Domenico Barra is Italian artist working in the field of digital art and member of the internetional art movement known as dirty new media. The critical, tactical and analytical approach to new technologies takes shape in an artistic production that exploits the “glitch” as raw material but also as a narrative line to address different topics such as privacy, body, memory, identity, all influenced and conditioned by new technologies and the industry that controls its development and processes. His works have been published on various sites and magazines such as The Creators Project, Motherboard, Bullet Magazine, Hyperallergic, Art F City and Digicult. He took part in several curatorial projects and his projects were exhibited internationally, at the DAM Gallery in Berlin, at the Media Center in New York, at Galerie Charlot in Paris and in Italy at the Link Art Center in Brescia, at the Wrong Biennale, just to name a few. He directed the organization of the first glitch art show in Italy, Tactical Glitches, curated by Rosa Menkman and Nick Briz.
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On the 9th September 2017 it was the 70th anniversary of the founding and recording of the first computer bug, an actual bug, a moth, found inside a Harvard Mark II electromechanical computer in the Harvard Faculty at the Computation Laboratory. The discovery was made by the operators of the Naval Weapons Laboratory that kept the bug with a notation “First actual case of bug being found.” It was then that computer pioneer Grace Hopper recorded in the book log the event using the word “bug” and actually taping the insect on the note turning that record in an incredible and unique trace of the first computer bug. Computer bugs are also known as errors or glitches.
I was born on 35 years later this incredible discovery and on the 9th September 2017 it was my 35th birthday. As a dirty new media artist working with glitches I wished to celebrate my birthday and the discovery of the first computer bug creating my first project for the HardDiskMuseum.
The project, of course, is glitch based. I exploited a bug in the Instagram app on my Samsung J5 to create a collection of 333 (3+3+3+=9) images of my glitch portrait and of the photo of the actual note record of the computer bug discovery that includes the actual insect.
The bug in the Instagram app is in the album/slide feature of the app. When I create an album on the Instagram app and the pictures are automatically saved on my smart phone memory, sometimes the pictures part of the album get saved as one photo and this glitch results in a glitched image. I have repeated this process more than 100 times, often forcing the app to crash to increase the chances to produce the glitch. I forced the crash stopping the internet connection of the phone while the pictures were uploading on Instagram. I switched from Wi-Fi to 4G so that there were different frequencies involved in the process and create different glitches and different images. Also, the quality of the pictures was deteriorating every time I uploaded the images to Instagram as the app was encoding the photo from the device encoding to its own every time. I discovered this bug some days before the 9th of September when I noticed some pictures on my smart phone Instagram album that were glitched and then worked it out taking note of the event every time it happened but especially when I finally recognized in one photo traces of another photo present in the same Instagram album.
The project aims to highlight how a bug can be exploited for creative processes and become an opportunity for creating an art project and consequently show the importance of digital conservation to preserve digital art and take care of the fragility of image file formats.