Glitch Muse: “Wreck It Ralph” and the Aesthetic of Error

Bruno Munari, Useless Machines

Tim Barker’s piece on the aesthetic of error has forced me to think deeply about glitches and the ways in which material can be manipulated in order to induce innovation and change. Yes, glitches are unforeseen aberrations that come as a result of unintended distortion. Yes, errors are potential mistakes that have become actual. But are they as meaningless and futile as the terms connote? No. Many artists have taken advantage of the many inadequacies of the digital age and generously exploited its failures in order to articulate the creative genius that the world has been blessed with today. Take, for example, the pleasantly charming character of Venellope von Sweet from Pixar’s Wreck It Ralph (2012):

Wreck It Ralph (2012)

Cute, right? Now, anyone who is familiar with the storyline of Wreck It Ralph will know that Venellope is a glitch within her own video game, often causing technical difficulties and being tormented by the other game characters time after time. But, by the end of the film, Venellope uses her function as a glitch in order to save Ralph and the entire arcade (and her whole glitch aesthetic really ties the whole film together, if I’m going to be quite honest).

Where am I going with the Wreck It Ralph reference? My point being that Venellope von Sweet is a simple yet excellent and Disney-fied representation of the very complex ideas behind Tim Barker’s writings. On one hand, she is an error, a flaw, a miscalculation. On the other hand, despite her imperfections and limitations within the game, she is, as Barker would say, one of the most “central constituting elements of the piece” (44). The film does a great job at creating discrepancies in the ways we perceive error and glitch, and re-placing it in a context that is similar to our own, as a glitch art class, and Tim Barker’s.

Another one of Barker’s main points that he tries to get across is the idea that the authority over a piece of art may not have control, if any at all, over the potential of error in one’s work. Even if an alteration was intended, often time it is not even up to the artist’s discretion whether or not the administration over a glitch will produce an outcome that is exactly what they had expected. Instead, much like Franz Erhard Walther’s own painting, it seems that the aesthetic of error is very much beyond one’s control and is open to any possibility of becoming totally botched in the process. At this point, it may be useful to address Deleuze’s theory of the virtual which defines itself as (at least, to my understanding) an infinite slew of realities that are likely to become actual. In a way, it is a variation of the multiverse theory, and for the sake of simplification, they both make the same claim: although something did not happen, it COULD happen.

For a glitcher (glitch-ist?), or anybody for that matter, errors may not even occur, but they are evidently present within the system that is beyond user control. In my current mentally prepared state for our first glitch tutorial, I am both very comforted and terrified by this idea. Why? Because knowing that errors are both inevitable and infinitely possible is reassuring and so is the fact that we will be activating these glitches ourselves. However, being the very stubborn person I am, I have no doubt that getting results other than the ones I hope for will be an absolute pain. Perhaps it’s time to take a lesson from Bruno Munari and simply trust in the art of the machine and its own creative forces.



3 thoughts on “Glitch Muse: “Wreck It Ralph” and the Aesthetic of Error

  1. When thinking about glitch, I can’t help but think about the Wreck it Raplh reference as well. As we saw in this film, the glitch proved to be much more than an error as it helped Venellope win the race in the end (spoiler alert!). Taking this into account I feel we can see how diverse the outcomes of glitching something can be and I am so glad you made this reference.


  2. I very much appreciate your Wreck-It-Ralph reference!

    Having to navigate the different personal implications glitch art, error in creation, endless potential, and lack of control has for an artist is something I definitely understand. I agree that while liberating, it can be very frustrating, and even terrifying as well.


  3. I think the idea of relating the readings to Wreck It Ralph. The concepts were a little hard to grasp for me but after reading your explanation of it and how the character of Venellope is the perfect example of this. By breaking it down, I think it simplified some of Barkers complex ideas.


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