Excerpts from a conversation with Erik H Rzepka

Conversation started Tuesday
17/09/2013 22:52
Erik H Rzepka

hey antonio! was at _ģ̶Ł̶1̶ɫ̶C̶ʮ̶_Δ┌┼- this weekend, was interested in ur video piece – how did you start as an artist and then get into making pieces like that one? what can you tell me about it thematically and how it relates to ur practice in general?

17/09/2013 23:10
Antonio Roberts
Hey Erik!

The process of making that video was actually a bit of a weird one

hey! sweet, i’m intrigued

It started after I made the decision to use Linux exclusively in 2008. I then became interested in glitch art in 2009. Shortly after that I became interested in ways of generating randomness from something very orderly. I tried writing a script to do random edits of a video file and failed miserably. Fast forward to 2013 and my coding and Linux skills are much better so I decided to revisit the script.

Around the same time Gabriel Shalom introduced me to the work of Erik Bunger and the piece that my video was inspired by, [Variations on a Theme by Casey & Finch]

In fact, mine is just a reinterpretation. So, I finally had a reason to use that script. If you read on my website you’ll see that there’s four different versions of this that each try to replicate the sound of a skipping CD.

And I think this relates to my practice because it’s me trying to be different (as always!). It’s very easy to just glitch a jpg and call it (glitch) art. I want to explore the concept of glitch, not just the visual aspect, which sometimes results in me emulating a glitch style, rather than causing an actual glitch.

I also like writing programs which assume the role of the artist. A lot of the work I do is the direct output of a program. Just to see what happens when more control is handed over to a different set of rules

so would you say each of your projets is interested in re-asking the question of what a glitch is, taking it to a new space? how in general does that fit with programming/code? also, what were you doing pre-2009 before you got into glitch (and maybe what got you into it)

I think glitch (art) is such a broad subject that defining it isn’t really possible. It encompasses randomness, generative art, mistakes, errors, forced errors, hacking and so much other stuff which each have their own offshoots and sub genres. So, I don’t really want to get an answer to “what is a glitch?” but I do want to explore how its concepts can influence other genres and methods of working, which is why I agreed to write the foreword for AlphabeNt

In that book you have two very talented designers/illustrators – Drew Taylor and Daniel Purvis – ditch all of their precise training to see how a loss of control can influence their practice

And so how can it influence other areas etc. For example, could it go into writing, dance, composing etc (yes – and it’s already been done in various ways)


Shakespeare.txt.jpg by Tom Scott

nice man i really connect with a lot of this… maybe yoou can show me a few examples of types of projects you’ve done at this point, that maybe show the variety of places in which you’ve taken the glitch concept etc

Probably best example is I Am Sitting in a Room

Glitching text/symbols as a way to explore how humans and computers see text.

Comic Sans Must Die: A way to make something better through reducing it gradually to nothing – Iterative design that is degenerative. And I hate Comic Sans!

c a t

yeah this is great! you seem to like a kind of textual/technical minimalism. What draws you to that type of approach vs a more chaotic “glitch” style?

Chaotic stuff gets a bit repetitive after the 9000th time

i see – so being overtly repetitive in some way “addresses” that?

By repetitive I mean that I’m just so bored of seeing datamoshing and jpg glitches. I know that to those doing it it will be new to them, and so I support their initial explorations into glitch art. But for me, as a viewer and curator, I grow tired of it, especially when there’s little context to it. For example, glitch porn. Although that’s a whole other discussion right there!

The closest I'll ever get to doing glitch porn

The closest I’ll ever get to doing glitch porn

i do see what you mean… i might be partly guilty of that haha, that style hehe but i def agree with the “oh here’s a glitch technique” and it all looks hte same etc – yawn

I don’t think less of anyone that does it – I do it myself – but it’s all about context and why/when to use it

do you find in minimalism though an inherent repetitiveness – almost an aestheticization of it? i say that in the best way there’s something interesting about how it plays the technical reproduction game explicitly. Take Donald Judd – his blocks – kind of reproducing the identical products of industry


Untitled by Donald Judd


instead of say, the “personal” expressionism of a pollock, he kinda says, this is our world, technical garbage, “aestheticizing” or making an art practice out of repetition

Well, all of what I and many glitch artists do is process-based. So yeah, repetition is a big part of it

A lot of the time I’m less interested in the actual output, more the process behind the work. So, I like glitching svg files because the process of glitching them is easier to comprehend and manipulate than a jpg. Or: I can write xml, I can’t write binary

Penguin - Delete 8 Penguin - Replace 8 with 1

i dig it man don’t hear too much about using svg – but as you said, there’s so many other fomrats!! why do the same crap – for me i’ve also ventured into pdf, swf, mesh file formats etc – so many places to go really – we need more ppl probing those boundaries for sure!!

