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[ 0010 ]

Resolution Dispute 0010 : Genealogy (vs. /his/tory)
“Genealogy does not pretend to go back in time to restore an unbroken continuity that operates beyond the dispersion of forgotten things [...]. On the contrary, [...] it is to identify the accidents, the minute deviations [...] the false appraisals, and the faulty calculations that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and have value for us; it is to discover that truth or being does not lie at the root of what we know and what we are, but the exteriority of accidents.”
- Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History." in: the Foucault Reader, ed. P. Rabinow (Harmondsworth: Penguin) 1984. p.81

Genealogy (vs. /his/tory)
While history often refers to the study of lines of descent and origin, the development of families and the tracing of their lineages, in reality, especially in the digital realm, the development of material does not follow any traditional lines of descent. If at all, the ‘historical continuity’ of digital material is one of breaks, voids, bends, forks, in-betweens, legacy, instabilities, ossification, abandonment and turns. In fact, there is no such thing as a ‘technological continuum’. Rather than ‘the history of a digital material’, there are many, parallel, interconnected non-linear, fragmented and overlapping discourses which impact each other in many directions. Thus, digital material, is best described following a genealogical model.

Genealogy does not pretend to go back in time, to restore what Foucault calls an "unbroken continuity, that operates beyond the dispersion of forgotten things". Genealogy is a specific type of history that deconstructs that which once was unified and makes a continuity of discontinuities. It researches the descents and emergences of how systems of affiliation come into play and maps the understanding and meaning of the object accordingly.

Genealogy considers the many affiliated, interconnected and (geo-)fragmented processes that build their own discourses: it intends to shine a light on why particular technologies develop a social-political momentum in a specific point in time and how this momentum changes over time. To write a genealogy means to write the stories of emergence of a use or practice; it reveals the pre-existing battles present at the moment of arising. It threads different strands constructed from ambiguous, pre-existing discourses, it (inter)connects or juxtaposes generations of different communities and their working methods, conceptual themes and politics.

There is no such thing as a complete history. There are only the many stories from different perspectives, derived from uncertain interpretations, that are neither true nor false. The many stories of media technology are constantly subject to revision:

while their language systems emerge, meanings shift, idioms ossify and vernacular turns to affectual signifiers.
... and then they change again.


1. Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History." in: the Foucault Reader, ed. P. Rabinow (Harmondsworth: Penguin) 1984. p.81

The slides underneath are from the New Media class ‘Beyond Resolution’ which I thaught as substitute professor at the KHK (Kassel) in the Sommer Semester of 2018. During this week we unpacked the term ‘Genealogy’ via in two weeks; one week was dedicated to standardization via test cards and the next week was dedicated to the development of the meaning of one specific glitch effect: macroblocking, specifically in moving image. The slides are clickable; they either link to the work reference or zoom.

Lexicon of Glitch Affect
Over the past decennia, the glitch art genre has grown up so much: glitch (and glitch art) is not just an aesthetic in digital art, glitch is in the world now.
The understanding of artifacts inherent to digital technologies, such as cracked screens, broken images, analog noise… All these artifacts have become normalised: digital technologies have become ubiquitous and so have these artifacts. They are everywhere. Everywhere is now littered with glitch.
Glitches are on the flyer of my local falafel shop in Berlin. They are in the commercials of my least favorite politicians. I can even deploy them a face filter on instagram! As a result, glitches are far from the scary, unexpected break they once were. 
Today, the glitch effect is either used purely for its aesthetics, or as a reference to where it comes from technologically. This is why the glitch has evolved from meaningless break of a flow, to an effect with a signifying quality: over the past decades, the glitch has become a figure of speech. And this is what I researched in this “Lexicon of Glitch Affect”.

The Lexicon intends to offer an insight into the development of meaning in the aesthetics of distortion in Sci-Fi movies throughout the years, via an analysis of 1200 Sci-Fi Trailers. Starting with trailers from 1998, I reviewed 30 trailers per year to obtain an insight into the development of noise artifacts in Sci-Fi from before the arrival of the home computer, to Sci-Fi adopting the contemporary aesthetics of our ubiquitous digital devices. My source for the trailers is the Internet Movie Database, where I accessed lists of the top-US Grossing Sci-Fi Titles per year. When watching these trailers I took screenshots whenever a distortion occured, and when possible interpreted them. Currently the database includes findings from research done into 630 trailers (1998-2018) but I wish to extend it to 1980-2020, spanning the 40 years of advancements in digital technologies and its distortions.

