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.

Yoshi Sodeoka: human audio visualizer

Roxanne Vardi and Pau Waelder

A multifaceted artist, Yoshi Sodeoka creates a wide range of audiovisual artistic works that include video art, animated gifs, music videos, and editorial illustrations. Influenced from an early stage in his career in noise music and glitch art, as well as avant garde movements such as Op Art, his work is characterized by breaking down the structure of the musical score and visual integrity of the image to find new forms of artistic expression.

A multifaceted artist, Yoshi Sodeoka creates a wide range of audiovisual artistic works that include video art, animated gifs, music videos, and editorial illustrations. Influenced from an early stage in his career in noise music and glitch art, as well as avant garde movements such as Op Art, his work is characterized by breaking down the structure of the musical score and visual integrity of the image to find new forms of artistic expression. His projects, developed individually or in close collaboration with other artists, materialize in fields as diverse as music (Psychic TV, Tame Impala, Oneohtrix Point Never, Beck, The Presets, Max Cooper), illustration (New York Times, Wired, The Atlantic, M.I.T Technology Review) fashion (Adidas, Nike), and advertising (Apple, Samsung). His work has been exhibited internationally, including at Centre Pompidou, Tate Britain, the Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Deitch Projects, La Gaîté Lyrique, the Museum of Moving Image, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Laforet Museum Harajuku.

In the following conversation, Sodeoka discusses his work and influences, focusing on the two artworks from the series Synthetic Liquid recently commissioned by Niio.

Could you elaborate on how your background in music influences your artistic practice when creating new media artworks?

At the beginning of my abstract video art projects, music and sounds usually come first. I guess in a way, I’m trying to be a human audio visualizer. I usually start by picking up some interesting sounds that I want to work with. That could either come from a friend or from myself. It really depends on how I feel. I’ve been a long time user of Logic (a MIDI sequencer software) so I usually cook up something quick in that. I’ve always played electric guitar since a young age, and I still have a collection of synthesizers and instruments. I’ve been a big fan of experimental noise and ambient music. I am lucky to have some really talented music friends that provide me with the exact sounds I’m looking for if I’m not in the mood to do my own. Anyhow, then I would try to come up with the idea of what sort of visuals go well with that sound. Experimental/Noise music is just a perfect fit with the videos I make.

Yoshi Sodeoka, Synthetic Liquid 7, 2022.

Why are you interested in glitch and noise?

I feel that everything is broken anyway, nothing is complete. In computer glitches, something interesting happens, in terms of color and composition. I am mainly interested in these colors and shapes. For me it comes from an aesthetic reason, I am not a conceptual glitch artist. I use it for everything.

However, these particular artworks I created for the commission look more organized, with more neutral colors. It relates to how I feel about the project or what influences me at a particular time, but I really can’t tell why.

“If you depend on the programs and machines you are using, then your creative process becomes shaped by the vision of the person who made that software or those machines.”

The neo-psychedelic style of both commissioned works from your Synthetic Liquid series with its kaleidoscope of colors resembles the aesthetic used by Futurist artists in the early twentieth century, and you have also mentioned your interest in Op Art. Would you say your work relates to these avant garde movements?

Yes, to some certain extent. I like Futurism, particularly in its more abstract manifestations. And in this particular work that I’m presenting in Niio, I should say I’ve been more influenced by Op art. I like the work of Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, among others. I just like the idea of making video versions of Op art. I enjoy seeing those visual triggers: Op Art makes you question what you are seeing. The arrangement of colors and shapes make your brain think. I like the idea of trying to make animated Op Art, because when you see it your mind goes someplace else, and this is fascinating to me. When you look at a landscape, for instance, you feel calm, whereas with Op Art there is a different feeling.

Yoshi Sodeoka, Synthetic Liquid 8, 2022.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and about the different digital softwares that you use in the creation of your video works and the process of moving from analog practices to digital practices? 

Sound and visuals are strongly connected. My interest in experimental noise is that it does not have a structure, which goes well with abstract videos. I have been playing music since I was 12 years old, and at the same time I studied painting. Doing both at the same time from a very young age, when I discovered video art there was no question that I wanted to do that. 

I’ve used a lot of analog setups in the past. But I use less of it now. I still like a pure analog setup, but I’m just in a different phase. I like to keep it simple with fewer gears in my studio at the moment. I incorporate the ideas that I have learned from working on analog videos into the digital video-making process. One of the things that are fascinating about what I can do with analog video is video feedback. I try to simulate that in the digital setting. The exact process might be different. But the concept is the same either in analog or digital. 

 “I imagine that the future of computing will be more organic and fluid.” 

I still have a video analog setup in my studio. For me it started to get kind of boring, and to break out of it one of the solutions was to buy more gears. I feel that the parameter is very limited because if you buy gear, then your creative process becomes shaped by the vision of the person who made that gear. I don’t like that, so I use my own video feedback technique with After Effects, which not many people do, and therefore it feels like it is my own tool and my own technique.

I also randomize a lot of elements in my audio production, working with a set of parameters. I set a tone, add notes from here to here, and allow a bit of randomness. But that’s as far as I go. I don’t use a coding environment such as PureDate to make audio compositions, but I use audio production software and randomize it, which is similar in a way. 

“I like the idea of creating Op Art, because it makes you question what you are seeing”

When experiencing your works, one cannot help but think of the beginning of the creation of everything with the representation of fluids and water.

