Aesthetics of the Error- Human vs. Machine

In Tim Barker’s piece, Aesthetics of the Error: Media Art, the Machine, the Unforeseen, and the Errant, he breaks down his discussion into two segments: The Art of the Machine/The Art of Error, and Errors/Potentials/Virtuality. In both sections, I found the collaboration between human and machine to be both fascinating and thought provoking: How prominent is human intervention in the creation of glitch art as opposed to the power of both the machine processor and the virtual?

In the first section, Barker discusses the artist’s involvement in facilitating glitches through setting up what Manual DeLanda conceived to be “degrees of freedom” (46). This posits the artist as an overseer of the occurrence of the error by arranging certain conditions, while the machine itself creates the error. At first this made me think that the artist’s work is easy- just think of a concept for a glitch, and the machine will do it for you. However, conceptualizing a glitch that both expresses one’s vision and is at the disposal of a certain processor is not an easy task, and just like a director of a film, the artist must make sure everything is orchestrated in a precise way in order to bring their vision to life. The machine can then be seen as the film crew who makes it happen, and the errors (or the film) are a result of the many moving parts involved in bringing an idea to life.

Barker’s second section also blew my mind, as he quoted Steven Shaviro’s definition of the virtual as “’a field of energies that have not yet been expended, or a reservoir of potentialities that have not yet been tapped’” (50).  This caused me to visualize all of the potential errors that could possibly occur not only in art but in every aspect of life and the actions we make, especially in this digital age when so much of our being exists in a virtual landscape. I was especially interested in Manovich’s cultural communications model, and how our post-digital cultural communication can be interpreted as “SENDER-SOFTWARE-MESSAGE-SOFTWARE-RECEIVER” (48). We usually do not think of software as part of our human culture, but this model emphasizes the cultural significance of all of the software that mediates our human experiences and interactions with one another. We rely so much on this software, that errors have a big impact on the flow of our social and personal lives. Glitch art points out the power that this software has by bringing it to our attention and shaking up the seamless digital communication channels that we depend on so heavily. It utilizes the virtual by providing an alternative to both error-free software and the infinite amount of other glitches that could occur either independently or simultaneously. Overall, each interaction between human and machine can result in an array of different outcomes, and neither facilitator has full control.