Now in it’s final hours of funding, Swiss designer Soleil Zumbrunn’s Glitch playing card project has met and exceeded its $12,000 funding goal. A few days after launching the project Soleil contacted me and I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask her a few questions to give some insight into the creative impetus driving her remix of the age old deck of playing cards. The interview below is unedited save for some insertion of follow up questions.
YOTG: In your video, you mention you are a designer. Would you consider yourself to identify strongly with that label or are there other labels that you also would use to describe yourself and your work?
SZ: The majority of my work has been video / video installations. Through the schooling that I’ve had I would say I work process oriented - that is the fun part - the experiments, the open field, all the questions with unlimited answers. My professors always said my work was Art, but who is to say where one thing starts and another stops. I just love what I do.
YOTG: Where did you study? What programs were you a part of? How do you define art and differentiate it from other pursuits?
SZ: I studied at https://www.designskolenkolding.dk/en. It is a wonderful small design Uni in Denmark. I studied under the Communication Design department, focusing mainly on interaction design, and the associated methodologies and processes. The end results varied from robotics (Arduino) to interactive installations (maxmspjitter) to printed books or drawings - whichever ways benefited the project was good with the professors.
Art is differentiated by being without compromise - and it’s intrinsic motivation.
YOTG: I’m curious to know how you would describe glitch. What informs the way you approach defining the term?
SZ: Glitch, datamoshing, databending, distortion, they are all forms of surrealism to me. Tools to enhance or influence the viewers emotions. A way to tell a story.
YOTG: What, in your own words, is a glitch?
SZ: Well it is all 1’s and 0’s. A glitch to me is when the intended order of ones and zeros has gone awry and there is a hangup [sic]. And to be honest - I like that they are interruptions.
YOTG: In what ways do you see others’ emotions being influenced and enhanced today, and to what ends? How does you work with glitch relate to this observation?
SZ: We are under a constant stream of information and stimuli, which desensitizes people. Most remember when their old VHS tapes went all haywire, or when their Windows machine had a hangup [sic] and the windows multiplied to the infinite or their iPhones freezing (i count that as a glitch too - not a visual one but one nonetheless) - one knows when something isn’t as it’s supposed to be. That is an opening right there.
YOTG: How did you become interested in glitch as you describe it above? How did you develop your relationship to it?
SZ: My first glitch project was a couple of years ago, where we used datamoshing to censor a person. We felt it gave the viewers a very visual barrier that something was out of the norm - something wasn’t quite right. We liked how people reacted to it. Since then I’ve worked on several projects where the surrealistic effects break emotional norms and patterns.
YOTG: Do you feel as though datamoshing was a successful process to explore the notion of censorship?
SZ: I am not so sure. Viewers are more interested in the technical details. But with time I think I’ve learned to use the concept more subtly and it’s working better and better.
YOTG: In what ways, do you feel, are others censored that are perhaps less visible?
SZ: I am not 100% sure, but if you are asking what I think you are asking then I’d say, most are censored by how loud the world is. It is so loud. How can anybody hear what I am saying anyway? That to me is censorship by default.
YOTG: What specific processes do you employ in the pursuit of glitch? Specifically the processes used in creating the Glitch deck. Can you elaborate on why you use those processes?
SZ: First, I like it a bit old school when it’s appropriate for the project, so I got a deck of cards and chopped them up. What seems like a big craft party, is actually fun and gives me ideas of how much/how little the distortion or glitch should be applied.
After I decided that it should be the classic deck that gets glitched, I used Illustrator and After Effects to glitch them. It might seem weird using a program like AE to do something like cards - but it works well for glitch as you can slide the RGB layers around…
YOTG: Did you also alter anything about the card counts? Did you create cards which may be of ambiguous identity? Any unintelligible cards?
SZ: Haha, yeah I thought about it, but I did want them to be playable.
YOTG: How do you feel your processes reflect your conceptualization of glitch?
SZ: [no reply]
YOTG: Do you feel that play is an integral part of glitch practice?
SZ: Ah, yes - play is a vital part for sure. There is something about anti-aesthtics that brings out a beautiful flow of play - at least in me.
YOTG: Why is it important that the playing cards be made by the United States Playing Card Company?
SZ: I wanted them to be the best possible quality and USPCC delivers!
YOTG: I’m curious to know what other manufacturers you considered. Are there independent card manufacturers? Do you have a distibutor?
SZ: Well as this is my first card project, I knew I needed a printer where there won’t be any questions about production. I like that they are printing here in the US as well. One can have cards printed very cheaply overseas but for this project I like the contrast of message.
Nope, no distributor. That’s why I am trying to get them funded on kickstarter.
YOTG: Can you tell me a bit more how you came up with the name for the project?
SZ: That was actually a no-brainer, it was all glitched - so GLITCH seemed to fit perfectly.
YOTG: At what point does being wrong become right?
SZ: Philosophy 101 - there is no right or wrong – its [sic] all a construct anyway :)
YOTG: Do you have any links to other work you’d like to share?
SZ: Well, since you asked: My MFA project is a short film (A Portrait of the Void) and an explorative paper (Distorted Portraiture). I discuss how distortion is used to visually intensify the perverseness of dark emotions, as well as the viewers’ perception of these fluctuations in reality. I present several different cases of portraiture, varying from subtle distortions of reality to more extreme versions; concluding with a discussion of my own work, mainly explaining and analyzing the different perceptions of the viewer, as well as the usage of distortion and its surreal treatment of reality.
Here is the link to the project (first project on the page)
YOTG: Do you have a quick bio that I could use to close the post?
SZ: It is easier to describe why I do what I do, then myself; rather than working to create the solution to a given issue, the main focus of my work has been to enhance the viewer’s insight to the subject matter - operating with the belief that people are capable of solving problems themselves once they understand the actual complications. My communication of these insights has primarily been through film and video-installations.