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Glitched: Portraits of Transformation

with Steven McCarthy, University of Minnesota

Ideas about beauty and perfection in design require the removal of flaws, abnormalities and digital ‘glitches.’ However, when initiating human transformation – psychological, physical, genetic, emotional – how might the intentional corruption of image source code be an appropriate method to examine change?

Glitched: Portraits of Transformation is an experimental design series that features portraits corrupted with a palette of glitching techniques. Each portrait consists of three elements: the original JPEG image (sourced primarily from the online photo community Flickr, using Creative Commons share/remix licensing), the ‘glitched’ version of the image (created by manipulating the JPEG’s source code via text editing software) and the image’s alphanumeric code as a typographic connecting elements. Digitally printed on fabric, the triptychs are pliable and tactile objects.

Our work is meant to challenge viewers’ perceptions of what it means to be a photographically documented, and digitally altered, human. By manipulating the alphanumeric source code of digital images, we are imagining alternative realities of the human condition. An analogy in the human genome may result in cancers, growths and other medical conditions, while aging may be viewed as the corruption of human ‘software code’ over time. External influences such as education, persuasion, indoctrination and epiphany may govern human behavior at a larger societal scale. Parallels exist in failure studies and synthetic biology: the mingling of accident and intent in the pursuit of perfection can alter perceptions of truth and fiction.

Series of 20 triptychs
16.25" x 30" (both landscape and portrait orientations)
Digitally printed on fabric

Publication + Conference Presentation

Barness, J. and McCarthy, S. (2014). Performing Human Pixels in Glitched: Portraits of Transformation. 9th International Committee Design History and Design Studies: Tradition, Transition, Trajectories: Major or Minor Influences? Proceedings (ICDHS). Aveiro: University of Aveiro (pp. 499-504) ISBN 978-972-789-421-5 and São Paulo: Blucher ISSN 2318-6968, DOI 10.5151/despro-icdhs2014-0071.


2013. Glitched: Portraits of Transformation – Steven and Jess prints exhibited at IDEAS_13 juried exhibition. International Digital Media and Arts Association (iDMAa) conference. Laguna, CA.

2013. Glitched: Portraits of Transformation – Jan and Zilverbat prints exhibited at Art/Identity juried exhibition. Gallery 263, Cambridge, MA.