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Glitch aesthetics: a continuing story seen from Charity Cult’s work

Mario Viele, best known as Charity Cult discusses his daily, abstract visual arts practice; its origin and future.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Mar 19, 2023

Glitch arts practices began, not too long ago, as a creative pursuit of the error: artists worked tirelessly to repurpose physical hardware and digital software in order to distort, damage, and ultimately recontextualise visual media. Since then, the genre has had a very interesting journey. As specific tools evolved to give practitioners greater control over the glitching process, philosophical questions regarding the very validity of the term ‘glitch,’ as it is used in this context arose: surely the more deliberate the process becomes, the less the product can be called an error. Eventually, glitching tools have come to be so simplified, that folx (an inclusive version of the word folks) without any formal creative experience can use them to create visual art. Filters on social media are a prime example of this and have given rise to what is dubbed ‘glitch aesthetics’. The visual qualities of glitched media are created without pursuing a glitching process. Glitch aesthetics have been used in some highly creative ways, and a recent trend seems to be the pursuit of extreme abstraction, to the extent that perhaps some examples of the genre do not even fit into that ambit, but rather, belong to a third, unnamed group. And whatever that may come to be called, Mario Viele’s digital art settles into it quite comfortably.

Empiric Escitalopram, 2022, digital art, Charity Cult | Charity Cult | Mario Viele | STIRworld
Empiric Escitalopram, 2022, digital art Image: Mario Viele

The artist lives in Brooklyn, New York and mentions that he does not have much of a formal artistic background. He is a musician who has played in various bands over the years and took to Photoshop along the way in order to create flyers, album art and other visual materials meant to aid his musical work. Viele is better known as Charity Cult, and also runs an Instagram account under the very same name. Discussing this, he tells STIR “Charity Cult is a musical synthpop project of mine. In 2019, I released the first single Fever Dream, and in 2021 I released the debut album Hot Tropics. Both of these are on all streaming platforms. From the moment I created the Instagram account, I wanted to have images to post, but I didn't want to post pictures of myself or boring pictures of my guitars and synthesizers, so I started taking pictures of them, but would also run them haphazardly through many filters in a row on photo editing apps. Whereas most people will take a photo and put a filter on it, I decided to run them through up to 20 different filters using various apps, so the image would be so distorted, it would be no longer recognizable. This was inspired a bit by how guitar players will often run a guitar signal through several pedals.”

Hack Neuroinfomaniac, 2022, digital art, Charity Cult | Charity Cult | Mario Viele | STIRworld
Hack Neuroinfomaniac, 2022, digital art Image: Mario Viele

Eventually, the visual artist would come to begin posting one abstract image to social media every day. Viele ensured that each image would be built from a photograph he took that day, ensuring that the results would always be original. He explains, saying “as the repetition of a daily abstract creation set in, I would discover different little detours and find additional filters and apps and new ways to mess with the images, so over time different trends or eras came about within the posts. It's a bit like a quick daily meditation. Currently, I do a lot more hand editing, masking and conceptualizing than the earlier posts, but it's also a lot like fishing - most days I don't think the result is overly special, but every once in a while, I catch a pretty cool one. If I really didn't like one though, I wouldn't post it, I only post them if I find something compelling.”

Iced Codec, 2022, digital art, Charity Cult | Charity Cult | Mario Viele | STIRworld
Iced Codec, 2022, digital art Image: Mario Viele

Viele looks back with fondness at the era of ANSI art- a style of digital art that utilized 256 text characters along with a 16-colour palette to create surprisingly vivid results. The name itself is short for “American National Standards Institute”, which maintains various standards in the United States of America, and created certain codes that the practice was built upon. The artist continues, and acknowledges the importance that ANSI art has with regard to his own craft, saying “I love the pixel art of early video games and abstract screensavers from the 90s and 2000s, so I guess you could cite all that as a bit of influence, though I can't do most of that stuff myself.”

Knyfe Hype, 2022, digital art, Charity Cult | Charity Cult | Mario Viele | STIRworld
Knyfe Hype, 2022, digital art Image: Mario Viele

The digital artist maintains that Charity Cult is still first and foremost a musical project, and tells STIR that he is currently in the process of creating the second full-length album. However, he does also view it as a visual arts project and mentions that this is the case owing to his immense enjoyment of daily image-making. He says, “I think most of the people who follow the account now follow it for the visuals. So, I guess you could say that Charity Cult has become something of an audio/visual project over time. That's fine by me. Some people do check out the music, and it's cool when they do. And for everyone just enjoying the images, that makes me just as happy. I think the images resonate because they come from a place of genuine enjoyment and curiosity, and set out to do nothing overt. Plus, some of them look pretty striking!” Viele’s work sits at an interesting crossroads: it is by no means anything new for music to have its own visual iconography, but it is still somewhat uncommon for musicians to create visual art that is so salient and striking, it generates a following of its own, which in turn creates a fascination for the music that the artist creates.

Profile Picture, 2022, Mario Viele | Artist’s archive | Mario Viele | STIRworld
Profile Picture, 2022, Mario Viele Image: Mario Viele

The Glitch artist has a refreshingly easy-going outlook on his digital arts practice and defines his continued commitment to it through his level of enjoyment. Discussing his plans for the future, the artist tells STIR, “I will continue making abstract image posts as long as I feel inspired, and I look forward to recording and releasing the second album - maybe by that point in time everyone who has found the page through the image posts will check it out, but even if they don't... hey, that's cool too.

Charity Cult’s work showcased in a music video Video: Courtesy of Mario Viele

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