Underneath this very short essay I offer my most interesting findings per year.
When you click an image, you get access to the noise artifacts per year.

Glitch Art genre (2019)  Every file format consists of a language, or ‘dialect’, according to which it is encoded, often also refered to as a compression algorithm. When we break this organization of data, by for instance glitching or databending, a new utterance or visual expression appears, showcasing the otherwise obfuscated organizations of compression on the surface of the image. These newly emerged images are often directly dismissed as 'garbage' or 'noise artifacts’, but sometimes, the results of these noise artifacts can in fact reveal exciting, unexpected new forms of expression or ‘visual slang’. It is these modes of expression that artists have named the genre of Glitch Art. But, to call glitch a genre suggests it is intelligible and that it follows certain norms or rules.

From its beginnings, glitch art used to exploit medium-reflexivity, to rhetorically question technologies ‘perfect’ use, conventions and expectations. However, paradoxically, over time glitch art has become standardized into a genre that also fulfills certain expectations (oa. to rhetorically question the medium). This reflexive approach inherent in the materiality of the glitch tends to, as Katherine Hayles would assert, re-conceptualize the glitches’ materiality into an interplay between its ‘physical characteristics and its signifying strategies’. But glitch genres perform their reflection on digital materiality not just on a technological level. To really understand a glitch, each level of this notion of (glitch) materiality should be studied: the text as a physical artifact, its conceptual content, and the interpretive activities of artists and audiences.
Distortions in Sci-Fi
Distortions prompt the spectator to engage not only with themes, but also with complex subcultural and meta-cultural narratives and gestures, presenting new analytical challenges. In the Glitch Moment(um) (Institute of Network Cultures, 2010) I wrote that every form of glitch, either breaking a flow, or designed to look like a break from a flow, will eventually become a new fashion. As the popularization and cultivation of the glitch genre has now spread widely, I believe it is important to track the development of these processes in specific case studies and create ‘a lexicon of distortions’. New, fresh research within the field of noise artifacts is necessary. In an attempt to expand on A Vernacular of File Formats, I propose a lexicon that deconstructs the meanings of noise artifacts; a handbook to navigate glitch clichés as employed specifically in the genre of Sci-Fi. 

Sci-Fi relies on the literacy of the spectator (references to media technology texts, aesthetics and machinic processes) and their knowledge of more ‘conventional’ distortion or noise artifacts. Former disturbances have gained complex meaning beyond their technological value; with the help of popular culture, these effects have transformed into signifiers provoking affect. For example, analogue noise conjures up the sense of an eerie, invisible power entering the frame (a ghost), while blocky-artifacts often refer to time travelling or a data offense initiated by an Artificial Intelligence. Interlacing refers to an invisible camera, while camera interface esthetics (such as a viewfinders and tracking brackets or markers around a face) refer to observation technologies. Hackers still work in monochrome, green environments, while all holograms are made from phosphorous blue light. And when color channels distort, the protagonist is experiencing a loss of control. 

︎Click on a year and see all the a/effect per trailer of that year!

1998 - In the Truman Show, CCTVs secret observation cameras are outfitted with scanlines and vignetting.
1999 - Unicode characters displayed as streams of monochrome, vertical data signify the hackers navigating ‘the Matrix’.
2000 - Sci fi screens feature a lot of blue because sets often use tungsten (warm) light. Filmmakers compensate for this in post processing, during which blue colors are effected the least, maintaining the vibrancy of other colors the best. In this shot from Supernova, a critical SOS signal is received.
2001 - in Jimmy Neutron, an alien observes the parents. A voice over says: “The crummy aliens stole our parents”
2002 - S1m0ne, a digital simulation, is deactivated and falls apart in a million pixels. 

