Issue 22: Radiant

Doreen A. Ríos

Reading time: 11 minutes



The Multiple Possibilities of Error: [Glitch Feminism]

From the trenches of digital practices, Doreen A. Ríos, with Legacy Russell’s work in hand, reflects on the tactics of glitch feminism, which in the cracks, pixelations and distortions, generates errors that dynamite the inertia of power.

When I began to navigate the waters of digital art practices back in 2012, one of the aesthetic trends that manifested itself the most—on and off the screen— was the glitch aesthetic. This sort of visuality that evoked error with image sweeps, color distortions, exploded pixels, and a light, but present, layer of nostalgia made up a dense collection of gifs, jpgs, pngs, and short videos that emerged from the depths of search engines when typing “digital art” in the text box.

Interestingly, by 2012, the implications of the word “glitch” had already been the subject of deep exploration and reflection. As Legacy Russell points out in the first chapters of her book Glitch Feminism | A Manifesto,[1] the origins of glitch arose in the world of the space race to name the failures, distortions and/or changes in voltage that prevented an action from being properly executed. The term glitch, as we understand it now, was first popularized in the 1960s and was captured in the book Into Orbit (1962), where its author, astronaut John Glenn, wrote “(…) one term we adopted to describe some of our problems was glitch. Literally, a glitch… it is a voltage change so tiny that no fuse could protect it.”[2] Later researchers such as Kim Cascone, Rosa Menkman, and Nick Briz focused on detailing the nature of glitch in books such as The Glitch Moment(um) (2011)[3] which brought together several texts on the subject written by Menkman between 2006 and 2011, in which she separates the term from the spatial world to reflect on it within digital culture and argues for more critical attention to the increasing inclusion of glitch in standardized design.

Another story suggests that the term glitch has its etymological roots in the Yiddish word glitsh meaning “slippery zone,” or even in the German one, glitschen, which refers to the act of slipping or sliding. Perhaps it is this subtle movement that glitch makes possible, a leap into the in-between spaces, a transverse cut in the layers we inhabit.

It is in this context that Legacy Russell began her work detaching the concept of glitch from academia at the end of 2012. She begins to examine it in close relation to art with her text Digital Dualism and The Glitch Feminism Manifesto,[4] which would be the basis and essence for Glitch Feminism | A Manifesto (2020) where glitch is a metaphorical invitation, a space of resistance and, above all, an invitation to dismantle everything.

Legacy begins her Glitch Feminism Manifesto with a series of anecdotes about the internet of the 2000s. She suggests that the internet carries fragments of utopia and invites us to navigate it without fear, promising to keep us safe by obfuscating any link to our bodies AFK “away from the keyboard.” Russell proposes this term as a substitute for the commonly used “IRL” (in real life), echoing how our transit in virtual space is, in fact, absolutely real. There, she recounts her experience of inhabiting a body that identifies as a woman, black, femme, queer, whom online spaces allowed to expand her desires beyond labels.
Russell is (hyper)linked to a series of discourses such as the promise of building a global village, the utopia of non-censorship, horizontal visibility, among many other ideas that many of us shared after having inhabited that two-thousand-year-old network of networks, which delimited how we would begin to move around the world. Despite the fact that that same virtual plane of apparent security, transparency and trust—in a very short time—became a battlefield from which emanated the opposite of the expected freedom.

In the long run, it also makes me think about the notion of tactical means,[5] and the possibilities that exist when taking advantage of platforms, institutions and even systems in order to place one or several messages. In other words, glitching hegemonic discourses by piercing them, even if only momentarily, with our own tools.

Russell’s proposal in Glitch Feminism | A Manifesto made me reflect on how it is sometimes much more compelling to build space for ourselves from small but nimble fractures, rather than it is to wait to reorganize the whole structure through strategic work. Although Russell’s proposal seems to be close to technoutopia, in reality her positions behind the idea of error seek to break away, to refuse to function, appealing not to play the game of technocapital.

Echoing the above, the manifesto is divided into twelve pointed statements, each argued and expanded from a series of pieces created primarily by artists who do not identify with the hegemonic boundaries of gender and/or belong to underrepresented communities within the art circuit.

The statements are as follows:

Glitch refuses

Glitch is cosmic

Glitch throws shade

Glitch and its ghosts

Glitch is error

Glitch encrypts

Glitch is antibody

Glitch is skin

Glitch is a virus

Glitch mobilizes

Glitch is remix

Glitch survives[6]

For Legacy it is clear: Glitch Feminism recognizes the value of visuality and the revolutionary role that digital practices play in the expansion of archeologies, deconstructions, and representations of bodies, and, simultaneously, maintains a critical perspective on how various antagonistic dualisms seem to be maintained on the plane of the digital: virtual/real, nature/culture and, of course, masculine/feminine.

The logics of Glitch Feminism are open to all the bodies that exist suspended in an eternal present and escape from consolidating into an apparent final identity which can be easily digested, produced, packaged, and categorized.

In this sense, it plays at being a river of multiple currents, although it approaches the tools of technopatriarchy, at the same time it uses them to poison its data and, momentarily, become that elusive error reminding us that everything is hackable and, therefore, is a garden waiting to be pollinated.

This is how Glitch Feminism refuses to be categorized as subtext, refuses to be labeled as subversive, refuses to speak for the marginal or the subaltern, since “sub-” as a prefix needs to be marked as a mode of acceptance of our own exclusion from the canon, from the academy, from the Platonic ideal.

