Glitch: Beyond Binary
Online Auction: 19–26 April 2023 • 2:00 PM EDT • New York

Glitch: Beyond Binary 19–26 April 2023 • 2:00 PM EDT • New York

S otheby’s New York is thrilled to announce Glitch: Beyond Binary, which introduces glitch art as an umbrella term for the many waves and perspectives glitch art can encompass. It presents the genre not just as a procedural or aesthetic practice, but also highlights the diverse groups of artists that make up the glitch art communities. While these occurrences are rarely anticipated and usually unwelcome, glitch artists may in fact intentionally provoke them.

Glitch: Beyond Binary showcases the various forms in which glitch artists have used disruption, both in the analog and digital realms, as well as for various forms of political and identity expression. These communities do not just identify as male or female but consist of people from every gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, language, neuro-type, size, ability, class, religion, culture, subculture, political opinion, age, skill level, occupation, and background. The sale features sections from leading curators Dina Chang and Dawnia Darkstone aka Letsglitchit, in addition to works from XCOPY and jakNFT, among others.

Glitch: Beyond Binary.

Essay by Rosa Menkman

An MP3 might skip or crackle, a preview window might briefly show shards instead of an image and a website might hiccup on load and scramble its contents. While these occurrences are rarely anticipated and usually unwelcome, glitch artists may in fact intentionally provoke them.[1] Glitch: Beyond Binary showcases the various forms in which glitch artists have used disruption, both in the analog and digital realms, as well as for various forms of political and identity expression.

Glitch: the Pre Binary

Deterioration has always been part of the life of the image.[1] Even before the advent of digital technology, no image could last indefinitely; sooner or later, all images decay, disintegrate or simply disappear. It is the nature of the world we live in — a world rich with hypertrophy.

While disintegration is typically considered as an undesirable occurrence that conservationists seek to minimize, gradual decline can sometimes also enrich the image. Take for example an old photograph that has been damaged. Its cracks, stains, and other signs of aging can add a sense of history and nostalgia, making the picture feel more authentic and unique: no other copy of the same image would have the same traces of wear and tear: they add to the images’ aura.

With this in mind, certain artists intentionally started to create work that incorporates and even celebrates elements of decomposition. For example, pioneering experimental filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage and more recently, Jennifer Reeves, integrate scratches, dirt, and other imperfections onto their film. They don’t aim to capture a perfect image, but rather show that the material of film itself is meaningful too.

The dominant, continuing search for a noiseless channel has been — and will always be — no more than a regrettable, ill-fated dogma.

Acknowledge that although the constant search for complete transparency brings newer, ‘better’ media, every one of these improved techniques will always possess their own inherent fingerprints of imperfection.

Glitch: A Window into the Binary

For a moment, the emergence of digital technology gave rise to an expectation of flawless transmission. However, it quickly became clear that the digital domain wasn’t immune to degradation either. The disintegration of files soon became commonplace and with the arrival of digital glitches, a new and more abrupt form of decay was introduced, revealing that computation would not be able to offer the noiseless channel people had hoped for.

Etymologically, the word glitch stems from the Yiddish term "glitsh," which means a slippery place or to slide and glide. Ported to the realms of digital computation, the term is used to refer to an unexpected or not understood break from the expected flow of computation. The glitch reveals itself as an accident, chaos or laceration, offering a glimpse into the otherwise obfuscated language of machines.

When confronted with a glitch while using a digital technology, one often experiences a sense of shock and confusion, followed by wonder: will the computer return to its "normal" state? The encounter of a glitch can be puzzling, yet captivating. And as the user tries to understand the cause and nature of the glitch, it challenges their digital literacy.

Once the cause of a technology's erratic behavior is identified, it may only require a simple recalibration of the code. After this change, the glitch can be named and understood. When the original phenomenon of rupture is resolved, the glitch may vanish, and become a mere bug report. However, if the cause of the glitch remains unknown, it can either be disregarded and forgotten or introduced as a new perspective on the malfunctioning technology. French philosopher Paul Virilio wrote that accidents don't necessarily equal failure, but instead create a new significant state that wouldn't otherwise be seen. They can reveal "something absolutely necessary to knowledge."[2]

Employ bends and breaks as a metaphor for différance. Use the glitch as an exoskeleton for progress.

Find catharsis in disintegration, ruptures and cracks; manipulate, bend and break any medium towards the point where it becomes something new; create glitch art.

Tactical Glitches

As digital technologies became more commonplace, digital artists started experimenting with bending and breaking programs and files. During the mid-nineties, the art collective for instance developed a series of unplayable mods from the First Person Shooter Quake. In these modified game levels they exposed not only the expectations inherent to videogames but also offered a rare glimpse into the otherwise digital black box, illuminating its inner workings.

Gradually, glitches became a go-to technique in the toolbox of tactical media artists, as they set out to expose its inherent politics such as bias, habit and the limitations of computation. Through their work, they showed that while technology is designed to function perfectly, or at least as well as possible in a particular predefined context, technology is tried and tested for only particular use-case scenarios, often with only specific financial and economic goals. By illustrating the limitations of technology, this particular branch of procedural glitch art tactically illustrates that technology is never a neutral tool.

Bending the Binary

A common glitch technique is data bending, which involves inserting random data into the file, or the transcoding a file type — such as an image file into sound. File formats are used to encode data by organizing it according to a particular syntax or compression algorithm. The choice of a compression is determined by various factors such as intended usage, required accuracy, and hardware or software specifications. Each algorithm comes with its own rules and compromises that can significantly affect the final output and look of the file.

In A Vernacular of File Formats, I compressed a source image — a self portrait — using different compression languages while intentionally introducing the same error into each file. This allowed the otherwise invisible compression language to reveal itself on the surface of the image. The project served not only as a starting point for my ongoing research into file format politics and their inherent resolutions, but also as a handbook for exploring glitch aesthetics.

Following its release, the images from The Vernacular widely circulated over the internet in all forms and references. But the self-portrait was also used without attribution on mugs, hoodies, vinyl record covers. In 2016, the Vernacular was jointly acquired by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Museum Of The Image (Netherlands). It is however still freely available online for artists and designers to use as source footage for their own work and research, following the spirit of COPY < IT > RIGHT!: It's okay to copy!

Realize that the gospel of glitch art also tells about new standards implemented by corruption.

Not all glitch art is progressive or something new. The popularization and cultivation of the avant-garde of mishaps has become predestined and unavoidable. Be aware of easily reproducible glitch effects automated by softwares and plug-ins. What is now a glitch will become a fashion.

Genealogies of Distortion

Today, digital technologies are ubiquitous, and phenomena such as cracked screens and broken images have become commonplace occurrences. Glitches no longer merely signify a moment of digital interruption, but have evolved as meaningful signifiers and figures of speech, even serving as metaphors. As a result, the glitch art movement evolved from a tactical form of glitch art into a popular aesthetic that was quickly co-opted by various other waves of culture. This transition left the glitch existing simultaneously as a mode of resistance and as a commodity or asset .

This is why the writing of any type of glitch art history is difficult, if not impossible, as writing a historical account seems incompatible with the genre of glitch art. If anything, the historical continuity of glitch is characterized by bends, breaks, voids, forks, in-betweens, instabilities, rigidity, abandonment, and turns. In fact, there is no such thing as a "glitch art continuum" or a "first work" or form of glitch art. Rather than a linear history of glitch, there are many parallel, complex, and intersecting discourses that interact and influence one another.

Every form of glitch, whether accidental or designed, eventually will become a new form or meaningful expression. However, the meanings of glitch are constantly subject to revision: their language systems emerge, their meanings shift, idioms ossify and standardize into a fashion or genre.

