Reading: Glitch

Olga Goriunova is a new media researcher, teacher, and organizer. She is a co- creator of the Readme software art festival series, and a co- organizer of software art repository ( /).
Alexei Shulgin is an artist, theorist, musician, curator, and photographer. For more
information see http: // /

PDF Glitch by Olga Goriunova and Alexei Shulgin – from Software Studies

In this chapter from Software Studies the author present the concept of glitch. Glitches as visual motifs are getting increasingly more common in pop culture, games and music but artists have been exploring glitch aesthetics for at least two decades.

Besides Skrillex and the occasional glitched image, can you find artworks that incorporates glitches and explores the aesthetic of error?

Glitch festival is an easy starting point


In video art: Monster Movie by Takeshi Murata

In Jodi

In video games: ROM CHECK FAIL by Farbs

In electronic music: Alva Noto

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  1. rvalle

    Some cool glitch stuff: Really good glitch art, mainly from NES databending.
    /r/glitch_art and /r/brokengifs: Subreddits for glitch art.
    fjords: A cool game I played recently that makes pretty heavy use of glitching as a mechanic- breaking through level walls, adjusting your abilities with in-game consoles, stuff like that.
    TRSRockin: An archived site with a bunch of articles on video game glitches, including a ton of Missingno. reports. It was really entertaining when I was a kid.

  2. maddie_duque

    There is an entire genre of narrative story telling called “Videogame CreepyPasta” that revolves around this.

    They are internet horror folk tales that usually tell the tale of some guy who buys a glitchy game cartridge that ends up producing some traumatizing gameplay. The stories are usually accompanied by pictures of intentionally glitchy videogame graphics.

    Here is a video from Ben Drowned, a very famous creepypasta with art that was made by glitching out a Legend of Zelda game.

    Here is “The Theater”, a playable creepypasta that plays like a very glitchy children’s videogame.

    On a more humorous note, there also exist a lot of “Gary’s Mod” videos that take models from various videogames and animated them in a kind of glitchy way. (You may lose brain-cells though)

  3. jiheon_han

    Glitch shows us that things are unstable by nature; things, translated into images, are manipulatable, open to be “messed up”, to be formed into something else under its basic structural form. Reason why glitch can be annoying is since it disturbs our expectations on a flow of a game, moving images and sounds, etc.
    “Although a glitch does not reveal the true functionality of the computer, it shows the ghostly convention-ality of the forms by which digital spaces are organized,” Shulgin and Goriunova says, as a computer is built to function in a certain way, to run “smooth” with a fracture-free desktop, but in order to function as such, to display a clean output, there is a flux of data / code constantly being organized, re-organized – almost violent state of activity which can sustain such a surface. Glitch, appearing out of no-where, disturbing our everyday routine, lets us see such violent activity which is not ‘behind’ or hidden under, but inherent to digital activities.

  4. kaitlin_schaer

    Something about a glitched out image seems to me more interesting than the unadulterated image. Perhaps in the same way people are obsessed with instagram filters, we like glitchy images because they are somewhat better than real life- they are enhanced. They provide an interest and dynamic quality that the eye does not produce itself.
    There is also great mystery in the nature of the glitch itself. With the code not being directly translatable to something that is easily interpreted by human eyes, the computer takes ownership of the results- it has it’s own signature. The unpredictability of this- removing the result from human hands- is appealing.

    An interesting glitch process- Pixel Sorting :

  5. obawole_idowu

    As an ECE major it made me feel some way hearing about glitches and bugs. However it was more positive as I went along. Dealing with glitches and bugs can be a tiring in stressful time and it’s probably the worst part of programming, but seeing in an artistic way, a way to defy what the greedy and demanding user wants, is a very powerful image in my mind. I spend a lot of time just on the site (, and it gave me an interesting look and perspective of things. Maybe the next time I make an app that glitches, instead of seeing it in a negative light, it could be seen as a form of art.

  6. Eryn

    There’s something about glitch art that doesn’t quite appeal to me. I don’t think a computer error should constitute as “art”. The fact that the human hand it is mostly created and decided by the computer, not a human artist. However, I do find it interesting in a different way. I think it is interesting that something created to be so consistent, stable, and intelligent can still make mistakes and inconsistencies. The computer can create something completely unexpected pretty much at its own will, and I find that fascinating, and kind of eery because it is essentially making its own decisions, in a way.

  7. Irene

    Wreck-it-Ralph is a movie that focused on a glitch, establishing the character Vanellope as a misunderstood and well-meaning error in a video game. While the movie itself was not created with (intentional) glitches, Disney chose to center most of the plot around what would traditionally be considered a mistake to be deleted. Vanellope’s “glitchiness” was introduced as an obstacle, not a disability – she eventually learned to use it as an advantage. In this sense, visual glitches can be considered more as accidental discoveries to be manipulated for the creation of more complex works, rather than as inaccuracies in code to be fixed.

  8. carolina_vogt

    I found the description of glitch being “a mess in the moment” accurate, and also revealing of the potential poetics in the seemingly perfect world of technology. I also agree that glitches are this moment of panic that make users realize that computers aren’t always entirely logical. However, that being said I find “glitch” art to be problematic because it is going against what makes glitches interesting in the first place, their spontaneity.

    this blog is sort of an homage to the range of glitch art:

  9. max_gonzales

    I think Tumblr has desensitized me a bit to the wonder of glitch art. Vapor wave is basically taking the same path that glitch art did. A lot of vapor wave imagery even includes some glitch aesthetics. In art, design, and fashion, glitch has become a go to aesthetic or punch line. You can’t go through a Tumblr feed without seeing some glitch art or glitch reference. Since glitches often involve the frozen images that separate the colors within the image or repeat the image itself, glitch imagery can be thought of as a pattern. Glitch imagery is so successful in design, fashion, and art because of these patterns . The creation of these images or interactions are done through a partial removal of the artist where there is a bit of uncertainty within what will be produced; however the artist still has the final say in how they will be curated or arranged.

  10. nick_sardo

    What I found most interesting about the article is that a glitch is basically a digital depiction of the realm of thought that there are no mistakes, only new opportunities. In other media, making mistakes often causes aesthetically beautiful occurrences. However, people seem to be attracted to glitch art because it spits in the face of commonly accepted aesthetics. When I think of what I understand to be a glitch, I do not think of an accidentally beautiful creation. The images that come to mind are ones of sharp edged patterns with conflicting colors, and warped shapes and images. They are often surprising and grating to the eye or the ear. To me, these are not appealing, but I kind of admire those who can see the beauty in something that is a destruction of a well crafted thing. It’s an extremely unique way of creating and changing perception.

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