Glitch artist Visakh Menon and the aesthetics of failure

An Indian artist currently based in New York, Visakh Menon discusses his craft and its exploration that revolves around error.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Jun 08, 2021

Glitch art is a creative genre that clubs together a vast variety of techniques used to distort, damage or otherwise manipulate data in order to produce results that are largely subversive and transformative. Its practitioners often apply multiple techniques, both software and hardware related, in their explorations, and have manifested a rich history of doing so in order to materialise various socio-political ideals through their craft. The same may not be said for Kochi-born Visakh Menon, who also utilises software and hardware, often combining them through an abstract drawing and painting practice. However, seen from a predominantly exploratory perspective, his work may very will sit near the front of glitch art practices as they are currently being pursued. Menon spent most of his youth in India, where he committed himself to both, an undergraduate and graduate degree in graphic design.

He tells STIR, “I started out in advertising as a designer, and continue to work as an art director, designer, and design educator”. However, this does little to shed light on his captivating glitch arts practice, which seems to have really picked up post-2007, when he moved to New York, and found himself within a welcoming community of artists along with acquiring access to his own studio. Discussing his work since then, Menon says, “I also started showing my work, something I had never done before while I lived and worked back home in India. My current series of abstract drawings and paintings focus on the visual language of digital artefacts and the aesthetics of glitch, error and noise”.

01 min watch Menon on the job | Visakh Menon | STIRworld
Visakh Menon on the job Video: Visakh Menon

To deviate slightly from a discussion centring around Menon’s practice, it is very telling that he did not encounter the infrastructure necessary to manifest his creative vision in India. Perhaps it is an uncomfortable prospect, but no doubt one worth considering: do older and richer creative cultures beget a greater degree of resistance to transformation? Regardless, this has not stopped Menon from drawing inspiration from Indian artists, as he mentions among his foremost inspirations Nasreen Mohamedi. It is easy to draw parallels between Menon and the Karachi-born abstract artist who achieved great renown during the pre-independence period of Indian history. Mohamedi’s line work captured, rather impeccably, the spirit of various forms and structures of both historical and progressive importance, and while this is not necessarily the same principal ethos Menon’s work is grounded within, he too seems to pursue the same level of precision and detail within his drawings, transforming entities to datasets and representing them visually.

A piece from Menon’s interference series | Visakh Menon | STIRworld
A piece from Menon’s interference series Image: Visakh Menon

Menon articulates his approach to glitch as such, “I am interested in the collapse of expectation; what happens when the expected process starts to dysfunction, specifically within human machine interaction. Hardware errors in graphic cards, ROM corruption in games, broken LCD displays, JPG artefacts etc. often lead to unexpected visuals that cannot be planned or controlled; this is the space I like to frame my work within conceptually”. To sum up his practice, he evokes the idea of “aesthetics of failure”; certainly, a preoccupation of many artists such as him. Glitch art can function not merely as a manifestation, but also as a veneration of the broken or damaged, and in this way, generates a very different aesthetic discourse than that which has generally centred around art for time immemorial. C