...and then they change again. The glitch thus heralds a transformative power — a potential to modulate or productively damage the norms of (techno-)culture.

Glitch: Beyond Binary.

The newly curated auction, Glitch: Beyond Binary, features three curated shows on glitch art under one umbrella, curated by Dawnia Darkstone (Letsglitchit), Dina Chang, and finally the original Sotheby's line-up. This fractured show aims to highlight the diverse groups of artists that make up the glitch art communities; communities that do not just identify as male or female but consist of people from all varieties of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, language, neuro-type, size, ability, class, religion, culture, subculture, political opinion, age, skill level, occupation, and background.[4]

Glitch: Beyond Binary highlights that auction houses have a responsibility beyond profit-making. By embracing a broader definition of value and ensuring equitable curation Beyond Binary demonstrates that the value of glitch art extends beyond its market and aesthetics, encompassing the glitch and its cultural significance.


[1] From the tactical glitches exhibition text, curated by Nick Briz and Rosa Menkman at SUDLAB Gallery, Naples, 2014.

[2] Order and Progress catalogue text by Domenico Quaranta (2010)

[3] Sylvere Lotringer, Paul Virilio, The Accident of Art, Semiotext(e), New York 2005, p. 63.

[4] Inclusivity language ripped, borrowed, leveraged, and copied from the p5 community guidelines

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Meet our Curators

Dawnia Darkstone

Step into the world of Glitch: Beyond Binary, a mesmerizing odyssey into the expansive universe of glitch art. This exhibition breaks free from traditional constraints, showcasing the vast array of creative expressions that this enthralling genre offers. My selection of artists celebrates a spectrum of perspectives and styles, each contributing to the ongoing conversation between technology, personal identity, and cultural dynamics.

In co-curating Glitch: Beyond Binary, I aspired to present an eclectic ensemble of exceptional artists, each with their distinct vision and approach to the realm of glitch art. My selection process was driven by a desire to reveal the multifaceted nature of this genre, emphasizing the intricate links between digital experimentation, philosophical exploration, and the intricacies of human existence. Each artist's work serves as a visual enigma, urging viewers to examine and challenge the conventions that dictate our lives and our comprehension of art itself.

The artists featured in this exhibition expertly navigate the unpredictable world of glitches, channeling their raw energy to create captivating narratives that redefine conventional notions of beauty, perfection, and reality. Through their inventive manipulation of digital anomalies, these artists beckon us on a voyage of introspection and reflection, inciting curiosity about the complex relationship between technology and the human condition.

A core principle guiding my selection of artists was the commitment to embracing diversity, both in terms of artistic techniques and the artists' backgrounds, experiences, and identities. By presenting a varied array of voices and viewpoints, Glitch: Beyond Binary fosters a more profound understanding of the multiple dimensions of human experience, nurturing empathy and championing inclusivity.

Join us in celebrating the vibrant tapestry and ingenious artistry of Glitch: Beyond Binary, an exhibition that invites you to delve into the unexplored territories of glitch art, pushing the boundaries of your understanding and inspiring you to transcend the confines of binary thinking.

Dina Chang

Dina Chang is an American artist and curator. Her work is an experimental fusion of traditional photography mixed with machine learning, video, misused software and science. Unshackled from the expectation of ‘reality’ that has historically burdened the medium of photography, her approach is focused on uncovering new possibilities via technology.

Previous exhibitions of her work include MoMA PS1 as part of the Expo: 1 New York module ProBio, The Andy Warhol Museum, NFT NYC and Mutek Tokyo. She has been a visiting critic at Rutgers, Parsons the New School and The International Center of Photography.

She is also co-founder of Setta, an experimental creative studio based in New York City.

