net art) is a term used to describe a process of making digital artwork made on and distributed by the Internet. This form of art has circumvented the traditional dominance of the gallery and museum system, delivering aesthetic experiences via the Internet. In many cases, the viewer is drawn into some kind of interaction with the work of art.

Blingee by Olia Lialina (artist) and Mike Tyka (Co-Founder of the Google Artist and Machine Intelligence Program) for Rhizome’s Seven on Seven ’17.

Software art is a work of art where the creation of software, or concepts from software, play an important role; for example software applications which were created by artists and which were intended as artworks.

Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist.

Algorithmic art, also known as computer-generated art, is a subset of generative art (generated by an autonomous system) and is related to systems art (influenced by systems theory).  For a work of art to be considered algorithmic art, its creation must include a process based on an algorithm devised by the artist. Here, an algorithm is simply a detailed recipe for the design and possibly execution of an artwork, which may include computer code, functions, expressions, or other input which ultimately determines the form the art will take.

Algorithmic art. Custom generated wallapaper by Siebren Versteeg @bitforms gallery, nyc

Video game art is a specialized form of computer art employing video games as the artistic medium. Video game art often involves the use of patched or modified video games or the repurposing of existing games or game structures, however it relies on a broader range of artistic techniques and outcomes than artistic modification and it may also include painting, sculpture, appropriation, in-game intervention and performance, sampling, etc.

Super Mario Clouds by Corey Arcangel as seen at the Whitney

Glitch art is the practice of using digital or analog errors for aesthetic purposes by either corrupting digital data or physically manipulating electronic devices.  In a technical sense, a glitch is the unexpected result of a malfunction, especially occurring in software, video games, images, videos, audio, and other digital artefacts.

Example of glitch art, by Rosa Menkman

Fractal art is a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still images, animations, and media. Fractal art developed from the mid-1980s onwards. It is a genre of computer art and digital art which are part of new media art. The mathematical beauty of fractals lies at the intersection of generative art and computer art. They combine to produce a type of abstract art.

Fractal art.

Computer art is any art in which computers play a role in production or display of the artwork. Such art can be an image, sound, animation, video, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, video game, website, algorithm, performance or gallery installation.

Multi-media art uses a combination of different content  forms such as text, audio, images, animations, video and interactive content. Multimedia can be recorded and played, displayed, interacted with or accessed by information content processing devices, such as computerized and electronic devices, but can also be part of a live performance.


We couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the newest “class” of NEW INC. the first museum-led incubator dedicated to supporting innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship across art, design and technology.

We were selected to participate in this prestigious program (’16/’17) and have joined an incredible co-hort of talented creators and entrepreneurs from around the world.  We’re working out of a inspiring, light-filled space on the Bowery (NYC) which is located just next door to the New Museum.

Read more about the program and its participants.