This project was created during a research trip to the University of Florida’s Seahorse Key Marine Research Lab as part of the Spring 2018 Art +Tech Graduate Seminar.
More on the lab here
Thoughts on the project:
This project forced me to work in different ways than I would normally work and it was a bit uncomfortable for me. I had a lot of technical difficulties with my camera during the trip to Seahorse Key and most of my footage only ended up being about 10 seconds long due to a memory card writing error. Due to this error, I had planned on creating a small collection of GIFs. I did make the GIFs, but ended up not going with them because even though they were a little interesting they felt irrelevant and purposeless. I kept going back to the one of the class readings, Landscapes of Memory and Socially Just Futures by Derek Alderman and Joshua Inwood in conjunction with some of my separate research of Rosa Menkman and her Glitch Manifesto, Glitch Moment(um), and The Vernacular of File Formats. Although these topics may seem very separate, they began to have a relationship in my thinking of this project.
While at Seahorse Key, I encountered something I did not expect to see on a small slightly isolated island right off the coast of Florida: Confederate flags. These flags appeared to be recently placed at the grave of a former confederate soldier. The grave was located in a marked cemetery which you had to hike maintained trail to get to, upon arrival you were met with four graves, one of which was my focus with the Confederate flags. At the location, was an aluminum bench which I found extremely interesting as a sign of infrastructure and instruction to sit and look at this grave site with its flags as a site of memorial/memory/monument. I was able to later return to this site before leaving the island and document the place with my camera and a new memory card.
The footage I gathered from the gravesite kept gnawing at me as I tried to make something not about the south. It did not work, it felt like the south followed me there. I had to try to deal with it, to reconcile with it. Alderman and Inwood state that “memorials and heritage sites dialectically draw meaning from and give meaning to their surroundings” (188). Seahorse Key is full of memory and overlapping history, some hidden and some visible, some with clear paths and some without. When speaking of landscapes of memory, Alderman and Inwood state that not only do memorials act as significant “conduits for giving voice to certain visions of history but casting legitimacy upon them — a way of ordering and controlling the public meaning of the past”(188). I believe this space is acting as memorial, giving authority to a certain version of history that should be questioned and challenged. ”Historical authenticity,” as Alderman and Inwood state “is not an inherent condition but a socially constructed experience that relies up an active preservation and even staging of the landscape and its artifacts” (188). Here, in this cemetery space we are witnessing an “active preservation” through the maintaining of paths, provision of a bench, and the placement of the Confederate flag (Alderman & Inwood 188).
To begin to deal with this space, I began considering the glitch as a way to create an opening through byte destruction and rearrangement. In this case, I was not considering a glitch aesthetic, as seen in my other works but an actual and fundamental destruction and alteration of the data of my video files. This action was largely inspired by Rosa Menkman’s writings on the glitch. Menkman states that “the glitch is a powerful interruption that shifts an object away from its flow and ordinary discourse, towards the ruins of destructed meaning” (Menkman 29). For this project, I wanted to attempt what Menkman refers to as the “moment(um)” of the glitch which she defines as:
the moment, which is experienced as the uncanny, threatening loss of control, throwing the spectator into the void (of meaning). This moment then itself becomes a catalyst, with a certain momentum. Noise turns to glitch when it passes a momentary tipping point, at which it could tip away into a failure, or instead force new knowledge (31).
To create the glitch, I ran a script called Byebyte I found through some research on datamoshing and databending after reading The Vernacular of File Formats also by Menkman. Byebyte destroys bytes of information in the video file and replaces them with trash, thus altering, fragmenting, and glitching the video. To further enhance the glitch I also went in and deleted all I-Frames from the video, creating strange and disorienting transitions. I loved the language byebyte possessed with commands like “destroy.” I felt it was important for the tools I was using to have a kind of poetic power to them, something I am continuing to look at as I work.
This project is not meant as a further memorialization of the Confederate flag, but rather a challenge to the normalcy and authenticity of it through the power and poetics of the glitch.
Alderman, Derek H. & Inwood, Joshua F.J. “Landscapes of Memory and Socially Just Futures.” The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Cultural Geography. Ed. Nuala C. Johnson, Richard H. Schein, and Jamie Winders. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2013. 186-197.
Menkman, Rosa. Glitch Moment(um). Amsterdam, Institute of Network Cultures, 2011.
Guide for Datamoshing/bending http://forum.glitchet.com/t/tutorial-make-video-glitch-art-how-to-datamosh-in-plain-english/36
The Vernacular of File Formats
“Haunting History” Toni Collins, Historic Records Coordinator, Archives and History Center, Levy County Clerk’s Office.
Cedar Key Lighthouse