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F[email protected]: Glitch Art in Peru

In the 90’s, for many teenagers in Lima the pleasure found in viewing distorted images through accidental or induced errors – for example data loss, abrupt voltage changes and other induced bugs – could have a rather anecdotal origin. At this time an individual could find an adult cable-channel, of which the signal that reached a television was distorted or ‘glitched’. Teenagers would wait anxiously for the cloak of night's silence or the going-out of parents to watch this distorted erotica. In these brief moments the combination of fear (of being caught out), sexual groans hidden in white noise, and the images of naked bodies distorted by a lack of decoding, mixed teenage libido and thanatic drive in what later would turn into a mature taste for visual distortions. This is one of the reasons why, in the upcoming years, many of these teenagers found aesthetic value in the deformation and destruction of reality’s digital reflections. As one of these teenagers myself, this experience serves as the start of the framing the developments in Peruvian glitch art, not only from primary sources but personal experiences.

[1] Still from porn video modified by using different compression methods, Paola Torres Núñez del Prado, 2008

It takes a mere visit to Lima to understand why ‘glitch art’ appeared relatively early there. Lima is an extreme city in which visual and audio pollution prevails; there is widespread chaos in traffic, architecture and society as a whole. In the 80s and early 90s the cities functionality was broken up with blackouts; each of these blackouts had a direct causality from the bombing of a high-voltage tower. These blackouts triggered what can only be understood as a ‘glitch’ in the city itself. In this sense, glitches have the capacity to evoke far more than mere aesthetic qualities, it can embed images an aura of familiarity and nostalgia.

Ed Grant fucked glitch art

Dive, Ed Grant, 2015. inkjet on aluminum 24x30 inches

Definitions are important; they let us frame ideas, make clearer our intentions and decrease the probability that a message is transferred incorrectly. Further to this, for a conversation between two or more parties to occur a definition needs to be implicitly or explicitly set up so a conversation can occur. When my students ask me a question about architecture, I always reply with the question ‘what do you mean by architecture?’ If the student’s definition of architecture is ‘architecture is the design and construction of buildings’ then it is clear that they discount a large cannon of unbuilt and unbuildable work from their definition. At this point, the student has framed the meaning of the word adequately for a conversation to occur. Glitch is no exception.

This short article will not attempt to give a clear definition of glitch, as the argument would be thousands of words long. Instead, I am going to offer a series of proto-definitions of glitch to frame a series of glitch works that have recently surfaced. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, the three proposed have their use within glitch discourse.

  1. A visual glitch is definable by a set of aesthetic characteristics (Moradi, 2004).
  2. A visual glitch is a break from a predefined flow (Menkman, 2011).
  3. A visual glitch is that which is generated by a ‘glitch technique’.