Domenico Barra is an Italian artist working with new digital media. The critical, tactical and analytical approach to new technologies takes shape in an artistic production that exploits the error (glitch) both as a raw material and as a narrative key to research and suggesting a dialogue on different themes related to new media in terms of temporality, opportunity, functionality, accessibility and also a focus on failure, network, intelligence, language, memory and identity. Themes influenced and conditioned by new technologies and by the industries that control developments and processes. Barra’s works have been published on various sites and magazines including The Creators Project, Motherboard, Bullet Magazine, Hyperallergic, Art F City, Monopol and Digicult. Furthermore, Barra took part in numerous curatorial projects and his works have been exhibited at the DAM Gallery in Berlin, at the Media Center in New York, at the Galerie Charlot in Paris, at the Digital Art Center in Taipei and in many other galleries and cultural art events. Barra’s art projects have also been part of academic talks and lectures in various international institutes and universities. He has participated in every editions of The Wrong (New Digital Art Biennale). Barra directed the organization of the first Glitch Art exhibition in Italy, Tactical Glitches, curated by artists Rosa Menkman and Nick Briz. In 2016 Barra was one of the international artists invited to the School of Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) for the 150th anniversary of the important and famous American institution where he gave a lecture and a public talk about piracy and pornography, the rise of online communities about cyber sex and the critical sides linked to the exhibition of one’s body online. Barra designed patterns for the Italian company PPPAttern and some of his digital works are part of the curatorial projects of the British Sedition Gallery and the Swiss Noow Gallery. Barra teaches glitch art and dirty new media at the Rome University of Fine Art (RUFA) and he gives lectures and presentations about glitch art and related topics at academies, schools and festivals. Barra is the creator of the White Page Gallery/s, a network and community of online art galleries hosted as web page on the websites of artists, curators and other cultural operators.
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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.