Carlos Antonio Piñón

artist, writer, performer


To see more glitch art, visit the glitch art page.

Glitch Art FAQ

1. How did you get into glitch art and how long have you been creating glitch art? What did you do before creating glitches? How would you describe your aesthetic?

I learned how to make glitch art as an undergrad at SAIC. All freshmen were required to take a course called WIRED: Imaging and Web as incoming students in which we had to 1) learn how to use our computers and 2) learn how to use our computers to make art. I took the course in Fall 2013 with Benjamin Pearson as my instructor, but unfortunately, my graduating class was one of the last to take WIRED. I know there was at least one more year of WIRED taught at SAIC because the very next fall in my sophomore year, I was a TA for two sections of the course, the first taught by Guy Eytan and and the other by Benji. Suffice to say, I've been making glitch art for six years. I went to SAIC not for painting, drawing, or even performance, but for writing. The work I was interested in as an incoming student was heavily influenced by concrete and visual poetry, which one might draw parallel, if not perpendicular, lines to other art movements such as Futurism and Dadaism. Ironically, I'd say the aesthetic in my art practice (as opposed to my writing practice, which is a different beast all together at this point) relies on perceived chaos. While I don't know what the exact outcome will be when I'm glitching an image, I can make an educated guess as to what the effect will be. I know what the "echo" effect does, but I don't know exactly how it'll affect any specific image. After all, the thing to remember when making glitch art is that the choices you make is the art. Just as much as choosing between cotton canvases or wood panels, your choice in image to glitch makes all the difference. In fact, it might be even more important.

2. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Since I've graduated SAIC, my writing practice has drawn heavily from my life's experiences. I write nonfiction essays, then read them aloud at storytelling shows. The other part of my practice is making artists' books by hand. Most often, I'm making splatter ink paintings to serve as the content for my handmade books. Where the two sides of my artistic needs meet is with glitch art. While my glitch art can have autobiographical roots—since almost every image I glitch is an image I took of myself, my cat, or some other aspect of my life—it still gets to have the random aesthetic properties that my handmade books do. One might even consider Jackson Pollock, perhaps the master of splattering paint, to be a glitch artist himself. Pollock's gestural technique of painting amounted to using an established medium of artmaking and using it in ways it wasn't intended to. For me, that's the basis of glitch art. Perhaps another example from art history would be the advent of collage. By incorporating things that aren't normally used to make art, Pablo Picasso and other surrealists were true innovators of the genre that won't exist in its contemporary iteration for years to come.

3. Do you have any glitch art pioneers that you aspire to be like (or draw inspiration from)?

Benji, my WIRED instructor, was excellent at setting up a historical context for glitch art. From using a xerox machine to manually manipulate a scanned image to actual hardware hacking by the likes of Nick Briz, perhaps the most impactful influence we were taught about was Phil Morton. Beyond his incredible video art, what really struck me about glitch art as a genre was his concept of COPY-IT-RIGHT. The mere concept of developing a way of creating without sharing with others never sat right with me. I'll never understand Anish Kapoor's selfish monopoly over Vantablack, but Stuart Semple's definitely a hero on the right side of history. With that always in the back of my mind, it makes the DIY scene so much more accessible to me. If you can create art for others, you should be able to create art alongside them as well.

4. What's your favorite part of the process of creating glitch art? The most frustrating part?

The only thing more important in creating glitch art than the result is the process. Perhaps more than any other genre, this is truly the art of choice. No matter what method of glitch art you decide to use, you choose the image you want to manipulate, how much you want to manipulate, and how you want to show it to the world. The choice is really my favorite part. I might take 30 pictures of my cat to pick the best one to post on Instagram, but that's only the first part in making glitch art. Once you choose the image, you then choose the method, and depending on the method, you could be looking at a small manipulation where the original image is still recognizable, or you could be looking at complete destruction of the image, and that's the most exciting part. You don't know which one is going to be best. There's a lot of not knowing, and while that could be frustrating, especially if your file keeps corrupting beyond repair, the reward is almost always worth the risk.

5. What software programs do you use? Do you create your own algorithms (if you use something like Processing?) Do you ever use iPhone glitch apps or do you do it "old school", like using a text editor (for example)?

Most of the time, I use Audacity to make databending sonification glitch art. Sometimes, I do start off with some rich text manipulation by using TextEdit, so I guess that makes me old school. While I can appreciate pixel sorting and faux glitch from glitch apps from afar, I prefer my method. I mean, you can take an image file, turn into sound and apply a dozen different effects, and then turn it back into an image file, and the result is almost always cool. How can it be cooler than that? I'd gladly give up control of the outcome if I can continue to perform magic like that. Don't get me wrong—other methods of creating glitch art, or even the effect of glitch art, is totally just as cool. For me, glitch art is merely a tool for creating art, and those other apps achieve the same goal.

6. How would you define old school and new school glitch art?

I'm not an art historian, and even if I was, this still wouldn't be an interesting question to me. People have been creating glitch art long before computers were involved. After all, Merriam-Webster defines technology as "the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area." As technology shifts to create new ways of making, so will the art that is produced from it. To imply there is a direct lineage of old and new is irrelevant in a niche like glitch art when one could pull more significant comparisons to the broader concept of art.

7. Do you think glitch art is a dying movement/art form? What do you think will follow glitch art in today's technology/what's on the rise?

If glitch art as I know it dies with me, I can't say I didn't try to pass it on to try to help it evolve. The day that someone opens Audacity to manipulate an image for the last time will hardly matter in the grand scheme of things. Personally, all forms of painting is dying, has been dying, has already died. And yet it persists in new and innovative ways. It's more complicated than to just say whether a movement or a form is dying because, in reality, it's always changing. From artist to artist, the intention changes a little, and so does the technique, especially when new technology gets introduced to the mix. For me, especially considering that I think glitch art has always existed, I don't think it'll ever truly die. It'll just look different, and there will come a day where I don't recognize it anymore. On that day, I'll be incredibly excited to learn something new.

8. Why do you make glitch art? To what audience are you speaking to?

A lot of the times, when I've overheard how painters work, they already have an idea of what their final product will look like. Sure, they might improvise and radically change in the middle of painting, but they always know where they are in the process of painting as they do it. For glitch art, even if I know what all the effects do, and can guess how the image might change, I generally don't know what will happen. I might do the coolest thing ever, or I might break the file, and it's so exhilarating not to know. Not knowing only gives my choices even more emphasis. Do I choose a visually complex image, or a single item in a simple background? There are so many factors in just doing the work that it really is meditative for me. Just like bookbinding and writing essays, for me, glitch art is therapeutic. I don't care if no one ever sees my work. If William Blake can go his whole lifetime as a poet, painter, and printmaker largely unnoticed and still be produce magnificent work that is revered hundreds of years later, then I don't have anything to worry about. I may not be on his level, but it gives me the absolute freedom to focus on what I'm saying rather than who I'm saying it to.

9. Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?

Not currently, but all of my work is available on my website. With glitch art, it's hard for me to justify the need to display glitch art in conventional ways. Often times, for me, the correct way of viewing the work isn't in print, or even necessarily on a screen hung on the wall. I take photos with my phone in real life and manipulate on my computer. So, for the most part, I feel that seeing my glitch art on a cell phone or computer is seeing it the same way I did when I created it. Either way, there is always another show around the corner.

Have more questions? Send them to carkus8@gmail.com or check out my contact page!


Carlos Antonio Piñón

Carlos Antonio Piñón is an artist and writer examining how people interact with words and language. His main interests include nonfiction essays, artists' books, and databending sonification. Carlos holds an BFA with an Emphasis in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Nonfiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago.