The Cooperative Glitch: Perpetual Change Within Safe Spaces

by Hailey Ruffner

This visual experience is an exploration of the subcultural ideals and the impermanence of life within and outside of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative community.

Having lived in one of the co-ops in Isla Vista for two years, I have been witness to the constant evolution that each of the five houses goes through as members comes and go, and the atmosphere transforms as a result of the ever-changing dynamics. Through visually capturing and glitching the co-ops and the people I have connected with during my time as a member, I hope to illustrate how nothing constant exists besides the physical houses themselves as the people and things within them change and new eras arise. Even the colors of the houses represent this impermanence, as new members paint over the artwork of the old and bring their own flavor to the co-ops to continue a new legacy.

Mood board:

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Sneak Peak:

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The Future:

  • Locally, I could show my installation again at a future co-op event. Among the houses there are often parties, shows, spoken words events, etc. at the different houses in Isla Vista, so I could present my work to the other members to see. Many of my housemates came to the Reel Loud Film Festival and saw my display already, but it would be great for even more members to see their houses glitched.
  • Another gallery I could submit to: https://www.eyedrum.org/

Reflection:

          Before delving into the concept of the glitch, I thought of glitch art as simply a visually interesting form of art that was a result of our digital age and our ability to manipulate pixels. I have since learned that glitch not only extends to audio, video, and photographic art, but also holds meaningful political implications, and exposes the systematic infrastructures in both the online realm and society as a whole. In this course I began by glitching my own images using other peoples’ codes, and glitching songs by other people. As I learned the ropes, I went on to glitch my own photos, videos, and audio recordings and created the short sequence Delete My Life, which explored my own anxieties about living in a world of ubiquitous screens. I then conceptualized my own project for installation, The Cooperative Glitch, which I intended to reflect on my experiences living in cooperative housing in Isla Vista, and explore both the impermanence of life within the co-ops and the subculture’s rejection of traditional living. Making this was a process of capturing the footage and photographs I needed, glitching them, and creating a space for my installation that reflected the mood of the project. Overall, I am pleased with how everything turned out and how it was received by the public, and the whole creative process allowed me to experience what it is like to display my artwork, how my intention may or may not transfer to the audience, and that new meaning is created through reception.

            Since my project was partially a personal contemplation on my own experiences, I started out by going through photos and videos of mine that were taken in and outside of the co-op houses from my years as a member. I had a lot to work with from my own house, Newman, so I knew I had to take more pictures of the other houses. I also had a lot of pictures with my housemates, many of which lived with me last year but are no longer here, which was perfect for my intention to explore the constantly changing dynamics of the houses as members come and go. Looking back at photos from when I lived with some of my best friends was actually very nostalgic, and looking at photos of my current housemates made me prematurely nostalgic for when this era will end as well. I also had some photos of different rooms in the house, but knew I had to take more to display the spaces in which us members are constantly in flux, and overall to show people what the co-ops are like. Many people in the Isla Vista community have never even stepped inside any of the five houses, so my project gave them a sneak peak into our tight-knit subculture within this square mile.

            I went on to emailing all of the members to let them know I was doing this project just so they would be aware that I would be around taking photos and representing our system. I explained my intentions behind the project as well as what glitch art is, and the feedback I received was very positive. I proceeded to take pictures of the exterior of each house, and took some photos of different rooms and the front and back yards of some of the houses. My best friend Madi ended up being in a lot of my favorite pictures, which worked out nicely because she has switched around from living in Newman to another co-op, Dashain, so she embodies the transformation of the members moving around and switching up the atmosphere. I made sure to get a picture of my friend Josh Redman, who manages the co-op system and has been involved with the co-ops and the DIY community in Santa Barbara for over 10 years, so he is the perfect characterization of the co-ops.

            Once I compiled a plethora of colorful images to work with, I began the glitching process, which took a lot of time since I wanted to incorporate a lot of images. I didn’t want to rely on the codes of others, so I manually glitched a lot of the photos by manipulating their codes using Text Edit. This process was tedious because deleting, copying, and pasting parts of the codes sometimes destroyed the entire image, so I would have to go back and “undo” a lot of my attempts to glitch. The Text Edit method resulted in certain photos becoming more pixelated, and most photos having horizontal lines across them. Some photos had thicker lines but most lines were very thin, so I had to do a lot of manipulating in order to make those images more completely glitched throughout. The colors of the lines were often unpredictable, but if I found a piece of code that created a line in a color that I liked, then I continued to paste that piece of code to repeat that color throughout the image. For one of the images, I rotated it before I glitched it and then rotated it back to its original state in order to make the lines vertical. After glitching many photos through Text Edit, I wanted to create other forms of glitches to both add variety and to save time. I brought photos and videos into Photoshop and Premiere Pro CS6 and used various effects to create glitches and distortions.

            I then imported all of my files into Premiere and started to make a timeline, where I formed a fast moving sequence with my materials of mostly still images and a few videos. In order to create motion out of stills, for many of the images I included the originals and then quickly switched to the glitched image in order to create a GIF-like effect. I made very fast edits to keep it visually interesting, but this required me to use a lot of images in order to make the sequence just one minute long. I am happy with the length though, because it is perfect for looping since it is short and the images appear and disappear quickly, which makes people want to watch it more than once in order to actually see what the images are beyond just an amalgam of bright colors. To further mix things up, I took screenshots of text and illustrations on the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative website, which helped give context to the other visuals. I then used Photoshop to create the title and end credit images, for which I wrote out the text with the brush tool in order to give it a DIY feel. When I completed the sequence, I made sure the colors were all highly saturated and the pacing felt right, and then finally exported it for installation.

            For the installation I used my own belongings from our house, which seemed fitting, and included our television monitor, a pink tablecloth, our rug, a small space-themed cloth, candles, lights, my lava lamp, stained glass I made of a star and moon, my magic 8 ball, my small fake plant, a picture frame containing a description of my work, and flowers from our garden in a wine bottle vase. These quirky items created a space that directly reflected our house the co-ops and a whole, as well as my life for the past two years. I think my installation display very much added to the mood I wanted to convey, as well as attracted people to my space. From what I have gathered, I think people enjoyed my display, and even if they did not pick up on every intention I had behind it in terms of impermanence and the use of glitch, they admired the vibrant colors, the images and videos, and the glimpse at a different world. The project also ended up being almost a PSA to promote the co-ops, which I didn’t intend but am not mad about because it shows a genuine depiction of how positive the co-op lifestyle has been. If I could expand the project even more, I would include more images of members other than my most immediate friends in order to show the varying experiences of the different people in the co-ops. I also would like to experiment with different approaches to glitching the videos; beyond just using the different effects in Premiere to create an impression of glitch, I would like to manipulate the videos directly and see what results I could work with.  

            Overall, this experience motivates me to make more work to show at different venues, because I genuinely enjoyed the thrill of having my own display rather than just disseminating my work online. As for this project, I would like to display it at multiple spaces and galleries locally, so the wider Santa Barbara community can be reminded that the cooperative community is still alive and well. I would also like to expand my work with glitch to experiment with VDMX and more audio glitching. I will be getting my own camera very soon, so will have the ability to capture a lot more footage to glitch and create more projects to display in the future. I am very interested in the power of glitch in terms of how it exposes the constraints that dictate our activities both online and in real life that people usually do not think about. I think glitch could bring my work in film and digital art to a new level, and I plan on continuing my experimentation and following the work of those in the glitch community.