All Mecen interviews : Altered Data
Using glitches in his creations, Domenico Barra aka Altered Data, asks important questions about society and the meaning of art itself. He answered our questions.
What are dirty new media, the field you work in ?
Dirty New Media is an avant-garde approach to new media characterized by “its more experimental and purposely transgressive approach” to technologies. It aims to approach new media “by problematizing, rather than idealizing, common technologies” and the use, perception and interpretation that artists, critics and audience have of new media “to ask important questions about the value of art as a commodity, the exclusionary power dynamics of art markets, and consumer computing within corporate cultures.” Dirty defines the “deliberate incorporation of brokenness” so dirty stands as the work of “artists, activists and hackers and alike who intentional hack, reconstruct, and complicate aspects of computer culture.”. “By embracing the cyber flaws, short circuits, and disjointed components, Dirty New Media refers to a menagerie of alternative practices and subcultures spanning from punk and digital sampling to piracy and pornography.”. Most of my works are the results of voluntarily misusing softwares and hardwares, experimenting alternative implementations of those new media in the creative process for generating images, gifs, videos and sounds.
When did you first start creating stuff ?
I started in 2002 and I was working mainly with installation, digital drawing, painting, assemblage and collage. From 2002 onwards it was an intense research in the field of art. I don’t come from an academic education in art, even if I studied for two years at Leeds College of Arts and Design, I consider myself a selftaught artist. At the beginning most of my works were experiments, studies, explorations, I wanted to be totally free and wild, so my approach to art has always been very dirty.
How did you become interested in glitch ?
I always loved the works of Na June Paik and Stan Brakhage. When in 2011 I came across the works of Rosa Menkman, Nick Briz, Jon Cates, Benjamin Gaulon and many others, their works totally influenced my perspective on new media and art. By the time I had started joining the many glitch art groups on Facebook I was already totally hooked on it. I just loved the idea of breaking things. Destroy to create sounded just right.
You recently posted an artwork called “Is there life after the internet ?”. How would you answer this question ?
I don’t have the answer, even if it is really hard to imagine a world without online connection making this a kind of an irreversible situation for human condition, “is there life after the internet ?” is a paradoxical question, another existential question post-internet that I like to call #ethernalquestions. What I can easily imagine is that there will surely be, and I really hope there will be, a new technology that will improve these connections, making them not just faster but also more secure, decentralized and accessible.
We need an internet that is secure, that empowers us instead of making us more vulnerable.
Through your art you address different topics such as privacy, body, memory, identity. What is your main concern regarding internet and freedom. What is the biggest threat to freedom according to you ?
The malicious use of the Internet. The exploitation of data that put our security at risk. Violating users privacy, controlling users behavior and influence it via information. At the moment I believe the biggest threat are fake news based on users data. As I said we need an internet that is secure, that empowers us instead of making us more vulnerable. An Internet that enables positive connections between groups of people instead than spreading hate amongst those. The problem is not social media but the use that is done with it. Social media are connecting us, offering us so many opportunities but, at the same time and subliminally, they are irresponsibly used to divide us because its design is exploited to gather power through shameless hate propaganda by governments authorities and representatives.
This is putting freedom at risk as most of what we believe to be true now will be rectified tomorrow and this will create too much noise and we will find hard to know what is true and what is fake. This will put us in a permanent state of confusion about what is really going on. Truth has always been a myth, or at least what we know of the truth was a part of the whole truth but now it’s just confusing, it numbs our intellect, fake news and infobesity is terribly unhealthy. The problem of fake news is not the fake news itself but our impossiblity to distinguish what is true and what is not and especially which source of news we can trust.
Fake news are poisoning and affecting for the worst our perception of reality and life in a society. We were given internet connection, powerful devices and social media and so we went online were everything seems perfect and mesmerizing and empowering but that’s not the case at all. We still have to do a lot of work to easily talk about freedom and the internet and a lot of the work must be done since young age at school. The internet is too much part of our life to be not part of school education. We need to learn how the internet work and how can we make the best out of it. And I am not talking about getting lots of likes and tons of views but to defend and empower our freedom and improve our life.
