Interview with Rosemary Kirton

Early in 2015, off the back of my appearance at the Loud Tate: Code event, Rosemary Kirton interviewed me for an online magazine. Sadly that magazine is no longer online and the interview was never published. With her permission I’m posting it below. Some of what is said is now irrelevant or old, but it was such a great interview that I just had to share it.

Interview with Rosemary Kirton

Antonio Roberts, currently based in Birmingham, UK, talks to [redacted] about his work as a Glitch artist, and how meaningful it is to him and for our digital posterity, to share this knowledge with the public.

“Code literacy is likely to benefit us through a better understanding of how computers are intentionally produced to use us, and a digitally literate public can work to fight this.

Loud Tate: Code

I was really pleased to see you got your Art Residency at University of Birmingham, UK back in July, how is that going?

It started off a bit slow at first but has been picking up speed now that the academic year is in full swing. My residency proposal was to do research into copyright and how that affects the use, reuse and remixing of the cultural archives and collections at the University of Birmingham (five collections in total). This topic is definitely tailored towards research, and as such I haven’t actually produced much tangible artwork. Much of my time has been spent doing reading around the subject.

What’ve you been reading then?

Writers, artists and activists including Aymeric Mansoux, Rob Myers, Ronan Deazley, Richard Clay, Aaron Swartz and Nina Paley have been influencing a lot of my work.

Copyright is a very complex topic to address, and making work that engages with or challenges it well requires some understanding of it. You don’t want to end up looking like a fool or spouting buzzwords like Copyleft, Free Culture and Creative Commons without a thorough understanding. Mansoux talks about this in his essay My Lawyer is an Artist. In an e-mail exchange with him he elaborates further:

One can obviously make really good works or really bad ones, regardless of the license used, and using a free culture license for purely poetical or formal concerns is perfectly fine. The trap is to think that, today, having a free license is a shortcut towards a form of activism or political statement. If you’re interested in the latter, then make it a core element of your practice, the choice of a particular licensing mechanism will come later on, naturally, to compliment or reinforce, maybe twist your idea, not substitute it.” Aymeric Mansoux

What other plans do you have beyond this research?

In an ideal world I would convince the University of Birmingham to relicense their archives and collections under more liberal licences. I already know that this process isn’t so simple – especially when there can be so many rights owners involved in a single artifact – so I intend on making work which engages with these limitations and attempts to work around them, all the while highlighting the ridiculousness of current copyright law.

I picked up on you challenging/exploring limits of copyright not long ago with a series of GIFs that explored these themes. Care to give a little insight into how Copyright Atrophy came about?

Copyright Atrophy, which formally launched in 2014, has its roots in a piece I made in 2011. What Revolution? used glitch art – more specifically vector glitches – to highlight the change in meaning of a logo or symbol through reappropriation, reuse, overuse and remixing.


From that I started playing around with a processing sketch to decimate SVGs (vector files), and then used this sketch to decimate the Arts Council logo in response to a round of funding cuts that they had made.

Due to the lengthy process of manually downloading all the files, I put the project on hold, in order to release Comic Sans Must Die, after which I eventually came back to Copyright Atrophy.

Similarly to What Revolution? I wanted to challenge copyright and explore how far a piece/artwork/symbol must deviate from its original before it loses all associations from its original. Or, to put it another way, how far can I got before I get sued!

You’ve been travelling around the world to work, present at or organize festivals and events. Is there anything you use to occupy yourself on these journeys?

I really hate flying, so usually the fear is in itself enough to keep my occupied. Fear aside, I’m a massive fan of podcasts. I’m a regular listener of This American Life, More or Less, Science Hour, Sex Nerd Sandra and Wiretap. It allows me a distraction whilst I sit motionless engrossed by fear. :’)

Despite the traumatic flights, where did you go and what did you get up to 🙂 ?

I’ve taken far too many flights this year. In March I was invited to Stony Brook University in New York to give a lecture about glitch art for their f(Glitch) event and also curate a Bring Your Own Beamer event. Towards the end of March I was back in the States for a social visit. I had gotten into the habit of seeing my glitch buddies at least once a year for GLI.TC/H, and so when that festival didn’t happen in 2013 I felt a bit sad, so I went to Chicago for a few days. This was followed by a few days in New York City and then a suprise visit to Miami due to a delayed connection.

In September I was back in Chicago to take part in glitChicago, an exhibition about the Chicago glitch scene curated by Paul Hertz. I still find it incredible to think that I’m part of the scene there despite living over 5000 miles away.

I also regularly go to Brussels to either work with or take part in activities organised by Constant/OSP. It’s much less traumatic travelling there as it’s just a two-hour train ride on the Eurostar.

