System Error
1 September 2019

‘System Error’ is a series of photographs depicting five whistleblowers who sacrificed their safety and reputations for the sake of exposing systematic malpractice in governments and corporations by breaking open the established systems thriving on secrecy and misdirection. Whether solitary or collective, civil disobedience in democratic societies has historically been a necessary corrective when institutionalised forms of government deviate from the democratic ideals they have been implemented to enable. The essence of glitch art is finding the beauty in malfunction and disruption — both intentional and unforeseen. By corrupting a digital image, one exposes its inner scaffolding. Whistleblowing is daring to disrupt the established system, breaking the rules so that they can be rewritten. It is a risk because the consequences are unpredictable, both on the personal level of the whistleblower, and society at large. The glitched portraits aestheticise this disruption of unsustainable and authoritative systems.

The portraits were created using a mix- ture of different glitch techniques such as databending, pixel-sorting and the injecting of text into the image code using a hex editor. Edward Snowden’s portrait was infused with the excerpt ‘Right to Privacy’ found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as quotes from various newspapers, Chelsea Manning’s portrait was combined with the transcript of ‘Collateral Murder’ as well as quotes from interviews, Thomas Drake’s portrait with the Fourth Amendment and segments of The Baltimore Sun article, Ellsberg’s portrait with excerpts from the Pentagon Papers and Radack’s portrait included the Miranda warning and personal quotes regarding the importance of protecting the rights of whistleblowers.

‘System Error’ was created within the framework of the first Elevate artist-residency. The installation was displayed inside the grottos of Schlossberg which served as bomb shelters during WW2.

elevate.at/systemerror 28.02. — 06.03.2018

Schloßbergstollen, 8010 Graz, Austria.

Curated by: Berit Gilma