Picbod13 exhibition | change of plans

Picbod brief
Inspired by some the idea of photographing a display and make it as the pixels show sharp, made change my installation theme. It is still based around the digital as well as the values of the physical artefact, the edition. After some though and experimentation with my new concept I decided I will call it “Analog to digital, Digital to analog and the art of databending.”
Heavily influenced by digital technologies, the internet and it’s social implications, as well as my appreciation for film and the processes involved, I will be combining the two in to one.


Last summer after being frustrated with a Canon 5Dmk2, which was giving me corrupted files, I did a research on it and instead of finding a solution I discovered Glitch Art. A glitch is a short lived computer malfunction. In case of file being corrupted I got files with permanent transformations, that I really didn’t enjoy, but the beauty of these chaotic patterns, with these vibrant colours attracted to find a way to recreate it.

glitched photograph from a Canon 5Dmk2

So I discovered databending, which is similar to circuit bending but with data. Databending is the practice of intentionally causing a file to be corrupted, by simply not doing what you suppose to. Open the file with an editor it was never meant for. The act expresses the non-conformity of our nature, the need to set the bits and bytes free from their proprietary chains. The idea of hacking away something is revolutionary and can be very creative.

Very basic techniques of databending include using Wordpad, Hex editor, text editor, audio editor or even write a bit of code that will perform the bends to the code. Processes for video exist although I haven’t been involved yet.

I have been researching on this topic and it’s relation with art since September. More advanced techniques like cachemash or sonification of data can create very impressive results.

cachemash by eaubscene, on flickr
cachemash by eaubscene, on flickr
image passed through an audio editor. by hellocatfood on flickr

A few links:

GlitchikerGlitchBot(Bit_Synthesis), Glitch Art (flickr group), Precise Mishandling, GLI.TC/H, stAllio!’s way, Rosa Menkman

Were does it all fit with my project?

I decided I want to use such techniques because their results are random and permanent. Although a digital replica can occur, the digital artefact produced is unique. Only after a lot experimentation you might know what to expect, but you never really know what will happen when you replace a few characters in the code, add some text, or even random strings. Still it doesn’t defy the rules of digital politics. If it can be copied, then it is not unique. Sean Carroll explained in his talk, the idea of “fixing the fluid image”. This will be the path for this project. Printing in the darkroom unique editions of these photo manipulations.

The process

I made some portraits with a 35mm film camera in black & white film. I scanned these in high resolution.

I took raw (CR2 file) photographs of the images off the display with a Canon 5Dmk2 in order to create new files. Each file has a header that tells the computer of it’s type and origin. The scanned jpegs differ a lot in structure with the ones from a digital camera.

Imported the new files and then converted the high-res raw files into smaller, easier to manipulate jpegs.

I bended the code either with Notepad++ or xvi32 Hex editor.

self portrait

At this point I brought in the game the Mamiya RB67, a medium format film camera with a 127mm lens and a 80mm extension tube. This gave me the chance to get close enough to see the individual pixels of the screen. I used a 120 roll film, b&w ISO 400. I took a reading from the screen and exposed for 4 seconds at f/32. Obviously times differ when the screen has different brightness or just displaying a darker or brighter image.


Develop the film and get in the darkroom, produce unique prints.

One branch of this project is the darkroom prints for the physical exhibition and the other is the digital exhibition, which stops at step 4.

What is the message?

I am using these effects produced by the bending of the data to visualize the noise introduced into our lives every single moment by the information overload of the digital media. Every line of corrupted code, is a line visualized by different colour. Every corrupted character represents the signals interfering with us.

When I did these portraits I didn’t explain the reason behind them. I didn’t want to affect the subjects in any way… Well this is relevant. The fact that they all look at the camera is because I asked them for a portrait.

This project is going to be an installation at #picbod13 with one or more screens displaying the digital files and next to them the black & white prints.

Feel free to leave your feedback. I will soon be posting more material on this project.