I don’t really travel for reasons other than to work. I’m a workaholic and love teaching so will take any opportunity to work, perform at an event or teach at an institution, much to the chagrin of partners or buddies that may be travelling with me.

What apps/programs do you use most often for your work?

Many of the app choices are determined by the fact that I use Ubuntu Linux as my default operating system. I try to use programs that are cross-platform – so that others may use them – but for some things there’s just no good alternative:

I use Imagemagick – for converting images between different formats, Pure Data – For live performance work and Gedit – the default text editor that I do the majority of my programming in

On my phone I don’t really use many apps: Twitter, ColorNote, Tumblr, Instagram…

I focus on being productive so rarely have time to sample and play around with new toys/programs unless I intend on heavily investing in them.

I like that sense of commitment!

Which apps/programs have you stopped using recently and care to say why? (I have whatsapp downloaded and never got around to using it, similar with my Ello account.)

I stopped using the Facebook app for a couple of reasons. First, I really was concerned about the privacy issues. Many apps need a lot of access to a phone’s functions and many will claim to have the user’s interests in mind, but I do trust Facebook less than I trust others. The other reason is I couldn’t stand all the constant notifications. (Hot tip: try using the mobile version of the site, it’s almost identical in functionality to the app but without notification overload.)

WhatsApp has similar privacy issues and I hate using yet another messaging service that isn’t based on published standards. SMS and e-mail will live long past the latest app fads.

I completely understand the concept behind Snapchat, but I’m an archivist by nature, and so I would often find myself wanting to post the same content to Snapchat and other services such as Instagram and Tumblr, which aren’t as ephemeral.

I never signed up for Ello, Emojli, Yo, or many of the “new” social networking sites. I have nothing against what they are set out to achieve, I just have no reason to do the same thing – posting funny cat pictures – but on a different site.

Glitches for Rosemary Kirton

I was thinking about how people were and perhaps continue to debate the term ‘glitch,’ or ‘glitch art’. How do you feel about the term and your work?

Every so often I see an article or blog post declaring the death of glitch art due to apps making it easy to produce and it being overused. I really don’t care for that argument. There is the argument that these apps and push-button processes only allow engagement with glitch art on a superficial level, but anything that widens access to glitch art can only be a good thing. Also, out of the thousands that download these apps and engage on a purely aesthetic level occasionally there are a few that really start to delve into glitch art and help to contribute to it on a critical level.

Part of the reason for my attitude is because there is more to glitch than just a visual aesthetic. It’s a very open concept that can include anything that incorporates randomness, chance, use and appropriation of mistakes, destruction and many other similar concepts.

Whenever I’m presenting or teaching people about glitch art I always try to include Translation Party and the Caption Fail videos by Rhett and Link as examples of how concepts surrounding glitch art – computational error, misuse of software etc – can manifest themselves in ways other than just datamoshing or jpg glitches.

Yeh in the spirit of the ‘death of painting’ it makes sense that glitch art would have a more accelerated cycle of apparent death! I often document glitches, or behaviours in programs/ services I use and cannot comprehend… Do you do this too?

I used to do this in my early days of glitch art. My What is your Glitch? videos were a response to the Vernacuar of File Formats by Rosa Menkman and a way for me to document the glitch aesthetics I was discovering.

At the first GLI.TC/H in 2010 myself and Jeff Donaldson/noteNdo started the Glitch Safari project, which was a way to collate glitches found on public displays. Aside from that, glitches usually happen too quickly for me to capture them.

Are there any particular processes in the wide remit that might result in glitched visuals that are your favourite to use?

I absolutely love feedback loops. This is where you feed the output of your visuals back in on itself. Similar to what happens when you put a mirror in front of another mirror. It creates a water-like flow of colour which I really like and works very well for live performances. I used this recently for the visuals I did for My Panda Shall Fly at Fierce Festival.

Glitches for Rosemary Kirton

As for file formats I really love SGI file format glitches. Sometimes it results in red, green and blue rectangles that are far removed from the original image, but at other times it can create amazing grid-like patterns.

How did you discover this kind of practice- glitching and testing the limits of programs- were there any milestones or inspirations that spurred your interest?

Glitches for Rosemary Kirton

Prior to that I had made some accidental glitch art when my camera malfunctioned. I tried, without success to recreate that in Photoshop.

Insectoid recording session

The other major milestone was attending the 2010 GLI.TC/H event. Even though I had only been creating glitch art for a little over a year, the community was very welcoming and demonstrated the many ways to work with – and against – computers. I know it’s cheesy, but the community was and still is a great inspiration to me.

