&nbrs;Beyond Resolution


“‘Material witness’ is a legal term; it refers to someone who has knowledge pertinent to a criminal act or event that could be significant to the outcome of a trial. In my work, I poach the term ‘material witness’ to express the ways in which matter carries trace evidence of external events. But the material witness also performs a twofold operation; it is a double agent. The material witness does not only refer to the evidence of event but also the event of evidence.”
- Schuppli, Susan. Dark Matters: an interview with Susan Schuppli, in: Living Earth,2016. 

[ 0001 ]
Resolution Dispute 0001 : MaterialA reflexive approach to materiality makes it possible to re-conceptualize materiality itself as ‘the interplay between a text’s physical characteristics and its signifying strategies’. Rather than thinking in the mediums’ material as fixed in physicality, a re-definition of materiality is useful because it opens the possibility of considering any text as embodied entity “while still maintaining a central focus on interpretation. In this view of materiality, it is not merely an inert collection of physical properties but a dynamic quality that emerges from the interplay between the text as a physical artifact, its conceptual content, and the interpretive activities of readers and writers.”1

Reflections on materiality should not just happen on a technological level. To fully understand a work, each level of materiality should be studied: the physical and technological artifact, its conceptual content, and the interpretive activities of reader, artist and audience. [the choice of any] digital material is not innocent or meaningless. With enough knowledge of the material, an investigation into digital materialilty can uncover stories about the origin and history of the material,  by others.


1. N. Katherine Hayles, ‘Print is flat, code is deep: The importance of media-specific analysis’, Poetics Today 25, no. 1 (2004): pp. 67-90.

 [ vernacular ]
A Vernacular of File Formats (2010)

A Guide to Databend Compression Design, 2010.

A file format is an encoding system that organises data according to a particular syntax. These organisations are commonly referred to as compression algorithms. The choice of an image compression depends on its foreseen mode and place of usage: for instance, is the file meant to be printed or redistributed digitally, what kind of accuracy will be necessary and what software or hardware will render the image?
In some cases the maker chooses not to use any encoding at all, but instead to store the data as an unprocessed file. Images shot by professional photographers for instance, will be shot and stored in a RAW image file format. A RAW image file contains minimally processed data, which normally comes straight from the image sensor (for instance a CCD chip), in order to avoid any impurities (artifacts) that might be involved with image mediation, transcoding or compression.
In A Vernacular of File Formats, I subsequently compressed the source image via different compression languages and subsequently implementing a same (or similar) error into each file, to let the otherwise invisible compression language presents itself onto the surface of the image.

︎︎ flickr documentation

︎Polish translation by Bogumiła Piotrowska, Piotr Puldzian Płucienniczak, Aleksandra Pieńkosz

In the winter of 2016, a 18,9GB digital archive of A Vernacular of File Formats, consisting of original pdfs, a catalogue of databend images, videos and documentation was part of a joint acquisition between MOTI and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.


Vernacular of File Formats (2011). Photoshop RAW, JPEG, JPEG 2000, PNG, BMP, Photoshop, TIFF, GIF, Targa. Digital Prints on Dibond (matte finish).

When noise becomes filter art [ or when cool becomes hot ], (2011 / edited 2017)

Glitches are hot. It is clear from what we see on MTV, Flickr, in the club or in the bookstore: while the Glitch: Designing Imperfection (Moradi, 2009) coffee table book introduced a glitch design aesthetic to the world of latte drinking designers, Kanye West used a glitch aesthetic to illustrate his broken love life.

But while glitch design fulfills an average, imperfect stereotype, a filter or commodity that echoes a medium is the message-standard, naturally, the “No Content - Just Imperfection” slogan of hot glitch design is still complimented by cool glitches.

In "The Laws of Cool", Alan Liu asks himself: What is "Cool"? He describes that cool is the ellipsis of knowing what is cool, and withholding that idea. However, as Liu writes, those who insist on asking, are definitely uncool. In an effort to answer the question that cannot be answered, and come full circle on the ellipsis, I will try to give my take on what cool glitch can be. To me, cool glitch is represented by the glitches that do not (only) focus on a static end product, but (also) on a process, a personal exploration or a narrative element (that often reflects critically on a medium). This is why cool is in a constant state of flux; it exists as an assemblage that consists of on the one hand the construction, operation and content of the apparatus (the medium) and on the other hand the work, the writer/artist, and the interpretation by the reader and/or user (the meaning). In the end, there is not one definition of cool glitch art, but many, which depend on the perspective chosen.

To make what was once cool now hot, or visa versa, and to take Designing Imperfection one step further, I hereby offer you A Vernacular of File Formats. In this PDF I describe the ways to exploit and deconstruct the organizations of file formats into new, brutalist designs.

…I am waiting for the first “Glitchs not dead“ peace of clothing in H&M. And because "fans are as bad as the ignorant", for the sake of being bad and ignorant, I will wear it!

UCNVs "Glitchs is not dead" shirt design, 2011.
Order and Progress. Fabio Paris Gallery. Brescia, Italy. 2010.

Vernacular of File Formats ft. Kim Asendorfs Extrafile. Expositie for Re:Visie NFF augustus t/m 30 september 2011.