2003 - “The machines are starting to take over!” is uttered when T-X knocks out the terminator. A combination of what seems like digital and analogue, monochrome red distortions cover the ‘interface’ of the Terminators point of view as he goes down. 
2004 - In The Manchurian Candidate, soldiers are kidnapped and brainwashed for sinister purposes. Some of the shots use military night vision equiplement. 
2005 - In Stealth, an artificial intelligence program has “rewired itself and chosen its own target”. Blue, phosphorous holograms are flanked by non understandable diagrams and information. 
2006 - ‘experimental surveillance technology’ uses grid like, monochrome maps on top of maps in Deja Vu
2007 - Umbrella Corp uses surveillance technology, which uses tracking brackets and facial markers to compare a target to an image file.
2008 - Interruptions in live television streams are no longer illustrated by analogue noise, but by macroblocking artifacts (referencing new .mp4 and streaming technologies) in Quarantine. 
2009 - A fantastic year for glitch artifacts in sci fi, my favorite trailer is the Fourth Kind, which features monchrome EVP alongside analogue, wobbulating video registrations.
2010 - The good old text based, cyano green (old and hacker) console that functions as a portal to Tron.
2011 - In Source code, a soldier can not only jump back in time but also into someone else's body. These jumps are always rough and confusing. Aesthetically, the jump look a body fell apart into little triangular vectors travelling a somewhat noisy, blocky [that must be the time shift] wire plane.
2012 - Looper is set in 2074. In this time, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Time jump problems are shown by a sliced image with ghosting colors. 
2013 - In Elysium, Max is observed through a broken monitor. It is so action packed, even the color channels are no longer properly aligned. 
2014 - During a fighting scene between Electro, who has the ability to control electricity, and Spiderman, the billboards of Times Square go all glitchy. ÷ The Amazing Spider-Man™ 2 (2014) was shot on KODAK VISION3 Color Negative Film.
All the bill boards glitch and finally explode, while Kodak is the of the last billboards left standing.
2015 - A group of teens discover secret plans of a time machine, and construct one. However, things start to get out of control. This is when blocking artifacts occur (similar to DV blocking when a tape is being FFWD). 
2016 - In Captain America, archival footage features very clean and clear (digital) scan lines. 
2017 was a very interesting year for noise artifacts. Several trailers use them very meaningfully. In the Ghost in the Shell, ‘noise’ is more complex than contemporary compression artifacts (combining color channels, blocks, lines and some structures that are not, as far as I can see, directly referencing any compression). This must signify the ghost, existing and developing as a very complex creature inside the networks.
2018 - In Annihilation, a biologist is confronted with a mysterious zone where the laws of nature (and distortion) don't apply. Here destortions are not destroying something, but they are ‘making something new’.

[ geneology of glitch affect ]

Glitch Timond, 2014.11 irregular archival prints mounted on foamboard.

In A Vernacular of Glitch ‘Affect’, I illustrate my collection of noise tropes from popular culture, where dither is co-opted by the punks, green and black binary code refers to hacker action, macroblocking signifies AI and analogue noise implies the presence of ghosts, to name just a few.

The collage shows a collection of glitch clichés collected from popular culture. These former disturbances have gained meaning beyond their technological value; the effects have became signifiers, pointing to the presence of for instance hackers, ghosts, A.I., 'reality' and lofi or retro 'emotional' technologies.
I chose to frame the chliches in non-square, non-quadrilateral windows, in different x/y/z spaces, as an example of the blindness for other possibilities caused standard resolutions.

[genealogy of macroblocks]
“We already know too much for noise to exist”
Douglas Kahn, Noise Water Meat: 1999 (p. 21)

As the popularization and cultivation of glitch artifacts is spreading, it is interesting to track the development of these processes in specific case studies. One case study of a compression artifact, referred to as ‘datamoshing’, tells an especially interesting account of glitch cultivation.

The datamosh artifact is located in a realm where compression artifacts and glitch artifacts collide. The artifact caused by compression is stable and reproducible, as it is the effective outcome of keyframes being deleted. The outcome of this deletion is the visualisation of the indexed movement of macroblocks, smearing over the surface of an old keyframe. This makes the video morph in unexpected colours and forms.

In 2005, Sven König embarked on his exploration into the politics of file standards, through this particular datamoshing effect, and in relation to the free codec Xvid. Xvid is a primary competitor of the proprietary DivX Pro Codec (note that Xvid is DivX spelled backwards), which is often used for speedy online video distribution through peer-to-peer networks. In aPpRoPiRaTe! (Sweden: 2005) König used the codec to manipulate and appropriate ‘complete video files found in file sharing networks’. His work included an open source software script that could be used to trigger the compression-effect in realtime. Through the use of the Xvid codec and copyrighted material, König tried to pinpoint the tension between the usage of non-proprietary compression codecs and their uptake in DRM (Digital Rights Management) remix-strategies.