More Highlights


Artists such as XCOPY and JakNFT have long been mainstays in the digital art scene, as each have developed their own style and identity. The London-based digital artist XCOPY was an early pioneer of GIF art via the websites Giphy and Tumblr but today is most widely known as an early adopter of crypto art, having been invited to participate in the launch of the SuperRare marketplace in 2018. His neon-colored illustrated GIFs are instantly recognizable for their dark, punk-inspired themes of apathy and dystopia and the distorting “glitch” elements and visual loops which, due to their low frame rate, move and vibrate with a frenetic energy that brings the images to life on screen. Some of these elements are seen within his work Loading New Conflict... Redux 6, which is part of his first ever minted series on Superrare back in 2018 and gifted to collectors that were early supporters of his on the now defunct ascribe platform. The piece is a powerful example of XCOPY's unique style; the figure in the center of the piece appears to be robotic, which can be interpreted as a merging of technology and human biology. The use of pixelation and glitch effects give the impression that the image is being corrupted, reflecting the theme of conflict that is central to the piece. The overall composition of the artwork is highly dynamic and striking, with bold colors and contrasting textures that create a sense of tension and movement. The use of geometric shapes and patterns also adds to the sense of chaos, giving the impression that the figure is being pulled in multiple directions at once. We can understand this work as a commentary on the intersection of technology and humanity, and the potential conflicts that can arise when these two worlds collide.

About Shayne Coplan (ethsquiat)

Shayne Coplan, also known as ethsquiat, is a New York-born entrepreneur and cryptocurrency enthusiast. He first became interested in the world of cryptocurrencies in 2013 and quickly realized the potential they had to revolutionize the way we think about ownership, art and transactions.

In 2018, Coplan founded Polymarket, the world's largest prediction market platform. Polymarket allows users to trade on the outcome of various real-world events, including politics, sports, and finance. The platform has gained significant attention for its innovative approach to prediction markets and has attracted millions of users from around the world. In addition to his work with Polymarket, Coplan is also a prominent NFT art collector. Under the pseudonym ethsquiat, he has amassed one of the largest collections of NFT art in the world. He has been a pioneer in the NFT space and has been the first collector of multiple now-famous artists, including XCOPY, Max Osiris, and FEWOCiOUS.

Coplan is also notable for being one of the youngest first-generation collectors to sell the marquee lot in a Sotheby's auction. This achievement is a testament to his passion and vision in the world of digital art. His success has helped to elevate the profile of digital art and has inspired many others to get involved in this exciting new space. Coplan's spirit and commitment to innovation are fitting for the presentation of XCOPYs Loading New Conflict... Redux series.


JakNFT or “Jak '' has been referred to as one of the "goats of glitch", and as "XCOPY’s artistic son". Prior to creating crypto art under the anonymous name JakNFT, Jak trained in the visual arts. He attended his first art classes in the early 1990s, and in the 2000s, Jak began experimenting with digital art. He later took up formal studies in studio art and art history. During these years he also emerged as an anonymous politically-themed street artist. His glitch style is versatile and ranges from erratic, loud, and fiercely modern to soft, subtle and ethereal. Jak's art has congruent commentary and is often linked through the use of color, which he uses to convey emotion. His process often involves mixing both digital & physical mediums. Part of Jak’s process includes drawing the work by hand, and then transferring this over to the digital. This is evident in his work TIGER, which is included in the sale. TIGER is one of only three 1/1 artworks minted from Jak’s ‘Experiments In Glitch 2’ smart contract. The work was minted in 2022, the Chinese year of the Water Tiger, which occurs once every 60 years. TIGER emits an aura of power and strength, and bursts through the canvas with abstract neo-expressionist flare, out of what appears to be destroyed concrete. Considered one of the artist's defining works, TIGER features Jak's signature NOISE at its base and is layered with graffiti-style strokes in a black, gray, turquoise and glowing fluorescent orange palette. The words "BAD MOOD" crossed out in the top left corner of the canvas, and similar lines across TIGER's eyes, communicate suppressed aggression. Drips, splats, scrapes and grainy textures layered throughout the composition blur the boundary between digital and physical art, and make TIGER feel real enough to touch.

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