Ha, I’m not sure. When people think of computers and technologies, they don’t really think of liquids and water. Machines are always dry and hard things. But I imagine that the future of computing will be more organic and fluid. People are using liquid elements in computing and I am fascinated by it. My videos feel very organic, particularly because they have an analog component, so it is not only about zeros and ones. I want to make everything organic as much as possible. It’s not easy, but I take it as my challenge to make things look more organic.

You have recently also been active in the NFT space, could you please share your experience with us on these projects and how you imagine NFTs becoming part of the more traditional art industry as a whole?

It’s been such a crazy ride with NFTs! I’ve sold plenty of work as I’ve never had before. And I’ve made a lot of new friends, and I discovered a lot of great artists I’ve heard of before. Overall it’s been a good experience for me. But I’m not a big fanatic of it either. I’m staying pretty low-key about it. Things come and go and I have no idea where this is going, honestly. I just focus on making good art, which has always been my thing.

Niio @ Ars Electronica Festival: Linz, Austria

Ars Electronica Festival

Ars Electronica is a festival for art, technology and society. This year Niio will have a significant presence at the festival.

Together with our partner, Barco Residential, Niio will be powering a not-to-be-missed data art installation, ‘Wind of Linz’, by the talented Refik Anadol.

Winds of Linz by Refik Anadol

Commissioned by Ars Electronica, ‘Wind of Linz’ is a site-specific work that turns the invisible patterns of wind in and around the city of Linz into a series of poetic data paintings. By using a one-year data set, Refik Anadol Studios developed custom software to read, analyze and visualize wind speed, direction, and gust patterns along with time and temperature at 10-second intervals throughout the year.

The resulting artwork is a series of three dynamic chapters, each using data as a material to create a unique visual interpretation of the interaction between the environment and the city.  Each chapter brings different aspects of the data sets to life with distinct and varied painterly, emotive aesthetics, making the invisible beauty of wind as a natural phenomenon visible.

More Places to Find Niio  At Ars Electronica

Niio co-founder, Oren Moshe, will be part of several discussions and our team will have a presence at the Collectors Pavilion where we will be demonstrating Niio. Please come find us and introduce yourself.

September 7: 14:00 – 18:00
Media Art and the Art Market
Collection management, distribution and display tools for new media art.
(*Each speaker will have 30 min followed by 10 min of Q+A)

Round Table Discussion:
September 9: 14:00 – 15:00 @ Gallery Space
Media Art and the Art Market
New technologies for presenting, collecting and storing media art.


Learn more about the Ars Electronica conference.
Learn more about Niio. 

Featured image: Refik Anadol, ‘Winds of Boston’

A Conversation With Kelani Nichole of Brooklyn’s TRANSFER Gallery (Part 2)

We are big fans of Brooklyn based TRANSFER. Gallery founder/director Kelani Nichole, started the exhibition space nearly four years ago in order to support and and cultivate artists with computer-based practices. Get to know Kelani:


What are the biggest challenges you face dealing in a digital medium both as a gallerist and as a curator?

Technical details aside, I’d say the biggest challenge currently facing the market for media-based artworks is around preservation and documentation of the artists’ intent.  Much of the work I deal with is software-dependent, ephemeral, or online public artwork, so preserving the larger context and supporting platforms becomes the major consideration when appreciating these works.  Just as any traditional format of artwork, new forms of media require restoration and care, and have the added complexity of authentication.

What are the biggest challenges in collecting digital art?

Preservation and authentication are the two biggest challenges to growing a secondary market for these artworks.  Additionally, the body of criticism is still developing – the artworld is warming up to how to talk about these works, and successful institutional displays are somewhat few and far between.

I’m very keen to explore new methods of authentication. The current standard for authentication is a signed certificate, often accompanied by a digital still, editioned media storage device/object or other accompanying physical ephemera.  In the near future I believe digital transfer of ownership will become more prevalent, as new standards emerge. 

How do you think a platform like Niio will affect the medium of digital art?

I think Niio has solved some of the challenges related to displaying these works. I’m particularly interested in the workflows and collaboration points of the software between collectors, curators, galleries / institutions, agents and artists and believe a method of seamless exchange is an important step to making the work more accessible.  

You’ve said that this year all the shows you’re staging at TRANSFER feature only women artists.  Why is a series like that important to you?

I dedicated 2016 to showing new works from the studios of women, all of them experimental in their format and looking to test new ideas from the studio at TRANSFER.  Gender balance was a hot topic in the artworld last year, a group of women working with new forms of performance and media were featured in ‘Women on the Verge’ in artforum.  

This article crystallized a movement I had started to engage with during ‘gURLs’ a night of performance at TRANSFER  in 2013, and have been tracking ever since.  I found this article inspiring, and saw a timely opportunity to deepen my own understanding of the ways in which women are pushing into new forms of performance, installation and time-based media unlocking new opportunities for technology that are emotional and deeply human.

Carla Gannis launched my 2016 program, introducing a new body of 4K video works of self portraiture, a continuation of a year-long performative drawing project.  Claudia Hart’s large-scale media installation was extended through the summer at TRANSFER.  Next I’ll launch Angela Washko’s first video game artwork in September, followed by a new body of work from Morehshin Allahyari in the fall.

Read Part 1 of our interview With Kelani.

Claudia Hart


Carla Gannis