In his next project, Download Finished! (2007), König explored how the codec could be used to transform and republish found footage from p2p networks and online archives. The result became the rough material for his online transformation software, which translated ‘the underlying data structures of the films onto the surface of the screen’. With the help of the software, file sharers could become ‘authors by re-interpreting their most beloved films’.

A swift maturation of the datamoshing effect took place in 2009 at the same time as Paul B. Davis was preparing for his solo show at the Seventeen Gallery in London. Davis’ show was partially based on a formal and aesthetic exploration of the artifact. While the show was intended to critique popular culture by way of datamosh interventions, this culture caught up with him overnight, when the effect penetrated the mainstream just prior to the opening of his show. Davis’ reaction to the fate of appropriation plays out as the opening quote of this chapter: ‘It fucked my show up...the very language I was using to critique pop content from the outside was now itself a mainstream cultural reference’.

Prominent music videos, including Kanye West’s Welcome To Heartbreak (2009, directed by Nabil Elderkin) and Chairlift’s Evident Utensil (2009, Ray Tintori) indeed had popped up bringing the datamoshing effect into the mainstream via MTV. The new wave of interest in the effect generated by these clips, lead to a Youtube tutorial on datamoshing, followed by an explosion of datamosh videos and the creation of different datamosh plugins, developed by for instance the Japanese artist UCNV, the director of the Evident Utensil Video Bob Weisz or Goldmosh Sam Goldstein.

In the 2010 GLI.TC/H festival in Chicago, thirty percent of the entries were based on the datamoshing technique (around 80 of a total 240). The technique that was used to critique popular culture, by artists like König or Davis, was now used to generate live visuals for the masses. Datamoshing had become a controlled, consumed and established effect. The aesthetic institutionalization of the datamoshing artifact became more evident when Murata’s video art work Monster Movie (2005), which used datamoshing as a form of animation, entered the Museum of Modern Art in New York in an exhibition in 2010.

This ‘new’ form of conservative glitch art puts an emphasis on design and end products, rather than on the post-procedural and political breaking of flows. There is an obvious critique here: to design a glitch means to domesticate it. When the glitch becomes domesticated into a desired process, controlled by a tool, or technology - essentially cultivated - it has lost the radical basis of its enchantment and becomes predictable. It is no longer a break from a flow within a technology, but instead a form of craft. For many critical artists, it is considered no longer a glitch, but a filter that consists of a preset and/or a default: what was once a glitch is now a new commodity.

SOLO SHOW: Behind White Shadows (2017)

Transfer Gallery, Brooklyn NY, September 9th through October 14h, 2017. 
This second solo show of Rosa Menkman at Transfer Gallery, features a new installation of Menkman’s research into the compromises implicit in image processing technologies. For ‘Behind White Shadows’ Menkman extends her virtual reality piece DCT:SYPHONING. The 1000000th (64th) interval beyond the headset into the gallery, projecting on a monumental sculpture: the Spomenik for resolutions that will never be and presenting topographies of her 3D environments. 

To accompany this exhibition, Menkman releases a new essay The White Shadows of Image Processing: Shirley, Lena, Jennifer and the Angel of History, presenting her recent research into color test cards.

The central piece in the show ‘DCT:SYPHONING. The 1000000th (64th) interval’ is a fictional journey through the historical progression of image complexities, told as a modern translation of the 1884 Edwin Abbott Abbott novel “Flatland”. Menkman leads us through a universe of abstract, simulated environments, made from materials evolving from early raster graphics to our contemporary state of CGI realism.
At each level, Menkman’s virtual world interferes with the formal properties of VR to create stunning and disorienting environments, throwing into question our preconceived notions of virtual reality. In doing so, ‘Behind White Shadows’ casts light on some of the problematic issues surrounding the emergence of 3D technologies, asking questions such as: what do the hegemonic conventions of sight obscure? And: who gets to move beyond the frame and decide the perspective?