I’d be interseted in seeing your file format explorations!

Interview for Jamie Boulton

I was recently interviewed by Jamie Boulton for his final-year dissertation. He is currently studying Visual Communication at Birmingham City University, where he’s recently become very interested in glitch art. Below is the whole interview, with links and pictures added by me.

First of all, what is your definition of a glitch?

A glitch is an error or something unexpected.

How did you first come in contact with glitch art? What were your initial impressions of it and what made you pursue it as an art form?

I first became aware of glitch art on 5th May 2009. I was looking for things relating to software art and Stuart Parker mentioned glitch art. I can’t remember what I first thought, but I do remember in the early days that I drew comparisons between it and pixel art.


My first glitch artwork uploaded to Flickr


My artwork at the time – portraits and complex digital drawings ([an example]) – was very colourful and noisy, so the visual noise of glitch art really appealed to me.


These had been inspired by the work of Arturo Herra, whose work I had seen at an exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in 2007.

Where did you learn the skills you use to create glitch art? Did you have previous experience with electronics and computing, or are they skills you picked up as you experimented?

I’ve always been skilled at using computers and I’ve had the ability to write code (albeit not very well) since my undergraduate studies, but only since 2007 have I really begun to experiment with coding, hardware and software. When I came across glitch art I had been running fizzPOP since January of that year. From that I had learnt a bit about circuit-bending but essentially I was a bit of a curious beginner. Everything else since then – learning how to use the command line on Linux, writing code, learning how to use Pure Data, Processing and other creative programming languages – has been driven by my desire to create glitch – or similar – art.

Do you think that digitally produced glitch aesthetics can be as meaningful and expressive as real glitches, or is the technological experimentation part of the art itself?

This is entirely subjective. I’ve seen beautifully constructed glitch-alike artwork created in Processing and other programming languages and I’ve seen horrible, or just generally uninspiring artwork that is create purely through glitches. Although the process of creating the artwork is interesting I’m far more intrigued to see what artwork is created with the technology. To give another perspective consult the Vademecum of digital art, particularly point 8:

If the description of an artwork looks like the catalog of a computer reseller, check if the artwork contains more than mere fascination for technology.

Philosophy time! If a glitch is forced, is it still a glitch?

Nope. I think in order to have true glitches you will have to remove human intervention. Even the act of choosing which glitches to display as glitch art removes the ephemeral nature of glitch art.

Do people often not ‘get’ your work? Are a lot of folk confused by why you do what you do, or do you find that people are more fascinated in it?

A bit of both. My friends often like (and indeed “Like”) what I do but don’t really get what it is or how it’s made. In other words, they appreciate the aesthetic value of glitch art. I did have a situation in March 2012 where I was asked to submit a proposal for a public artwork [that was based on glitch art]. It was rejected on the basis that there was a concern that people would not ‘get’ the artwork.

I think one of the best ways to ‘get’ glitch art is to allow yourself to not ‘get’ it: Appreciate that it is something random, unexpected and possibly very different from anything that you may have seen before.

What do you think about glitch art culture? Is it a fad or has its technological nature birthed a score of genuinely interesting artists?

This question comes around every so often. The first time I remember glitch art being declare a fad was soon after Kanye West released the video for Welcome to Heartbreak. The concern was that everyone would start to produce watered-down commercial glitch art just to make money. This hasn’t happened. Of course, for any style of artwork (see the “grunge” artwork era of the early 2000s) there will be periods of mass popularity, but this won’t, or at least shouldn’t cause the art to decrease in quality. For another insight, see Notes on Glitch, in particular point 44:

There is no question that the glitch aesthetic been co-opted by mainstream media. Kanye West’s video for “Welcome to Heartbreak” (Nabil Elderkin, 2009) is done in a finely tuned, very slick style, using a glitch technique known as “datamoshing.” The artwork that accompanies the soundtrack CD for The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) features glitch stills that would not look out of place in the Flickr Glitch Art pool.21 When glitched images appear in mainstream motion pictures—for instance the Joker’s videos in The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008), or the camcorder footage in Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008)—they are always deployed in the name of authenticity, and never in order to call into question the illusion of (digital) cinema itself. Rare is the feature film in which a glitch goes unexcused by the premise of a film-within-a-film. In mainstream popular culture, glitch is deployed not as a marker of artifice, but as a signifier of raw authenticity. It is a digital version of what Garrett Stewart—in describing the “painstakingly hand-defaced” faux newsreels of Citizen Kane—calls “authentication by disrepair,” and in this sense very much a reversion to the analog paradigm.