Whom or what takes your interest currently, like peers or projects?

A big part of my practice is about free culture and sharing knowledge. Since 2008 all of my work has been made using open source software and shortly after that using Linux as my default OS.

To that end, I’ve always respected those that use open source software. One such group that inspires me is Constant/OSP, who are a design group based primarily in Brussels. They exclusively use open source software and experimental practices to produce work that is indistinguishable from art made with “Professional” software.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with them on several occasions and they’ve taught me a lot about reclaiming my tools and building my own to produce artwork.

I noticed you ran a workshop where you were making these things accessible- teaching people how to make a glitch cat, a glitched logo- in September. What did you want your students to get out of that experience?

I wanted to show them that “hey, you can do this as well”. I wanted to demystify the glitch art practices and show that you don’t need to rely on pre-built software – like the plethora of apps out there. Part of the workshop that wasn’t documented was me trying to expand glitch art past being just a visual aesthetic e.g. how can some of the concepts surrounding glitch art – randomness, exploiting errors in programs, misuse of programs etc – be used in other practices.

An example of this which I often point to is Variations on a Theme by Casey & Finch by Erik Bunger (2002 – 2011), in which the Bunger chopped and rearranged Casey and the Sunshine Band’s 1975 hit That’s the Way (I Like It) to sound like a skipping CD, which was then performed by a live band. I absolutely loved how it takes the aesthetics of a skipping CD – something which was a common frustration to many people – and appropriates it for something that is really entertaining!

Glitches for Rosemary Kirton

Do you think everyone should learn to code?

Think of it this way: You don’t need to know how to cook in order to eat at a restaurant, but if you want something that isn’t on the menu then it sure helps.

Given the theme of these interviews, which address ‘User Style’ I find the idea of learning to code interesting because it blurs the binary relationship between user and service.

To extend and mangle your analogy, lol sorry 😛 learning to code provides the digital consumer/consumed with a better understanding of the structures that they inhabit/use and the means to change them, perhaps…?

Yes, definitely! On one level knowing how something is made lets you fix and modify it. On another level you can begin to understand how it is operating and – potentially – using you.

Learning to code seems like it has a DIY vibe but really it still engenders a reliance on a great many structures, systems and collaborators beyond immediate cognition.

While it may provide a user/individual with a level of independence at first, how do you think a coding-informed public will impact the digital/environment in years to come?

I hope that a digitally literate public will they begin to dictate the direction that their lives and surrounding environment takes. It’s often said that knowledge is power and now, more than ever, it couldn’t be more true. The amount of information flying around us, and the power that it possesses, has been highlighted in many high profile and occasionally unfortunate events. Chelsea Manning, Aaron Swartz, Julian Assange/Wikileaks and many others have fought to make us more digitally literate at their own expense. Code literacy is likely to benefit us through a better understanding of how computers are intentionally produced to use us and a digitally literate public can work to fight this.

Associate Curator at Vivid Projects

After eight months of working at Vivid Project as an Associate Producer my role has evolved and I’m now an Associate Curator.


In this new role I’ll be continuing to organise the activities of Black Hole Club. This year I, with the input of its members, organised and oversaw the development of events including I Am A Strange Loop, a Dirty Video Mixer workshop, various Crit Clubs and tART. Expect more of this in March 2016 when Black Hole Club.

In addition to Black Hole Club I’ll be continuing with my curating work. Just prior to my appointment as Associate Producer I co-curated μChip 3 with Sam Wray in March 2015. In June 2015 I curated Stealth (let’s not talk about the drone). Next year expect more of a focus on digital and New Media art.

If you want to know more about the Black Hole Club or just want to chat or pitch ideas to me I can be reached on

Pecha Kucha Birmingham – Ctrl + C

On 8th December I gave a talk at Pecha Kucha Birmingham. This talk was critical of the one-way system of cultural reappropriation by corporations. The whole video is available below.

Ctrl + C

If you can at all relate to the issues being discussed in this presentation you can read more about it in this great article about How Corporations Profit From Black Teens’ Viral Content

The next Pecha Kucha in Birmingham will be taking place on March 15th and you should get in touch about tickets or even giving a talk at it.

Ctrl + C/Ctrl + V

As a super special bonus below is the presentation in text and image form.

Original animation by Nina Paley

Original animation by Nina Paley

Culture is created by copying, adopting, remixing, recreating and doing it all over again. Nowhere is this more noticeable than on the internet where memes, easily adaptable and modifiable jokes, are created by appropriating popular culture for, well, the lols.

