I’m not sure why glitch art is so amusing. Maybe it’s that we look at our computers as hyper intelligent idiots, supreme silicon beings capable of millions of calculations a second, yet unable to tie their own shoes. The only way computers make art is when they (so rarely) make a mistake–a single moment of brilliance stemming from a failure in their uber logic, spilled across the screen like a glass of milk across the dinner table.
And it’s in celebration of this phenomenon that Sebastian Schmieg and Silvio Lorusso are self-publishing the book 56 Broken Kindle Screens, a curated collection of some of the Kindle’s most creative mistakes. You see, when an e-paper book breaks, the screen often doesn’t go blank. Instead, the nature of the technology means its last image will be frozen in place, which can be anything from abstract pixel art to Ralph Ellison’s head wearing the body of Virginia Woolf.
“We are fascinated by the way in which various ‘strata’ of content and device features, such as pages, cover illustrations and interface elements, mix and merge. Functional parts of the screens cohabit with broken ones constituting a multifaceted composition,” the team writes. “We find them haunting as well, because when they break they stop being a window into the content. The device itself becomes the focus, its materiality is very different to that of a printed book and this is something it needs to be remembered.”
But how do you capture that experience of a broken electronic device on paper? Each page of the book uses white space to frame each broken Kindle screen, just like a Kindle case would. So with each flip of the page, you’re ostensibly flipping to a new Kindle.
It’s also an effect that’s strangely akin to Polaroids, as each entry is a self-contained, self-framed moment. The team calls this effect “pure coincidence,” though they agree that there’s a certain aesthetic brotherhood between the two formats. “Maybe the similarity between Kindles and Polaroids resides in their frozen state,” they reason. I’d add that there’s a certain overlap between the general unpredictability of analog film and a glitching digital screen. Because for as much as we’d all like to capture the perfect snapshot at any given time, it’s the myriad of variables we can’t predict that often produce the most memorable pictures.
[Hat tip: Triangulation]