Hassan Karimi

Apr 28, 2022

Glitches Are Not Just Technical Malfunctions (They Are the Basis of Beautiful Art) 

Originally published on The Voyage newsletter on April 22, 2022.

Ever find yourself looking for a place to hang and stumble into a wonderful hidden gem? 

Only later to discover that everyone you know has been going to this place for years?

That’s what Glitch Art feels like for me. Over the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time looking at NFT artwork and hearing stories of different artists. I noticed some common stylistic patterns and it eventually hit me — There’s something going on here.

Glitch art involves intentionally creating glitches or sudden malfunctions that produce unexpected outcomes to create art.

It isn’t very new. It’s been going strong for over 20 years and traces back to a 1978 piece called Digital TV Dinner (some would say it goes back even further). This piece was created by Raul Zaritsky, Jamie Fenton, and Dick Ainsworth using the Bally Astrocade gaming system (yes, a video game console was used to create art back in the ‘70s).

Glitch art is defiance towards the overly polished aesthetic created through advancements in color and sound technologies. In the ‘90s it was a rejection to the overly photoshopped magazine cover models and today it would be the same attitude towards the overly filtered Instagram posts.

But again, this isn’t new. We’ve always had a fascination with the texture and raw quality of distorted sounds and visuals that result from technical imperfections. 

Glitch is preferring the raw sounds of live albums to the cleaned up studio recordings.

Glitch is emcees in the ‘70s mixing records and extending beats to give birth to hip-hop.

Glitch is the wailing dissonance of heavy metal electric guitars.

Glitch is communication from the other side when lights flicker during a séance. 

Glitch is not simply a malfunction, it’s a break in regular comfortable patterns. It’s a revelation of another world. 

When I think of glitch, I immediately think of The Matrix. You know that scene where Neo sees a cat in a doorway and remarks, “deja vu.” 

Everyone freezes and he says he witnessed two different cats walking across the doorway. 

They tell him deja vu is a glitch in the matrix. 

The point being glitch isn’t just a subculture, it’s also mainstream. In 2009, Kanye West did this beautiful glitched-out music video for his song with Kid Cudi, Welcome To Heartbreak. Radiohead has been known for glitch effects in their music and any movie or TV show that deals with hackers or technology often uses glitch effects in their edits.

With Glitch art you find some artists that intentionally create glitches through manipulating inputs with unexpected outcomes. You also find artists that layer on the glitch aesthetic to their artwork. In this case, the glitch is not an actual glitch, but stylized according to common visual/audio glitch patterns. 

If this piece piqued your interest in Glitch art, I’ll share some artists I’ve discovered over the last few months.

This first group is of cryptoartists I’ve come across that mint their work as NFTs:

XCOPY

JakNFT

JAKE

wondermundo

Dom Barra

This next group are artists in the traditional art world:

Rosa Menkman

JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans)

Daniel Temkin

Sabato Visconti

Chris Dorland

The list above is just a few artists I’ve discovered through my own digital meandering. Please share some of your favorite artists in this space if you have any in the comment section below.


As I dig deeper into Web3, the discussion will involve cryptocurrency and I want to make sure to include this disclaimer. This is not financial advice and is intended for informational purposes only. 

As a disclaimer, I have no background or expertise in finances. law, or economics. This article explores new technologies like NFTs and cryptocurrencies and the potential uses for artists and creators. This is for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, investment, financial, or other advice.

Hassan Karimi

Sharing new ways to look at things—like tech and mythology—and extract lessons for the creative journey. UX designer, former architect and sketchbook maker.