You are part of a project called The Anti-Anthropocaliptic Set”. What is the anthropocalypse ?
The Anthropocalypse is the apocalypse inflicted on humanity and induced upon it by humans themselves. The project, created by Luigi Console and me as Mighty_Kongbot, envisioned an apocalyptic scenario caused by the savage use of natural resources and extreme pollution, toxic lifestyle and alikes that will turn Earth into a trap for humans. We designed a kit to 3D print at home and that people could use to try to survive disastrous events. The kit is made of tools that will not save you for sure, I can guarantee you that. But some believe they could because it’s high tech and it’s on the internet, and since it is on the internet it must be true. The kit is a provocation and a critic of the high tech industry that wants us to have of new technologies.
You directed the organization of the first glitch art show in Italy, how was it ?
It was great and it was a great challenge. I never worked on a project like this and it was also the first time that a show like this was held and presented in a cultural space in Napoli. We wanted to work on a show that would critically reflect and present new media with a different perspective, that of failures, brokness, glitches. There were so many diverse and interesting glitch works made with the most common consumers technologies and devices. There were OS, video games, videos, prints, SD cards, softwares, screens, it was a very comprehensive exhibition about glitch art featuring works by Tatjiana Marusic, Pox Party, Benjamin Gaulon, Glitchr, Daniel Rourke and Kyoung Kim, UCNV, Nancy Mauro-Flude, Theo Darst, Ana Hui Zhang and Sherpa. Kindles, Windows, DOOM, iPad, Facebook, it was really exciting. The public received it so well, they had never looked and art and new media in that way.
Do you play or used to play video games ? If yes, what are your favorites of all time ?
My first video game console was an Intellivision and with that I learned to play poker. I only had a poker and a space shooter video game. Then I got a Sega Master System II for Xmas and I got hooked on Alex Kidd and Sonic the Hedgehog. I also played at friend’s places with Sega Mega Drive and Commodore 64 but my favorite were video game arcades. I was really into Street Fighter II and I played it all of the time. Then I got into computer games like Civilization II and PC Calcio, less fight and more strategy. I also loved Theme Hospital very much.
There are so many glitches still to be discovered yet.
What’s the best part of teaching art to students ?
I am really into sharing what I know and I believe the best part of teaching is sharing knowledge. So this is at the basis of my classes. I share with the students what I know and at the same time they share with eachothers and with me what they know and discover. Glitch art is very unpredictable and there are no fixed rules of action. I invite them to try where I failed and to explore the digital landscape at large with curiosity and try all of the possibilities out there. Each student comes from a different academic and cultural background so my course is a based a lot on art and cultural contaminations. The digital landscape is massive, very dynamic, there are so many glitches still to be discovered yet. Explore, discover and share. Sharing is at the base of the glitch art international community.
Can you tell us what is the project 09|09 with the Hard Disk Museum ?
This is one of the project I am more fond and proud of. First of all because I really like the Hard Disk Museum, Soliman Lopez has done a great job in terms of rising questions, awareness and suggesting possibilities about digital art collection, accessibility and conservation expanding the idea of museum. 09|09 was developped on those key topics, duplication, corruption and exploitation. I was born on the 9th of September and this project was made on the 9th of September 2017 and exclusively for the Hard Disk Museum and it can only be seen on it. The 9th of September 2017 was also the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the first recorder computer bug that happened at the Naval Weapons Laboratory by Grace Hopper. I was born 35 years after that discovery so I thought to celebrate it with working on a project for the Hard Disk Museum.