As long as there are artists that continue to create and innovate in this area then it will evolve. The only thing that I feel will kill glitch art is repetition, over saturation and selfishness. On that latter part, see point 49:

Glitch has embraced the open-source mentality of sharing knowledge, which is rooted in the DIY tradition of punk. When a glitch artist refuses to reveal how work was made, it not only raises a question of whether it is “really” glitch—as opposed to a Photoshopped simulation—but also whether the artist is selfishly hiding their technique in a refusal to contribute to the collective knowledge. This all reflects an anxiety over authenticity and the underlying politics of glitch—something not strictly defined, but which favors cooperation and community over the proprietary motivations of any individual auteur.

Which do you like more; having the end glitched visuals or the process of creating and experimenting to achieve them?

A bit of both. For most of my artwork I like to create new tools (Pure Data patches, processing sketches, shell scripts) to create the new artwork. This approach helps me keep the practice as interesting as the outcome

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Anything where order can be found in chaos. I’m particularly influenced by heavy metal and electronic music. Some of the people I know have strong – usually negative – opinions about this music but I really like trying to find patterns and order in the music, and so too in glitch art.

What are you trying to say through your work, if anything at all? Is there a message that you want to send, and who are you sending it to? Or is your work more for you than anyone else?

It depends on the piece. Through using only open source software I aim to bring creativity via software to more people. Through releasing much of the code and techniques I aim to make digital art more accessible. For an example of a piece that has meaning behind, see What Revolution? and I Am Sitting in a Room. They don’t have very deep meanings but there is more to them than just being pretty.

There are, however, times when I just want to make a pretty picture.

What techniques and equipment do you use most to create your work? What’s your favourite process?

I create almost ll of my artwork on my Dell Studio laptop. Since 2007 I’ve exclusively used Ubuntu Linux. The combination of the two makes for a very capable, if not very powerful, computer to create things on. Occasionally I use old camcorders, VHS tapes, circuit-bent toys (for sounds) and whatever other materials I can find. However, it nearly always is somehow compiled into something on the computer.

In terms of software, for my still images, I mostly use text editors. I did make some scripts to automate some glitch effects – the What Glitch? scripts – but these essentially automate glitching files using a text editor. Despite writing the popular tutorial on databending using Audacity tutorial, I rarely use Audacity in my work. I’m beginning to use Processing a bit more, but even then the output is usually glitched in text editors.

For my performance and VJ work I exclusively use Pure Data. Unlike Mac and Windows, there isn’t a wealth of choice when VJing [on Linux]. You either livecode in Fluxus, attempt to compile VeeJay or build your own software in Pure Data. I chose the latter as it allows me to build software that suits my needs and evolves as I do (the same can be said for similar programs like Max/MSP).

Video mixer V1

An old video mixer, built in Pure Data


As far as I’m aware there isn’t a way to produce glitch art using only PD (ok, there is a jpg glitch plugin but I’ve never got it to compile), but it’s great for adding glitch-like effects to videos.

Are there any elements to glitch art that you don’t like?


Interview with Pioneer Toolkit

An interview with me on Pioneer Toolkit has appeared online. In it I talk about open source software, glitch art and a bit about organising events.

The full interview is available on the website. The website has since been taken down, so the full interview is below:

In this, the first interview for the PioneerToolkit I ask Antonio Roberts about the tools he’s used to create, collaborate and organise his work as a digital artist.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a digital artist currently based in Birmingham. My artwork focuses on the errors and glitches generated by digital technology. I recently finished my MA in Digital Arts in Performance at Birmingham City University and now I’m continuing my practice as a digital artist. My solo and collaborative work has been shown locally at events including Leeds International Film Festival, BitJam and ArtsFest and internationally at events including GLI.TC/H in Chicago and the Laptop Meets Musicians Festival in Venice, Italy

The GLI.TC/H festival was quite some achievement, what tools helped you organise such a complicated event?

We mostly have Google and Skype to thank for that! The GLI.TC/H team consisted of Nick Briz, Jon Satrom, Evan Meaney and Rosa Menkman, with myself and Theodore Darst as additional curators/event organisers. Myself and Rosa aren’t based in Chicago like the rest of them so there was a lot of e-mailing. We used Google Docs to plan things like accommodation for artists, equipment, video screening lists and so on. Occasionally we’d have Skype conversations which helped conversations flow more fluidly.

Reading your twitter timeline and hellocatfood website its apparent that you rely heavily on Linux and open source applications. How do you find this influences what you do and how you do it?