[ vernacular ]
Why make (another) ‘glitch’ software

Realize that the gospel of Glitch Art also tells about new standards implemented by corruption. Not all Glitch Art is progressive or something new. The popularization and cultivation of the avant-garde of mishaps has become predestined and unavoidable. Be aware of easily reproducible glitch effects, automated by softwares and plug-ins. What is now a glitch will become a fashion.**

What I find today in the Glitch Art Flickr pool, are images opposing my original definitions of glitch - a short-lived fault in a system, inducing affect such as surprise or shock - and glitch art - work that makes us critically and radically challenge normative knowledge, values, habits and expectations. Instead, glitch art has become more and more like a style, or even a genre.
While glitch art as a style recalls Homi Bhabhas': "almost the same, but not quite" or “mimicry of digital slippage”, the ‘real’ glitch in glitch art has slowly diminished into a virtual signifier. The by popular culture commodified side of glitch has become a primal part of a new ‘glitch-economy’, which has left me to be believe I should pay more attention to this 'other side of the coin'.
This is why I decided to teach about the materiality of file formats; their different languages, slang or dialects, and how these specific qualities, rules and rhetorics can be exploited as a generative matter to create new images (a practice closely related to databending). I named the workshop "A Vernacular of File Formats" and showed different compression based artworks, while supplying the students with methods and tools to create their own format based research, and possibly art and design.
One of the troubles I ran into during the workshop was that the tools I had were not ideal for such a workshop; with every other file format we set out to manipulate we had to switch softwares, which between the different OSs' on the students computers became a real *pain*.
When I spoke to Johan Larsby (the creator of Swutits) about the lack of software, he proposed a collaboration - which is how the Monglot project started.

︎ Monglot only worked on MacOS 10.5 and 10.6. In 2016 KernelEquinox opensourced a program inspired by Monglot for Windows -> ︎

︎ More about monglot and its strange interface here
Monglot (2011)
A Glitch Software collaboration with Johan Larsby (SE) 2011.

Of Mimicry and Glitch Art: The Ambivalence of a 'Colonial' Glitch Art discourse
(order and progress || chaos and destruction)

The name Monglot is a degeneration of the terms Mongrel and Monoglot (the term also references Homi Bhabha's "forked tongue" of colonialism and something I would like to refer to as Glitch Speak).

Mongrel: the offspring of a variety of species, of mixed background, bastard, or imperfect crossbreed
Monoglot: knowing only one language; monolingual.

Generally,  glitch aesthetics or compression artifacts such as fragmentation, grain, ghosting, heterodynes, interlacing, jitter, jaggies, (…) posterization, pixelating, quantization error, ringing, staircase noise, scan lines (…) come to the surface because of an accidental flaw in the image data, which shows on the surface of the image itself.

The Monglot software generates glitches. It does this by adding a random or chosen error to the image-data, which is encoded via a compression language of choice. This error than  sits on the surface of the image. In doing so Monglot mashes two languages together: the language of the compression and the visual image itself. 

While for most glitch softwares the final product is the focus, Monglot focusses on the /experimental/, generative part of glitching.

By comparing different file formats and their behaviors, Monglot can be used to learn and research about file formats.

Monglot aims to show the ambivalence (cool vs. hot) and the double articulation (encoding vs. image data) of (file format-based) Glitch Art.

The user of Monglot is able to repeat an error by clicking ‘Glitchspeak’ or chose a particular error on the ‘Replace’ function of the software. This is how Monglot exists as a compromise in-between cool and hot.
[ vernacular ]
Extrafile (2011)

Extrafile vs. Monglot: a commission for Kim Asendorf, 2011. ︎
From the Extrafile project wesbite:

ExtraFile is conceptual software art with a practical usage, developed in 2011 by Kim Asendorf.

Its main intention is to wiggle the static system of image file formats.

Extrafile started with the idea of inventing a new image file format, a format as a piece of art, far away from the mainstream and commercial standards. A format that would exist just to express the feeling of using and saving data in a new, fictitious or artificial way and bringing the filename extension into the scope of the artwork itself. In simple terms: Creating an exclusivity.

The freedom not to have to pay attention to the file size or the loading and saving times provides the option to implement artistically byte orders, odd quality behaviors and visual designed formats.

ExtraFile is breaking the rules of commercial formats like JPG, PNG or TIFF. It is a pioneer art project in storing image data. The process and the resulting bytes, regardless of content, become the artwork itself.

You want painters to build their own canvas?
Digital artists and collectors deserve exclusive formats. Personalized files, including costume headers or comments. Every bit could be placed like the artist wants it.

ExtraFile is a native Mac OS X image converter application with the ability to open, preview and save the most common image file formats. It offers the possibility to use the seven build-in formats, 4Bit Components, Block Ascii, Block Indexed, Channel Compressed Image, Monochrome Collector File, Uniform Spectrum and the ExtraFile Format, to store image data.

ExtraFile is an open source project, the source code is available on GitHub under the Artistic License 2.0.

Notes, comments and related projects:
Extrafile vs GLI.TC/H
Extrafile vs. A Vernacular of File Formats by Rosa Menkman
Extrafile - tiff > cci / bmp > cci by Jose Irion Neto
when we ran out of formats, there was ExtraFile by Bit Synthesis
EXTRAFILE by Hellocatfood
extrafile by Pixelnoizz

[ ecology ]
An Ecology of Compression Complexities (2017)
An Ecology for Compression Complexities / Small
A map of the different complexities of compression artifacts featuring the realms of :

⦁ Dots

━ Lines

︎ Blocks

⌇ Wavelets

⟗ Vectors