Glitch-Christ

“To invent the sailing ship or steamer is to invent the shipwreck.  To invent the train is to invent the rail accident of derailment.  To invent the family automobile is to produce the pile-up on the highway.  To get what is heavier than air to take off in the form of an aeroplane or dirigible is to incent the crash, the air disaster.” -Paul Virilio, The Original Accident.

To invent the cross, that is the technology of political execution, is to invent the Christ event.  The accident is a curious event.  It is an unexpected emergence: it is a messy differend.  What remains after the political execution?  A spirit that one cannot kill.  Aesthetically, we might call this differend a glitch.

The glitch is the accidental appearance of unexpected artifacts.  The glitch in an image manifests as discolored pixels and a distorted image.  The glitch in audio may manifest as static.  Though, what is the glitch of oppression or of an execution?  What artifacts might emerge? What ghosts may linger?  The American folk song Joe Hill says, “What they can never kill went on to organize.” There’s a residue that remains from oppression.  Something that cannot be accounted for, a remainder, an accident or a glitch.

Gethsemane

Following the Christian trajectory, this glitch can be located in Christ.  The cross is a peculiar method of execution, because like Christ, it is the interface of horizontal and vertical vectors. The intersection of the wooden planks is also the intersection of divinity and humanity.  Crucifixion is the event and out of this event emerges the glitch. Something goes wrong in the crucifixion of Jesus.

The power of the Roman occupying force is not quite hegemonic enough.  Christ’s death yields the peculiar artifact of everlasting life.  It’s not my intention to enforce any theology authoritatively, but simply to state that from the perspective of Rome, something went wrong in Christ’s death.  After the crucifixion Christ does not die.

Whether Christ bodily resurrects or it’s simply the Hegelian Aufhebung isn’t really the point.  Regardless of what metaphysical scheme is at play, what is important is the accident in the execution of Christ.  The glitch of Christ persists long after the execution of the man.

wrestle

Then, what can be gleaned from the glitch-Christ?  Aesthetically and practically, the glitch is a transgressive: a celebration of the artifacts that emerge from the accident.  Can we repeat the glitch-Christ? Is there a practice that yields the manifestation of these artifacts?  The nature of the accident makes drawing correlations difficult.  One cannot force an accident and cannot force the glitch.

The glitch is an accident, one can attempt to undertake a set of practices, but the appearance of the glitch is uncertain and precarious.  However, this doesn’t mean there are no normative methods.  One can easily glitch the image or audio file.  The accident is in what artifacts emerge out of the event.  If it is agreeable that Christ is this sort of glitch event then the Christian practice must be tracing Christ’s methods, though it’s not clear what will emerge.

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7 thoughts on “Glitch-Christ


  1. (not really related to my comment, i just wanted to show it off.)

    I’m wondering about a possible correlation between other deaths and the artifacts of these deaths? While someone like Sargon or Julius Caesar or Hitler (and their deaths) are all “events” in history, to various degrees of course, they all seemed to have in some sense produced a glitch in the straightforward understanding of the world and how it works. Do you think that there might be a further connection between death in general (not just political executions) and the emergence of artifactual glitches?

    • First, that’s sweet. I like that Christ is decapitated.

      Yes, I think that there is definitely a linkage between death and the glitch generally. You mention Hitler or Caesar…these are great examples. Something of them remains beyond death. I call it a glitch so it works with my techno-aesthetics, but others have called it a Hauntology. My mentor Richard Gilman-Opalsky wrote a great essay on ghosts (http://www.mediafire.com/view/x1w05wssakk1g23/01_Becoming-Ghost_%28Gilman-Opalsky%29_ARTICLE_SCAN.pdf) that has a similar trajectory.

      I guess the next question is what is exactly responsible for the left over artifacts. I think there’s something with power at play in the artifact which is why I link the glitch to Christ and oppression.

  2. Great post, Matt. I have a few thoughts/questions.

    I had to smile at the little slight of hand right at the beginning with the quote followed by your opening sentence. Even after getting to the end of the post, I’m still wondering how the cross invents the Christ event. It seems like you have two claims going on here that you’re trying to unite together in that claim.

    First is the claim that technologies invent glitches, and we can transfer this metaphor to the political consequences of execution. I think you’d agree that that in itself isn’t necessarily a revolutionary claim (your first sentence is obviously far more radical.) Still, it’s a helpful way of thinking the consequences of technologies especially political technologies.

    Second is the far more interesting claim that Jesus is Christ (I’m assuming you mean as it was circulated in the apostolic and patristic ages) can be read as a glitch which is the consequence of a political execution. Thinking the crucifixion and Christ that way opens up not only all sorts of interesting soteriological questions but also great questions about theology proper (hopefully without degenerating into process thought.) It’s an exciting way of thinking these things.

    But I don’t see that these two claims are so easily united so that we can say the cross INVENTS the Christ event, mostly because I think uniqueness is necessary to understanding the Christ event as THE Christ event. The analogous inventions are generalized events–even the idea that political execution invents messiahs/martyrs describes something general, not unique. Thoughts?

    • Dang, those are some good questions. I appreciate this intervention.

      the Christ event vs. THE Christ event.

      First, as Heidegger tells us technology is both the means to an end and it is an integral part of human history and culture. To invent the cross is also to invent the Christ. I think I need to stress two things a little further: the accident (means to an end) and pneumatology (possible new plateaus in human history).

      First, Christ is the accident of the cross: it is in this way that the cross might invent Christ. It’s not ever obvious or clear when an accident will occur, but accidents do occur. There are a concatenation of flows that contribute to the creation of this accident: oppression, mythology, power and so on. The point here is that there is never a one to one relation between execution and Christ. It is precarious.

      The second point, I think, will account more for your concern on THE Christ event. Is Christ a generalized category? I think it can be, though there is a tension here. Is the historic person of Jesus unique? I think it’s completely possible to affirm that Jesus is uniquely Christ, but Christ can be a larger category.

      There is a logic or spirit of Christ one might participate in. Maybe, a Deleuzean Becoming-Christ is possible. When we talk about eschatology We’re (I am) often plagued by the words “Second Coming.” I don’t believe in the second coming, I believe in the continual and multifaceted comings of Christ. If Christianity is a practice of life that follows the logic of Christ: self sacrifice, wasteful love and so on, then it might be that this participation is a new plateau, a becoming-Christ. This is how Christ is both unique and general.

  3. Pingback: Krista Dalton | Matt Bernico: Glitch Christ

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