Particulate arising from study

Category: Glitch Aesthetics

See the SSEC In Action

I was delighted to finally get my hands on the 1952 film Walk East on Beacon, a noir of questionable merit that has the distinction of featuring the SSEC in a minute-long cameo. Uploaded here is the scene in question, in which the patriotic scientist makes a breakthrough of great import (only later to be extorted by wholly unconvincing Soviet sleeper agents).

Of great interest to me is the speed of the flashing lights on what appears to be the SSEC’s sequence relays. How could this visual information be meaningfully interpreted by the human eye? Could its engineers pick up even the grossest pattern in its whirling activity? Why, moreover, did the designers include and so neatly order the lights? Was this intended to serve any purpose other than mystification?

Duet Avatar Grange

Alan Sondheim, Foofwa d’Imobilité


Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter & Foofwa d’Imobilité,


“On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge.” – WENDY HUI KYONG CHUN, PEOPLE!

Trauma and Code

“Trauma… serves as the archetypal moment of breakdown that brings into view the extent to which our present and future are entwined with intelligent machines. No longer natural, human-only language increasingly finds itself in a position analogous to the conscious mind that, faced with disturbing dreams, is forced to acknowledge that it is not the whole of mind. Code, performing as the interface between humans and programmable media, functions in the contemporary cultural imaginary as the shadowy double of the human-only language inflected and infected by its hidden presence.”

– N. Katherine Hayles, “Traumas and Code,” 42. In Critical Digital Studies: A Reader.

(Hayles is great. There’s a lot for me to mine in her work, even if it is a bit too focused on language and psychoanalysis for my materialist/phenomenological sensibilities. Also, she’s totally coming to town this fall…)

Digital Embodiment

Although a surface appraisal of phenomena such as VR or telepresent artworks may tender proof that we are gaining a distance from both the material of our bodies and the ability of art to directly affect the senses, I believe this appraisal rests upon an impoverished view of materiality and an unimaginative evaluation of new media art. Instead, I think that the incorporeal vectors of digital information draw out the capacities of our bodies to become other than matter conceived as a mere vessel for consciousness or a substrate for signal. In particular, we might point to the odd kinaesthetic and proprioceptive arrangements for bodies in many information interfaces, where the embodied self is forced into a close proximity with itself as a dematerialized representation via the cursor, the feedback of virtual and actual gesture in immersive environments or bandwidth, and the sensory compression in online interaction. These arrangements of sensation in tandem with information are commonly thought to herald the predominance of the information pattern over the matter it inhabits or hopes to control. Katherine Hayles has termed this entering “the condition of virtuality.” But we may also conceive of these experiences as new territory made possible by the fact that our bodies are immanently open to these kinds of technically symbiotic transformations.

– Anna Munster, Materializing New Media, 19 (quite the promising read so far)

Embodiment as a Destabilizing Force

In contrast to the body, embodiment is contextual, enmeshed within the specifics of place, time, physiology, and culture, which together compose enactment. Embodiment never coincides exactly with ‘the body,’ however that normalized conept is understood. Whereas the body is an idealized form that gestures toward a Platonic reality, embodiment is the specific instantiation generated from the noise of difference. Relative to the body, embodiment is other and elsewhere, at once excessive and deficient in its infinite variations, particularities, and abnormalities…

Embodiment is thus inherently destabilizing with respect to the body, for at any time this tension can widen into a perceived disparity.

– N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, 196-197.

The Glitch Moment(um)

This looks to be most promising…

Glitch Moment(um)

The political stakes of clean sex

As [Leo] Bersani says, the erotic is an equal opportunity archive; it borrows just as easily, possibly more easily from politically problematic imagery than from politically palatable material. This leaves open the question of the relationship between sex and politics. Bersani, generally speaking, in a move that is later stretched into a theoretical polemic by Lee Edelman, wants to resist and refuse the desire to make sex into the raw material for a rational political position. Instead he sees a tyranny of selfhood and a glorification of one understanding of the political in most claims for democratic plurality, social diversity, or utopian potential that get written into sex: we clean sex up, he seems to imply, by making it about self-fashioning instead of self-shattering.

-Judith Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure, p. 149

Shadow feminism

From the perspective of feminism, failure has often been a better bet than success. Where feminine success is always measured by male standards, and gender failure often means being relieved of the pressure to measure up to patriarchal ideals, not succeeding at womanhood can offer unexpected pleasures. In many ways  this has been the message of many renegade feminists in the past. Monique Wittig (1992) argued in the 1970s that if womanhood depends upon a heterosexual framework, then lesbians are not ‘women,’ and if lesbians are not ‘women,’ then they fall outside of patriarchal norms and can re-create some of the meaning of their genders. Also in the 1970s Valerie Solanas suggested that if ‘woman’ takes on meaning only in relation to the ‘man,’ then we need to ‘cut up men’ (2004: 72). Perhaps that is a little drastic, but at any rate these kinds of feminisms, what I call shadow feminisms in chapter 5, have long haunted the more acceptable forms of feminism that are oriented to positivity, reform, and accommodation rather than negativity, rejection, and transformation. Shadow feminisms take the form not of becoming, being, and doing but  of shady, murky modes of undoing, unbecoming, and violating.

-Judith Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure, p. 4