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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.
“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.