I set myself the goal of trying to design error and imperfection within the processes and tools I use as a graphic designer every day.
I had once taken my digital camera for my holidays in Croatia during an uncommonly hot month of August in 2008. 2 weeks under the Croatian sun, spent visiting a couple of imposing cities and swimming in the Adriatic sea. At some point, it was fate that I would accidentally drop it in the swimming pool of the hotel I was staying at. It is fair to say that my hopes of seeing it working again were not that many, and in the end, my camera was in fact ruined. But to my surprise, the pictures inside it, saved in the confines of the broken device, were not. I could still open them on my computer, but they didn’t quite look like as I expected them to. They appeared like they had been the digital equivalent of teared up and ripped apart. Corrupted and distorted, with new colours, distorted shapes and weird patterns, the images ceased to serve as pictures of my holidays and became something entirely different. In other words, a glitch within a usually perfect system.
This accident served as the starting point of my project. The spontaneous creation of a new visual language as a creative expression of my broken camera fascinated and perplexed me — for reasons I would later find out — and I set myself the goal of trying to design error and imperfection within the processes and tools I use as a graphic designer, in order to produce a new visual language, such as the one my camera had produced every day.
Framing my research within these theoretical and practice based research fields helped me to position myself within my work and inspired me to develop a series of experimental projects to which Altered States became my main proposal. I started by selecting four different pictures of classical sculptures (Fig. 1) made according to the canons of the Golden Section: Venus de Milo, Apollo’s head, David’s hand and Diadumenos’ torso. Taking on board what I had learned about glitch art and data bending techniques, I planned to disrupt and generate glitches within these images according to a set of rules, analyse what type of results I would get and use them in a project. Defining the approach was easy. I used a data bending technique called The Worded Effect (Fig. 2), which consists of opening an image file within a text editor and then editing its code. So using the text editor on my Mac, I opened each file and randomly changed sections of their code, adding characters in parts, deleting in others and even though this process revealed some interesting results once I saved these files, the final outcomes were essentially fruit of randomness. They were made with no purpose or intention. This in fact constituted a problem considering that I wanted since the start, to establish a set of rules in order to control the corruption of these images. I needed a system, otherwise this process would be a purely inconsequential act.
To find these rules was a relatively easy step. The fact that each of the sculptures were built according to the Golden Section lead me to the Fibonacci sequence, which is in itself, a code that defines beauty and good proportion according to the Renaissance artists. My rules were set then: I was to disrupt these images by applying the rules of classical beauty to their code. After opening each image again in the text editor, I started by selecting each number in the code and replacing it with a number in the Fibonacci sequence, in an ascending order. After an enduring, laborious process of changing all of them, I saved the files. And I hoped for the best.
But the best didn’t happen. Photoshop refused to open my altered files and displayed an error message saying they were damaged or corrupted. I had effectively produced a disruption within a tool of graphic design: a file error. Even though I had used the classical rules of perfection, I had rendered their form and function imperfect. Ironically, the only software programme with which I managed to open my images with was the simplest tool on my Mac — Preview. This programme ignored the errors within the files and rendered the results of my experiment into visual form.
The result of this experiment revealed itself fascinating to look at. The images lost their function of pictures of sculptures and gained the characteristics of artworks. The spirits of each sculpture were still there, but barely perceptible. They were quasi replaced by the aesthetic of error and imperfection inherent in glitch art, far from the polished visual slickness of the commercial landscape of graphic design. A language made of saturated RGB colours, distorted stripes, errant pixels and skewed waves of black and white, on the verge of disaster, and non-communication. A new visual language was created through my actions.
I stopped being solely a designer and I also became an author.