It’s the driving force behind everything that I do. I made the decision some years ago to ditch proprietary software and I’ve never looked back. It started out with curiosityat the alternatives but now it’s become quite a politically charged act. I don’t like how nowadays creativity and design skills are so tightly linked to proprietary software that usually comes at a high price. Put simply, I don’t have £500+ to keep up with the latest software from Adobe that is released every few years. I believe that design should be more about the skill than the software. When it comes to design applications for Linux, I use the usual software, such as GIMP Inkscape, Scribus, Blender and Synfig. However, I’ve found Linux is better used for design that is heavily influenced by code and self-built tools. For example, for Dataface and I Am Sitting in a Room I built a number of command-line scripts to generate each iteration of the design. Similarly, for my glitch art I’ve built a number of scripts, called the What Glitch? scripts, that simplify the glitching process and save me a lot of time.

What projects / project are you working on at the moment?

The Network Music Festival, which I’m assisting in organising and also playing at, is coming up at the end of January I’m planning, with some assistance from Pete Ashton, on bringing BYOB to Birmingham in a few months. Few details are available at the moment, but watch the Tumblr and Twitter site for updates. Aside from that I’m continuing my work with BiLE and learning more about using Processing and Pure Data

What lessons learnt will you employ from the GLI.TC/H festival in future work?

When it comes to organising events GLI.TC/H taught me a lot about working remotely with others. When organising fizzPOP and Birmingham Zine Festival we were lucky as all of the organisers lived relatively near to each other. At first working across time zones was difficult but the internet has helped almost eradicate distance. I also learnt a lot about working with business partners. The process of receiving support from Arts Council England, Birmingham City University and VIVID revealed to me that there needs to be some sort of value to an artistic practice or event if it is to receiving any kind of support. In terms of artistic development, seeing the range of work at GLI.TC/H has inspired me greatly. It has mostly taught me to look at my work more critically and see something deeper than what is on screen. I hope to do more critical writing on several subjects such as glitch art and the politics of open source software and it’s link to design

How has the mobile web / always on nature of the internet helped or hindered your ability to get stuff done?

Before I got an Android phone I had to wait till I got home before I could do any sort of computer work, be it serious work or social media. Now, being able to check e-mails and read my RSS feeds on the go means that I can focus on work when I get home instead of all of the social things. On the other side of things I find myself constantly receiving notifications on my phone and desktop of new e-mails, tweets and wall posts, which can get irritating. Ironically my phone spends a lot of time on silent mode

Do you have any tactics for keeping focused?

Turn off the internet! Although it’s ironic to resort to using an application as a method of self control, I highly recommend installing SelfControl (Linux version also available) and using it regularly. Not being at all able to access Facebook, Twitter and other distracting website has really improved my productivity. Aside from that, make a plan and stick to it. Most nights before I go to sleep I make a list of things I need to do, even the little things. It helps clear my head for the next day

How do you hope developments in 2012 will make your life easier?

I hope the amount of physical devices/possessions I have will dramatically decrease. My phone has already replaced my diary/calendar and a lot of other things, so I’m hoping to do the same with books and films this year. Less dead weight On a technological side, my coding skills have been getting progressively better, so I hope I’m able to automate more tasks using programs writing by myself and others.

Interview with the Redbrick – GLI.TC/H BIRM

Shortly after GLI.TC/H hit Birmingham I did a short interview with Jonathan Melhuish for the Redbrick, Birmingham University’s newspaper.

GLI.TC/H Birm in Redbrick Newspaper

Original Photo by Jonathan Melhuish. Click to read article

Jonathan Melhuish: So, what is “glitch art”?

Antonio: Glitch art is making art out of analogue or digital errors. It can bemade using computers using techniques like attempting to open animage in a text editor or with physical objects, like opening up electronic toys andpoking around at its circuitry until you achieve odd and unexpectedresults.

It sounds like you’re celebrating technical failure.

Indeed we are. We don’t discard mistakes, we actively seek them out!

Is glitching something that only geeks can truly appreciate?

When it comes to glitch art, all you need is curiosity. When you startto do it, you may find it’s lots of fun and will achieve vivid imagery that would be difficult, or nearly impossible, to achieve using conventional methods and programs such as Photoshop. If you lookat popular culture, you’ll find artists such as Dizzee Rascal, KanyeWest and Everything Everything using these techniques in their music videos.

Read the full article on their website.

Interview with Imperica – Celebrating Imperfection

I was interviewed by Imperica recently about GLI.TC/H coming to Birmingham.

Caca on Imperica

For the viewer, appreciating Glitch art inevitably depends on the form that the work takes, and an understanding of the work not being “broken” but a new construction in itself. Glitched artwork “… can be beautiful, but it can also be chaotically noisy. It isn’t just an hour of TV static or hard noise. They have a narrative; they tell a story in some way. I want the viewer to see the value in things that are corrupted, bent, and broken.”

Go read it now!

GLI.TC/H comes to the world on the following dates:

  • Chicago_USA: Nov 4-6 2011
  • Amsterdam_NL: Nov 11-12 2011
  • Birmingham_UK: Nov 19 2011