Like all good things, though, there are forces working against creating of memes. Corporate agendas have infiltrated the conversations and threaten, sometimes successfully, to stop the spread of lols. Using a few examples I want to show how largely corporate agendas have resulted in stifling of creativity in some way

From November 2014 Snoop Dogg began posting images on the internet, requesting that people memes out of them.

The response was less than favourable. Instead of reappropriating these images and making really funny memes out of them people instead made a meme out of the fact that this is not a meme and that his desperate attempts were somewhat laughable.

Although this type of social engineering by powerful people or brands isn’t always a failure you should be careful that you don’t end up like Milhouse, a meme used to ridicule forced memes.

For my second case study I want to look at the phenomenon of Left Shark. In February 2015 Katy Perry performed at the Super Bowl half time show in America. In this performance Perry was joined on stage by, amongst other cuddly critters, two dancers dressed as sharks. The one on the left became popular in by its apparent inability to keep to the routine.

The internet quite quickly made a meme out of this. Some liked how individual and unique Left Shark was. Others liked the absurdity of it all. Whatever the reason for liking Left Shark, it very quickly became a thing of interest.

It caught the attention of one person who decided to make a 3D model available for anyone to make their own 3D print or art featuring left shark. A good thing, right? Yes, and with all good things eventually the big boys come and ruin it all!

Katy Perry’s lawyers swooped in and demanded that this model be taken down. They claimed that they owned the right to Left Shark.

They even tried to register a trademark for left Shark, which was ultimately rejected. What is worrying about this for me is that the community created Left Shark, not Katy Perry or her lawyers. Before us there was no left Shark, just some anonymous person in a costume. We created Left Shark but they want to own it.

For my last case study I want to focus on the appropriation of internet slang, slang, emoji and “youth culture” in general. In June 2014 Peaches Monroee, a regular vine user uploaded a video talking about her appreciation of her eyebrows.

I’ve opted not to use audio so I’ll recite what she said. “We up in this bitch. Finna get crunk. Eyebrows on Fleek. Da fuq. Being on fleek quite quickly became a thing and a way to say something is on point, or good. Whatever. Like all good things, brands soon caught on and ruined it.

Brands started attaching the word fleek onto their promotional tweets, latching onto its popularity and trying to get a piece of this sweet sweet pie.

Probably my favourite of the uses of fleek. It has the honour of not only being terrible but also rhyming. That surely deserves an award

There’s a very popular twitter account called Brands Saying Bae that occasionally collects examples of brands using this popular vernacular. It’s an attempt to humanise the brand and relate to its potential customers on their level by using their language.

However, I think it’s just embarrassing. It’s like when your Mom or Dad tries to hang out with your friends by bustin’ out a “yo yo homies” whilst wearing a backwards cap. It’s just not going to happen

There’s a bigger demon here though. The brands will use this vernacular, these reapporpiated memes as a way to sell us things, sometimes successfully. But what about Peaches Monroee?

What about the creator of doge? What about people creating memes? Corporations will happily take our the culture we created to sell us stuff back at a premium, but when we try and do it we’re stopped and they try to control it.

Image by Nina Paley

Image by Nina Paley

For this creative culture to carry on creating nonsensical memes that ultimately bring us joy we have to stop restrictive laws from controlling how we interpret and reinterpret the culture that we see around us.

Or, to put it another way, this cultural reappropriation by corporate brands needs to take an arrow to the knee.

Libre Graphics magazine issue 2.4, Capture

The latest issue of Libre Graphics magazine (and the final issue in volume two) is now out and available for reading and purchasing.


This issue looks at Capture, the act of encompassing, emulating and encapsulating difficult things, subtle qualities. Through a set of articles we explore capture mechanisms, memory, archiving and preservation of volatile digital information, physicality and aesthetization of data.

On page 12 you’ll find an article from me about surveillance culture.

Evasive Maneuvers


We are obsessed with capture. On an aesthetic level we have been attempting to capture aesthetic qualities of things for thousands of years through drawing, painting and, relatively recently, photography. Advances in digital technology now allow to capture more than just aesthetic qualities of a thing. Now we can measure things, analyse them, and make decisions based on statistics and quantifiable data as opposed to qualitative personal opinions. Through this we have gained an incredible insight into the world around us, and can study everything from weather patterns, genetics of species and so much more. This gigantic planet and beyond now seems so much more comprehensible, now that we can understand it in terms of numbers and patterns.

Developments in digital technology have turned the focus increasingly onto the individuals. We want to understand not just how an environment evolves, but also the people that move through it. We want to know how they interact with it, why they do so, what their intent might be, what they might do next, what their emotions are and study little incidental quirks that could reveal more than a person intended. Like weather and climate data before it, the hope is that by collecting enough data about individuals we can begin to understand them more, and make predictions about them.

