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!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015) (all photos by Kathrin Schulthess unless otherwise noted)

If you look at a photograph of the newly worked facade of Switzerland’s House of Electronic Arts Basel, it may appear as if the image failed to properly load. The pilasters of the interdisciplinary venue are fragmented, as are the railings that border its edge — a series of distortions that seemingly results from a computer glitch. That visual warping, however, is actually part of the physical architecture of the building, recently transformed by !Mediengruppe Bitnik, the Berlin-based art duo who previously brought us the Random Darknet Shopper.

This infrastructural glitch is titled “H3333333K,” which also references the common systematic failure, as it plays on the institution’s acronym for its German name, “HeK.” In the realm of technology, such malfunctions tend to be transient, existing for as long as it takes for a signal to right itself; “H3333333K,” however, celebrates such pesky errors while challenging how we perceive visual documentation.

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015) (click to enlarge)

“The idea was to cast something fluid, non-permanent like a software error into something physical and permanent, like architecture,” !Mediengruppe Bitnik’s Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo told Hyperallergic. “A software error built of stone.”

The result first arose out of the artists’ interest in 3D architectural models and renderings that are so hyperrealistic that the pair realized they could differentiate between those images and faithful photographs of corresponding buildings only by looking at people in the pictures.

“We really became intrigued by that — the way software and models shape architecture and visualize the future in a way where you’re no longer sure whether you’re looking at a simulation or not,” !Mediengruppe Bitnik said. The artists then introduced a software error into a digital photo of the institution’s facade and used the final visual as a model for the actual renovation. Since a glitch breaks up the picture plane, translating fragments into a stable building naturally presented some practical challenges.

“The main difficulty was that we, of course, needed to ensure the glitch would not interfere with the functionality of the building,”!Mediengruppe Bitnik said. “Like: where would we put the waterspout after the original one was going to be cut into several pieces and would therefore lose its functionality?”

The final result is structurally sound, and it successfully freezes the moment of a faulty system performance. Just as a glitch reveals an image’s underlying foundations by calling attention to the device or system that supports it, the architectural glitch makes one increasingly aware of the building’s overall framework and how its individual elements come together to reinforce it. Completed last year, the building was recently revisited by contractors who reworked some of its sections to ensure that “H3333333K” will stand for an indefinite amount of time, rather than undergo architectural troubleshooting and revert to its original, linear configuration.

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015)

The glitched photograph of the House of Electronic Arts Basel (image courtesy !Mediengruppe Bitnik)

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015)

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015)

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015)

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015)

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, “H3333333K” (2015)

Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE, Gothamist, Artnews, Smithsonian Magazine,...

3 replies on “Building a Glitch in 3D”

  1. Glitch… the most boring thing to happen to art since the “big piles of random junk all over the floor” installation.

  2. I appreciate the commitment to the idea and am enjoying seeing such a material realisation of glitch, but this is so subtle that without the single point perspective of the photograph I can’t see how this would express to a real visitor to the real building. Will there be a recommended vantage point, like an anamorphic painting (or like the official Ansel Adams tripod positions in Yosemite Valley?)

  3. I thought this project was interesting because rather than fixing a glitch, the artists wanted to make a glitch as an art piece. As a coder, your job is to create a functional space, debugging whatever is not working. So the goal is to have no glitches, but the fact that these artists are encouraging the effect of a glitch brings out the beauty of imperfection. The 3D Glitch project has also reminded about another artist named Rosa Menkman, who has used glitches as a medium for her work. I think it’s fascinating to see her create art through pieces that are dysfunctional. I like the idea of uncovering what lies beneath the surface, I think it sparks an interesting thought on how certain things came to be, like the computer.

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