“This natural way that someone who’s grown up with 8 bit video games sees the world. This is the grain and restoration of it”. – James Bridle
In a 2011 closing Keynote at Web Directions South, James Bridle described the world of someone who’s grown up with 8 bit video games as one that integrates the developing language of digital technology with the physically tactile materials that surround us. Bridle presents examples of the integration of pixelated prints, architecture and sculptures as collaborations between human and machine, or human and computer, as a ‘New Aesthetic’. Although the ‘New Aesthetic’ references the look and design of an image, the main focus is on levels of communication we are having with machines and technology. Jeff Donaldson is an artist who has been transforming visual languages through his practice in 8 bit techniques and code into textiles since 2001. He presents a generative process that utilizes a combination of his own constructed systems with the glitch of the machine under the studio name Glitchaus.
We met for a chat on his recent visit to London before he headed off to the Yami Ichi market in Berlin. Yami Ichi (translates into the Black Market) is a flea market out of Tokyo that showcases items typically only available in the digital realm. Glitchaus presented a new series of scarves and blankets in a collection that visually documents different process of generative digital glitches. Notendo, Read Error, Data Knit and Gradient are the titles of lines within the collection used to describe techniques he uses to create graphics in these machine knit textiles. Each line is glaringly different. Notendo uses an 8 bit approach generating graphics that are chunky, similar to hounds tooth or camouflage, while Gradient is a textural wave of color tones.
While the term ‘Glitch’ tends to get thrown around a lot, it isn’t always recognized for it’s technical process. Graphic pixels can be easily designed in Photoshop to look like it was output by a 1980s video game, but Glitch as a craft depends upon a collaboration with the ‘malfunction’ of a machine to generate a unique output. Jeff sets up a ‘digital system of errors’ in knit, woven and surface design. He gives each of the platforms a system to work within. The computer’s role is to explore a series of possible outputs within that system. That exploration becomes the voice of the machine, worked out through a series of patterns and forms that don’t rely on presets but instead a unique set of outputs.
Donaldson’s irreplaceable outputs in blankets and scarves become the document of a selection of computer malfunctions pulled from the range of technological platforms he works within. Each pixel is represented in a stitch-by-stitch machine knit production process. The give and take with the machines is one that lets the innards of the machine breathe. The imperfection becomes the language, recognizing its beauty becomes a part of the craft.
This is a practice based around unconventional techniques. In the world of Glitch it is the byproduct that becomes the area of interest. These off-shoots of digital technology have entered our spectrum in remarkable ways that would have at one time only have been developed for their intricacies by the most experimental artists. But today, as digital tech is so heavily engrained in every waking (and sleeping) minute of our day, the concept of the Glitch has become more palatable. In developing systems to enhance and utilize the intricacies of machines and computers, Donaldson pushes the boundaries of what these devices were designed for. And as you can see from his Glitch Safari tumblr page, which highlights computers gone crazy across the globe, Glitches in the system are everywhere! Bridle’s ‘New Aesthetic’ is not grounded in traditional aesthetics but in a non-aesthetic from which we are seeing emotional and conceptual shifts in mechanical languages across the globe. As this wide range of platforms vary and machines express themselves to us, will we receive messages from their output? While that remains to be seen, artists like Jeff Donaldson are embracing these expressions for new representations of cultural engagement, memories and the future we are building.
Glitches everywhere, check out glitch safari:Where you can see computers gone crazy across the globe.