If you’ve been following my work this year you’ll see that surveillance culture has been a big part of it. I curated an exhibition at Vivid Projects called Stealth in June and the recent work I’ve done with Lucy Hutchinson echoes the works of artists like Adam Harvey and looks at ways to work with and against face detection software. I feel talking about this is very important, especially as we’re being increasingly watched by our devices and our Governments.

Read the whole piece in Libre Graphics magazine, which you can read or purchase from the website.

Common Property, 15th January – 21st February

For my first exhibition of 2016 I’ll be taking in Common Property at Jerwood Visual Arts fom 15th January – 21st February 2016


Curated by Hannah Pierce, Jerwood Encounters: Common Property seeks to demonstrate how artists engage with and relate to copyright through the work of six emerging and mid-career artists, including three new commissions. The exhibition and accompanying events programme seeks to generate new conversations about how copyright is currently impacting the way visual artists make and distribute their work, and demonstrates how artists are challenging the limitations of copyright through their practice.

The exhibition takes its title from a response Sol LeWitt made in Flash Art in 1973 to the accusation that he had copied the work of Francois Morellet and Jan Schoonhoven. He stated: “I believe that ideas once expressed, become the common property of all. They are invalid if not used, they can only be given away and not stolen…”

Copyright has expanded exponentially over the past two decades in line with the unprecedented free-exchange of information and content that takes place over the Internet. In October 2014, in an attempt to make the copyright system better suited to the digital age, changes to UK legislation came into effect allowing the parody of copyrighted works. This change allows individuals to make limited but reasonable use of creative content previously protected by copyright, through ‘Caricature, Parody and Pastiche’, without having to gain permission of the rights holder – provided that it is considered ‘fair and appropriate’.

Jerwood Encounters: Common Property comes at a hugely significant time in the continuing chaotic development of the law on copyright. It comes also at a time of markedly increasing interest in the nexus between art and law generally. Copyright law is currently in a state of flux amidst the coincidence of emergent new digital realities, a proliferation of appropriation based cultural expression and the prospective move towards a more creativity based standard for protection. Further complexity is added to the terrain by impending and potentially radical EU reforms and a growing awareness of the importance of achieving balance within the IP system, with an increased emphasis being placed on exceptions and limitations to the scope of copyright protection. The works in Common Property address many of these concerns exploring, inter alia, the themes of cultural transformative re-use, technology’s impact on the boundaries of infringement and the contemporary challenges to the fundamental notions of authorship inherent in copyright law.

There will be a number of new commissions in Common Property, reflecting the current and evolving artistic interest in ‘playing’ with copyright frameworks and associated issues.

I’ll be debuting some newly commissioned work alongside new and existing work from Edwin Burdis, Hannah Knox, Rob Myers, Owen G Parry and Superflex.

Audio Porn, 10th December

On 10th December I’ll be taking part in the HFWAS event Audio Porn


Join us at P Cafe on the 10th December for our last event of the year! Audio Porn is the theme for this night of spoken word and sound based performance. Be warned explicit imagery may be aroused in your minds eye.

£3 entry on the door.

I’ll have a short video and audio installation called Breathless. Plus there’ll be wine!

Algorave, 18th December

For what might be final gig of the year I’ll be returning to London (I’m there quite a lot these days) for an Algorave at Power Lunches:


The packed night features artists like Holger Ballweg, Shelly Knotts, Slub and Dario Villanueva against a backdrop of visuals from myself, Rituals and

More information on the Facebook and y’all should buy tickets.

Expect fairy lights.

GLEEETCH, 12th December

GLEEETCH, an awesome 8 Bit/chiptune event, is coming back on 12th December at Power Lunches and I made this rather dizzying video to promote it (with audio by Oliotronix).



The night features music and performances from HarleyLikesMusic, Galaxy Wolf, Lazenbleep, J3wel, Fanny Davis and more.

I sadly can’t be there (though I’ll be London-bound for an Algorave the following weekend on 18th) but y’all should go!

Pecha Kucha Birmingham, 8th December

On Tuesday 8th December from 18:30 I’ll be taking part in Pecha Kucha Birmingham at Birmingham Open Media.


I’ll be delivering a short presentation, Ctrl + C, hat looks at the way that culture is created from copying and remixing. I’ll be presenting alongside awesome people including Linda Spurdle, Francis Clarke, Ian Francis, Daniel Alcorn (who recently interviewed me for the Small Talk podcast) and Ruth Harvey.

Tickets for the event have already sold out but there is a waiting list if you really wanna get in.