ocial Glitch: Radical Aesthetics and the Consequences of Extreme Events


Session Title:

  • Politics, Democracy, and the Posthuman

Presentation Title:

  • ocial Glitch: Radical Aesthetics and the Consequences of Extreme Events




  • Society, economy and technology are merging into one continent realm informed by what Nestler terms the derivative condition of contemporary life. Information capitalism turns knowledge into the means of production, creativity into an industrial sector and time into a future-at-present, as it penetrates and molds our relations to one another, to other species, to nature. New technological, legal, and social codes emerge and consequently new glitches appear – be they disruptions, breaches, bubbles, bugs, manipulation or leaks.

    SOCIAL GLITCH addresses the consequences of the interactions that inform this paradigmatic shift and raises the question as to how it affects human and non-human actors and victims alike. In the derivative condition, all relations are subject to the contingency of stochastic (probabilistic) models and their social execution.

    Codes drive imaging media in science, art and architecture; inform economy and politics; facilitate social practices and digital communication; define the New Aesthetics of algorithmic procedures. Their discrete operations, executed in between processes of modeling, evaluation, debugging and optimization, are, however, subject to the contingency of unexpected events and failures.

    “Glitch” is a term that denotes electric and electronic malfunctions in information data flows. Against the background of a world of experience shaped by technology and media, the term describes flaws and blurs manifesting in image interferences and bugs, amongst others. While they display undesired problem areas in the art of engineering, their effects and artifacts have been made the material of aesthetic experiments in media art and related fields since the 1960s. Increasingly, however, the “peaks” of these glitches flash over and affect the social realm.

    SOCIAL GLITCH, therefore, takes such events as the starting point for an actualization and reconsideration beyond media-immanent questions. Instead, the project focuses on new approaches from different artistic fields that address the performance of events, which in a kind of “negative transcendence” exert their influence into society and individual biographies. Thus, they reveal central issues at stake today, be they caused by defects (such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill), produced deliberately (such as manipulations disclosed by Edward Snowdon) or the result of algorithmic forms of speech (such as financial flash crashes). We coined the term “social glitch” to address these events and occurrences in terms of a historic-technological continuity of intensifying escalations.

    SOCIAL GLITCH assembles artistic projects that range from subversive and playful interventions, fictive and performative narratives to speculative experiments and research-based visualizations and interpretations of factual circumstances. The common theme behind these different approaches is an (often activist) engagement with and a radical interest in the “deep horizons” of the sea changes we are witnessing today, together with attempts to “enhance the resolution” of what we perceive and how we might thus improve knowledge and informed decision-making. The (media) aesthetics of error, which have shaped the glitch theme in recent decades, are thus expanded and differentiated in favor of an aesthetics in the field of consequences to evoke and formulate concrete social and political potentials as well as artistic ones.

    Hence, The artist talk on SOCIAL GLITCH examines the controversial consequence whether art still delivers radically critical aesthetics beyond the interests of the contemporary art market by taking a leading rolein conceptualizing and focusing our perception for cultural, social and politicalchange.