Glitched Vintage Photos Offer An Artistic Perspective On Our Fragmented Memory
Mr. Stein’s Fear by David Szauder. “He was a solid, well situated simple man. He went to church every day, when it was necessary. But one day he realised that he has doubts.”
In his Failed Memories series, Hungarian digital artist David Szauder (sometimes known as Pixel Noizz) explores the imperfect nature of human memory by glitching old photographs.
Szauder is inspired by the parallels he sees between human memory and computer memory: Our brains store away images to retrieve them later, like files stored away on a hard drive. But when we go back and try to re-access those memories, we may find them to be corrupted in some way–glitched, if you will. As the artist explains on his website:
Solid Afternoon. “These friends discussed Metaphysics all that afternoon, the discussion was too theoretical, so their memory was modified in a physical way.”
To evoke these fragmented memories, Szauder applies different glitch codes he’s created to the figures in old photographs, usually focusing on their heads and faces. Using Pixelmator and other image editing software, he’s able to isolate the foreground and background in the images, and has more control over the composition than if he were to employ more classic databending techniques such as adjusting the file data with a hex editor.
“I’m not modifying the source of the image, I’m modifying the surface of the image,” he explains.
He then writes short narratives to accompany each photo, which often give imagined insight into why the subject’s appearance–and sometimes their mind–has been altered: A regular churchgoer starts doubting himself; a group of friends get too deep into their discussion of metaphysics; a glamorous woman is driven to paranoia by the bubbles in her champagne.
Suzana’s Blindness. “One day suzana went blind, this is her last inner memory…”
In Szauder’s most recent series of pictures, these narratives are inspired by his own family tales–told with a fair bit of poetic license.
“It’s my family stories and fiction together, coming out to create these images,” he says. “I’m changing names, I’m changing locations, but yes, it’s all about me.” The images, however, don’t necessarily depict his own relatives (he refuses to say either way, but an earlier note on his website inviting people to send in their family photos may give a hint).
Leon and Francesca.
As his collection of Failed Memories grows, the Berlin-based artist is continuing to explore new ways of transforming the images. This summer, he developed a glitch art app called Touch.gl for the DigitART exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The app, which works with Android devices, allows users to glitch an image directly on the screen. It uses many random parameters and has no undo or repeat options, which makes each composition unique. Having never made art with mobile devices before, Szauder was keen to apply the tool to some of the photos in his series: “And the result was amazing–impossible to do on my computer, just possible to do on a tablet.”
He’s now experimenting with new modifications by manipulating photographs on a scanner. “It’s more like a physical connection between the image and me if I can manipulate with my hand on a flat bed scanner.” He’s also keen to push the idea behind Failed Memories into film, by making 40- to 50-second-long narrative animations on the theme.