To mesh music, performance and collaborative participation is no easy task, yet it’s what artists/writers/wannabe hackers Kyougn Kmi and Daniel Rourke (who’s currently completing his PhD in art and writing practice at Goldsmiths) set out to do in GLTI.CH Karaoke. Most of us have half-baked childhood fantasies about becoming rock stars that we live out in our showers to an imaginary audience. The fundamental human desire to make lyrical noise and its power as an intimate social experience is, perhaps, best seen in the karaoke social phenomenon, which originated in Japan in the 1970s.
The word karaoke originates from the Japanese character kara or “empty” and ōkesutora for “orchestra”. Strangely poetic: empty orchestra. Karaoke’s pop-culture existence feeds on and is inseparable from technology: a dark, faux-luxurious room and microphones connected to the mother womb of the TV screen, which flashes music videos and proclaims lyrics across its face as we belt out songs (badly), sycophants of desire. Why do we do it? Maybe because singing is a cathartic experience, or because it gives us access to our deepest fantasies.
GLTI.CH Karaoke takes this one step further. Their website, Glti.ch (in itself a whimsical play on words), sets out an unofficial manifesto for their intentions:
“Since April 2011 we’ve been exposing the course of accidents, temporal lyrical disjoints and technical out-of syncs. GLTI.CH Karaoke breaches hopeless distances with cultural and technical make-dos of readily available technology, to kluge people together in glitchy songfests.”
Their ultimate aim?
“To bring people together and have them collaborate on karaoke duets. […] Using free versions of Skype, Youtube and collaborative web software TinyChat, we orchestrate duets between people who have never met each other, who don’t speak the same language, bypassing thousands of geographic miles with glitchy, highly compressed data and a bit of patience.”
There’s something altogether wonderful and utopian about the idea of singing together with strangers across the Internet, our voices traveling through electric wires and pixelated through the winds of the earth. Our imperfection is moving, our technological and organic errors a fundamental part of what it means to be homo sapien. Thus, the glitch or “glti.ch”, either aesthetic glitches or broken translation in the filtered collaboration between people, represents our contemporary human condition.
GLTI.CH quotes Iman Moradi, “In a sense we are cherishing the little idiosyncrasies that are absent from the soulless machines churned from the production lines.”
We can read this as a simultaneous celebration of and reaction to the glistening Internet, which brings us together virtually but also limits our interaction with each other in RL. Is this a bad thing? What is GLTI.CH Karaoke, really? Its medium revolves around the Web and site-based events; its outcome encompasses social media platforms, blogs and video compilations. Perhaps what the project ultimately aims to achieve is to forge a new way of seeing, evoking a new simulative way of collaboration with other people in a brave new world.
“GLTI.CH Karaoke not only inhabits the errors, the time delays and compression artifacts, but the ultimate variable of human interaction. Here, we believe, a neutral collaborative space can be mapped out, free to transcend markets, locations, time zones – free to roam between abandoned city basements, student bed sits and internet café laptops. GLTI.CH Karaoke events revel in the slippery nature of the web. Our manifesto asks to be written and rewritten as it gathers cracks, bruises and mistranslation errors.”
Enchanted yet? Read through GLTI.CH Karaoke’s previous events and keep a look out for its next virtual intervention on their website, flickr, twitter, facebook and youtube. Let us know what you think of glitch aesthetics in the comments below.