Amy Nyanpi is an American artist based in Japan. Her interest in both technology and art led her to the discovery of databending, a form that encompasses a variety of processes involving the manipulation of an image's raw data in order to produce visual glitches. She writes her own custom scripts and programs in order to do this, always keeping up to speed with the exponentially evolving world of technology.
Internet culture, ranging from Japanese Otaku to the Anonymous movement out of 4chan, inspire her to the point that she considers herself a citizen of the Internet rather than of any particular nation, a concept that heavily influences her art. I first discovered her work through reddit.com's glitch art sub-reddit, where she actively posts content from her Tumblr blog, Abstract Internetism. She kindly let me interview her about her work, and the methods behind it.
How were you introduced to glitch art?
I personally have only just gotten into producing my own glitch art seriously in the past year, but I've been a big computer geek my whole life and I was pretty big into the demo/hacker scene in the 90s. A lot of the glitch art we are seeing today has its roots in the demo/hacker scene I think. Glitch art is sort of a combination of two of my favorite things: art and technology, so I think I was always kind of drawn to it for that reason.
The ‘Manifesto’ section of your blog includes some insightful comments on the ethos of what you dub ‘Abstract Internetism’, placing it in a cultural context and citing Transhumanism, Fluxus and Dada as ancestors of the form. Are there any other ideas, movements or artists that inspire your work?
I run the blog with a friend (he actually wrote the Manifesto, although a lot of the idea itself was born from our discussions about art and technology) so I can't speak for him or anyone else who may have some attachment to the movement, but for me personally Transhumanism, Futurology, Dada, Fluxus, all those things are certainly a huge influence on me and my art. A lot of the philosophies and ideas behind Abstract Internetism though are just my own personal philosophies that I have developed over the years. Technology and science are probably two of the biggest themes behind my art and play a major part in why I do what I do.
What is it that differentiates the terms ‘Abstract Internetism’ and ‘Glitch Art’?
Abstract Internetism is a sort of "non-movement" that a friend and I came up with as a way to describe some of the new trends we were noticing in the contemporary art world. It is actually quite similar to the New Aesthetic movement, but I feel like New Aesthetic does not quite meet our ideals which is why we decided to create our own sort of definition to encapsulate the trends we saw. Abstract Internetism encapsulates many different styles of art, and glitch art just happens to be one of those due to its close relationship with the Internet and technology. The definition of Abstract Internetism itself is a forever changing one as the world of art on the Internet is a rapidly changing one. Basically, Abstract Internetism is kind of a catch-all in an attempt to summarize and group together Internet art culture, which I think we can all agree that glitch art is definitely a part of.
I have noticed that you exclusively use found art. Is there something in particular that attracts you to the manipulation of others’ images over your own?
A major concept behind my work is the manipulation of data. Each one of my pieces is supposed to represent the literally infinite stream of data that is flowing into the Internet every second. Basically that is why I prefer to use existing data in my work.
Do you have a favourite method of databending, or do you prefer to constantly experiment with different approaches?
I pretty much always do my databending in a hex editor. I do use Audacity from time to time, but I try to keep things as interesting as possible so that all of my pieces don't end up looking the same. I like the colorful glitching effect you can get from glitching JPGs though, so they are probably my favorite format to work with. I do a lot of file conversion back and forth though to combine different databending techniques. I do like to always be trying something new though, so I am always playing with new methods.
Are there any unique touches that you like to apply to your work?
Basically, as I was describing before, all of my work comes down to manipulating data. I try to make it so that everything I do has a purpose. Every bit of data that I edit is edited for a reason. I do often apply subtle and not-so-subtle changes of my own in Photoshop in addition to my databending. The purpose of my work is to try to bring awareness to the data that is now affecting all of our lives daily, so whatever it takes to spread that message is what I do.