The project is made of 999 images. I started with only two images. An actual copy of the photo of the first computer bug that depicts the actual bug found in the computer and a note about the discovery, this image is available online, and a glitche selfie portrating myself. I uploaded those two images on my Instagram and the Instagram app became my glitch app. There are many glitch apps but Instagram is the best and actually generates real glitches and not glitch edits like other apps allow us to. I exploited a bug in the Instagram app and in my Samsung J5 Android phone. I noticed weeks before that some of the pics I uploaded on Instagram as photos slide then they were automatically saved in an album on my phone but very often something went wrong. Many times those photos saved were glitched. The app was saving and glitching some of the pics in the slide as one glitched picture. I tried this many times but it didn’t happen all of the time. I noticed that if the battery of my phone was low of charge then it was more like the glitch would happen. Also the glitch happened when I had low internet and wifi signal. This glitch was gonna be the creative exploitation of a smartphone and app bug for my project 09|09.
I uploaded those two images in the slide over and over again, starting with the two original pics and then uploading those two plus the other saved in the album after the first upload. After the first few uploads the glitch started to manifest and also images were starting to lose their quality of definition as Instagram encodes the images we upload into their digital image format standard which is very lossy and bad. I also forced other glitches to happen turnig off my smartphone wifi while the pictures were uploading allowing the app to lose some informations during the upload caused by the cut off of the signal and then starting the upload again from that interruption. It took some hours to make it, it was a bit of an exhausting process but in the end it was totally worth it. As I said before, glitches are everywhere, we just got to look out for those and then even Instagram can became a creative app, misusing new media beyond their “mode of use”, “doing wrong the right way”.
What are your future projects ?
My future projects are mainly focused on image making and a curatorial research and exhibition project. I am working a lot with portraits, a lot of portraits of musicians from the neapolitan indie music scene as I am collaborating with a web tv and radio program made in Napoli. I am also very intrigued by the idea of exploring architectures via pixelsorting and a design project of glitch art patterns.
Luigi Console and I are working again together to bring Mighty_Kongbot back on the scene. The curatorial project is about hacking and piracy in Napoli, the neapolitan (electronic) civil disobedience. It is a very complex project, mostly because it’s very hard to find materials to feature in the gallery, especially photos. The gallery is called P3ZZ8, to be read as Pezzotto, that in neapolitan culture is a word used to refer to something hacked, corrupted, a copy, illegal most of the time. Pezzottos are pirates artifacts. P3ZZ8 is part of Pivilion. “Pivilion is a decentralized, uncensored, user-curated web gallery operating system and gallery management software running on nodes hosted by the general public and distributed through clearnet and Tor” and it’s a project by “hacklab01”, an open space in Zagreb’s Autonomous Cultural Centre and it’s curated by Format©, Dina Karadzic and Vedran Gligo. Pivilion was first conceived at the Akademie Schloss Solitude.
I am very inspired at the moment, doing a lot of research and experimenting very much and I will probably add few more projects soon to those described above. I have a project for a solo show too, featuring works focused on the internet, mostly works created between 2015 and 2017, webpages, gifs, blogs, videos and prints. Also a show in Napoli but I am a bit superstitious so I stop here ☚(ﾟヮﾟ☚).
X or Y
Films or TV shows ?
I love series such as Mr Robot, Westworld, La Casa de Papel but definitely Films.
Animal or Human ?
I am disappointed by humans at the moment so I say Animal.
Black or White ?
Free Will or Destiny ?
Free will but some events are well beyond are will.
Zidane or Materazzi ?
I see where are you going here 😀 so I say Roberto Baggio, my all the times favorite.
Jazz or Classical Music ?
It depends what I am drinking, but I would say Jazz, even if one of my favorite musical composition ever is Pavane by Gabriel Faure.
Superstition or Reason ?
I am from Napoli, it must be superstition. Kidding. In terms of Surrealism I would say superstition. But in terms of reality, reason at the moment is very well needed.
Google or Facebook ?
Both are very much problematic but Google can be more “useful” even if more invasive. I am glad there are alternatives to those and I hope we will have better choices for our social networks and search engines soon.
Black hole or Supernova ?
Supernova, especially if it is a Champagne Supernova in the sky.
Pasta or Pizza ?
As far as they are both prepared and cooked properly I am happy with either of the two but pizza is what I miss the most when I am away from Napoli.