- DCT SYPHONING (VR, installed in niche behind Spomenik)
- Spomenik (sculptural installation w/ projection mapping)
- An Ecology of Compression Complexities (map, archival print) 
- A Behind White Shadows glow in the dark patch
- Behind White Shadows of Image Processing :: the research cabinet and essay 

A warm thank you goes out to TRANSFER (Kelani Nichole), Casey Bloomquist (for helping with the building of the Spomenik),  DiMoDA (William Robertson and Alfredo Salazar-Caro for their help and support of DCT:SYPHINING) and Mario de Vega (who designed the Behind White Shadows pdf)


Spomenik (2017)
Centrepiece of my Behind White Shadows solo show
(Transfer Gallery NYC, 2017) 
The Spomenik is a 3x4 meters large format sculpture, made out of triplex wood, painted white featuring projection mapped videos. The scultpure also hides a little cave in the back where visitors can play VR in peace. 

A monument for resolutions that will never be.

The Spomenik is inspired by the Spomeniks from the Balkan; brutalist monumental architecture, historically commemorating “many different things to many people”. The shape is inspired by Spomeniks such as Tjentiste and Ostra, but does not directly copy their shape but uses these structures as a reference.

This Spomenik is dedicated to resolutions that are impossible, such as ‘screen objects’ (shards) and the not (yet) implemented possibilities non quadrilateral screens have to offer.

This installed shard is three meter high, hiding a VR installation behind, running DCT:SYPHONING. The VR is accessible from the back of the Spomenik. The projection on the Spomenik is partially a mapped live stream from the VR.

The Spomenik also features textures of the Ecology of compression complexities, of which the map was layed out in front.

︎ The Spomenik was build with the help of  Casey Bloomquist.


[[about calibration, decalibration, not being able to connect / read / write, refusal of connection]]

A modern translation of the 1884 Edwin Abbott Abbott roman "Flatland", explains some of the algorithms at work in digital image compression.
Inspired by Syphon, an open source software by Tom Butterworth and Anton Marini, in DCT:SYPHONING, an anthropomorphised DCT (Senior) narrates its first SYPHON (data transfer) together with DCT Junior, and their interactions as they translate data from one image compression to a next (aka the “realms of complexity”).

As Senior introduces Junior to the different levels of image plane complexity, they move from blocks (the realm in which they normally resonate), to dither, lines and the more complex realms of wavelets and vectors. Junior does not only react to old compressions technologies, but also the newer, more complex ones which ‘scare' Junior, because of their 'illegibility'.  

DCT:SYPHONING at JMAF, Tokyo, Japan, 2017

One screen version.

Production of DCT:SYPHONING
DCT:SYPHONING was first commissioned by the Photographers Gallery in London, for the show Power Point Polemics. This version was on display as a Powerpoint Presentation; a .ppt (Jan - Apr 2016).

A 3 channel video installation was conceived for the 2016 Transfer Gallery's show "Transfer Download", first installed at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco (July - September, 2016)

DCT:SYPHONING released as VR, commissioned as part of DiMoDA’s Morphe Presence and later as stand alone (2017).

>> Download the VR / standalone app for 

DCT:SYPHONING @the Current museum for contemporary art, NY, USA 

PDF Version 

The full edition of Lune Magazine 3 can be downloaded here:

This edition was guest edited by Nathan Jones

[ ecology ]
An Ecology of Compression Complexities (2017)

A map of the different complexities of compression artifacts featuring the realms of :

⦁ Dots (pixels, dither, coordinates) 

Lines (interlacing, interleaving, scan line, border, beam)

Blocks (macroblocks, cluster, )  

Wavelets (JPEG2000)

Vectors (3D obj, time encoding in MPEG4) 


Different instantiations I found my imagery used without permission and accreditation.

︎ more examples in this Flickr album.

I believe in a Copy <it> Right ethic.

“First, it’s okay to copy! Believe in the process of copying as much as you can; with all your heart is a good place to start – get into it as straight and honestly as possible. Copying is as good (I think better from this vector-view) as any other way of getting ‚’there.’ ” – NOTES ON THE AESTHETICS OF ‘copying-an-Image Processor’ – Phil Morton (1973)

In 2019+ This means proper accreditation && when considerate financial profit is expected, to ask for permission. 

Finding my own face on so many different commercial objects, led me to research historical instantiations: what does it mean to lose your own face? During this search I came across the stories of color test cards, the images of Caucasian ladies, used to calibrate color of analogue and digital image processing technologies. Some of these ladies have been used over and over, yet very little, sometimes not even their name is known. 

This was the start of my essay Behind White Shadows first published in (ed: Bogomir Doringer) Faceless, De Gruyter, 2018.