This assignment asks students to choose one or more texts of a total of no more than 100 words, and without altering the text, create a convincing typographic argument in any medium, guided by the principles of classical rhetoric. Tutor: Jason Grant.
By datamoshing Bounce, a popular music video by white Australian rapper, Iggy Azelia, Ebony aims to critique the increasingly common racist appropriation of minority cultures in Western popular culture and fashion, arguing that “cultures are not casual costumes, people are not accessories and that appropriation of Otherised cultures is disrespectful… cultural signifiers such as the bindi on Indian women are symbols of Otherness, and the same signifiers on Westerners are received as fashion statements.”
Ebony’s interest in glitching developed attempting to understand her Anglo-Indian identity. With glitching she explores cultural appropriation, and more complex ideas like decolonisation theory and the rejection of assimilation by Other Cultures. Seeing herself as a metaphoric glitch in the colonial system, she interprets bi-racial children as the unexpected outcomes of a system of forced assimilation. An awareness of the grammar of coloniality enables resistance, “and my datamoshing is about formulating a visual language for this rejection.”
Datamoshing is the process of breaking files or creating mistakes in digital systems that force unexpected outcomes. Ebony writes: “I am asserting my awareness of the digital/political system by being disobedient inside it. I am inserting the human into the code and creating errors, that the digital system doesn’t know how to compute. By doing this, I am in some way acting out decoloniality in a digital framework.”
Glitch artist and educator Nick Briz describes glitching as hacking, as an act of creative destruction: “Glitching is a kind of tactful exploitation of systems, digital and technological systems… it can establish a kind of critical relationship between users and computers, that isn’t normally there by default. And it’s that kind of critical relationship I’m hoping to create for others by presenting this process, though systematic, as all about destroying systems or instigating a kind of self destruction of systems.
This hack always exists in the present and never in the past, because every use of the glitch codec necessitates a new destruction of the codec file at a code level: creation by destruction. Destruction, in this case, is used to refer to this demonstration of the systems appeared self dismantilisation. And the reason I say ‘appeared’ self dismantilisation is because computers don’t really make mistakes. Users input stuff, and machines output stuff, a glitch is really just an unexpected output, which by catching us off guard, makes us aware of the medium, its structure, and its politics, which are really there the whole time. But the error is actually a human one.”
#iggymosh was created by forcefully breaking the original clip’s video and sound files. Intentionally interfering with the video’s compression artefacts (the systems that computers use to force files to lose quality so that they can be stored or uploaded easily) allows the media to be endlessly manipulated.
For example, Bounce’s original audio file was split from the video track and opened as a RAW image file in an image editing program. Quotes from Dodai Stewart’s article On Miley Cyrus, Ratchet Culture and Accessorizing With Black People, Rohin Guha’s article Iggy Azalea Bounces Backwards With Disappointing Clichés and Jaya Bedi’s article Beyond Bindis: Why Cultural Appropriation Matters were then overlaid as white text. The file extension was converted back to .mp3 and manipulated in an audio program to affect speed and tempo so that the track fitted the glitched video.