Glitch Bodies

Figure and Portrait Studies

When we decide to ignore the capacity of algorithms to "enhance" images and instead set them loose to produce their own signature qualities as tools, we imitate what has already been done with marking strategies in traditional media, but there are some critical differences. In digital media, the image and the tool are of essentially the same "matter," binary data that doubles as semantic structure, machine-readable bits and human-readable symbols. The mark of the tool is also the mark of the medium. Image-processing and compression algorithms are intended to improve the image or preserve its quality as measured against models of the human sensorium. When instead of advancing towards the senses, the image recedes beneath the mark of the tool, we may perceive the qualities of the image-as-data. Formally, this is akin to the Modernist program of foregrounding the medium. Ideologically, it veers off in other directions, towards undermining technotopian illusions of perfection, continuity and ubiquity. It reveals the instability and materiality of information systems, the gradient of entropy, and the ineluctable chorus of noise that is the ground of all communication. Metaphorically, it points to the instability of our senses and memory as we struggle to reconstruct the image from its artifacts.

At least, that is what I would like to think I am doing with these "glitch figure studies." Aesthetically, they may also be beautiful, much as noise, video feedback, free jazz or aleatoric music are perchance beautiful. They participate in the nervous energy of online culture—many of them were first "exhibited" in social media within the glitch subculture, where "art" may matter less than the potential to astonish.

A large selection of my glitch images can be found here, in my Flickr account.

These images are available as archival prints at Ignotus Editions.


All photos by Paul Hertz, unless otherwise noted.
Kiss, Wikimedia Commons