The first step in subverting a system is to accept that system will remain in place; that said, the glitch says fuck your systems! Their delineations! Their determinations imposed on our physicality! The glitch respectfully declines second rank to common convention.[7]

In this sense, I consider it important to point out the difference between tactics and strategy on which Cecilia Castañeda bases her research,[8] who points out that the central focus of strategy suggests working within the parameters of the system it criticizes, that is, it seeks to reestablish the role of such systems by reconfiguring them; while tactics work under the logic of finding the cracks in such systems and destabilizing them from the place where they are, for tactical logics it is key to fight from the everyday. This brings us back to the work of tactical means which, as Cecilia Castañeda points out:

“[tactical work] must be understood in the context of a recombinant culture, one in which it is possible to operate changes of symbolic and material order: the tools available for our work can be reconfigured to do something different from their original design and function”.[9]

There is a peculiar paradox that Legacy points to within Glitch Feminism | A Manifesto that I believe is pertinent to this discussion, especially from a local perspective. Russell reflects on how certain bodies are simultaneously over-observed due to their non-hegemonic status and therefore read as “potential threats,” while also being the same bodies that are invisible to cultural representation, public policy-making, and academia. This resonated deeply with me, because it translates perfectly into the lack of representation of non-white, non-cisgender, non-inhabitant of the “global North” voices,[10] unless, of course, the discourses placed by these voices play a role in perpetuating, reinforcing and/or validating the ideas of those behind the event, exhibition, festival, book or institution in question.

Undoubtedly, here error appears as a strong concept that allows for dislocation and, perhaps, even diversity by manifesting itself through the bodies that resist to keep this technocapital machinery running.

The time-expanded project devised by the Electronic Disturbance Theater called FloodNet[11] was simultaneously a conceptual exploration as well as a tool for electronic civil disobedience that, in 1998, opened a channel for coordinated action where users of this piece of net art[12] could leave “error” messages on various web pages such as that of former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, the Pentagon, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, various Mexican banks, among others to show their solidarity with the EZLN.[13] In this piece, the intervening “error” message was both an area of action and a space of resistance that, despite the knowledge that there would be a swift backlash to block this coordinated action, succeeded in opening a kind of vortex, a fissure in the bowels of the Internet and its codes. It is in fissures of this nature that Glitch Feminism germinates.

Following this line of thought, it is not surprising that Legacy Russell decided to give form to each of the statements of Glitch Feminism | A Manifiesto using works of art, since, returning to the theme of representation, its discourse is reinforced by pointing out the liminal state the bodies of its creators inhabit in contrast to the passage they have been opening within the history of art, in part due to that digital world they have claimed as a secure base and a platform that allows us to explore new audiences, engage in critical discourse with new audiences and, above all, “slip between new conceptions of our bodies, of ourselves.”[14] It is interesting to note that while the author understands the limits of this logic, being aware that the internet we inhabit in 2021 reflects the opposite of a safe space, she also attends to the feeling about the early internet that—from her personal experience—she considers was key in her adolescence to understand herself in a space that she felt more open than her immediate environment away from the keyboard.

Connecting back to other searches, near and far from the keyboard that we could embed in the discourses of Glitch Feminism, is that of inclusive language. For more than a decade, and more strongly for about 5 years, there has been a strong conversation about inclusive language in Mexico,[15] a conversation that has spilled over into various forums and social networks, as well as into fronts of resistance and academia, among many others. It is common in debates for many of its detractors to justify their decision by arguing that inclusive language is not validated by the RAE,[16] therefore, its use is not correct. I find it interesting because this argument not only overlooks the political motivations behind the use of inclusive language but also loses sight of the evolution of language entirely.
As several collectives have pointed out: the strength of inclusive language lies precisely in the conversations it triggers and not in the generalized normalization of its use. In other words, it dwells within the glitch and manifests itself to make appear that which exceeds the institution and, therefore, belongs to a revolutionary dimension.

This leads me to link language (and the failed institutions that attempt to contain it) to other kinds of systems. Multiple conversations about creating new futures imply that we need to replace the current system with a new, arguably better one, but I wonder if what we need to eradicate is the “need” for that system altogether. For example, the need for immigration policies (replace/ improve the system) versus the elimination of geographical borders (eradicate the need for the system). Undoubtedly, Glitch Feminism opts for the second option. It seeks to perforate in a deep and consistent way the surrounding reality and dynamite it in its totality.

As Legacy notes,

“In a society that conditions the public to find discomfort or outright fear in errors and the malfunctioning of our sociocultural mechanisms, implicitly encouraging a “don’t rock the boat” ethos, a glitch becomes an apt metonymy. Glitch feminism adopts the causality of “error,” and turns its grim implication on its head by recognizing an error in a social system that has already been disrupted by economic, racial, social, sexual, and cultural stratification and the imperialist wrecking ball of globalization—processes that continue to exert violence on all bodies—may not be an error at all, but rather a much-needed errata. This failure is a correction of the “machine” and, in turn, a positive departure.”[17]

It is crucial to place ourselves in that continuous movement; a transition on the realities that surround us. It is necessary to assume this perpetual beta state[18] that allows us to glitch everything on the fly and above all to imagine and create together along the way.


  1. Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism | A Manifiesto, EUA: Verso Books, 2020. Available here:

  2. Emily Siner, What’s A ‘Glitch,’ Anyway?: A Brief Linguistic History, NPR, October 24, 2013,

  3. Rosa Menkman, The Glitch Moment(um) (Netherlands: Institute of Network Cultures, 2011). Available at:

  4. Legacy Russell, “Digital dualism and The Glitch Feminism Manifiesto,” The Society Pages, December 10, 2012. Available at:

  5. “Tactical media refer to critical-aesthetic practices that have emerged specifically in direct response to post-industrial society and neoliberal globalization, so we can place their emergence in the second half of the 1990s. These practices can be considered the heirs of situationism and reinforcing its deliberate intention to transform everyday life through poetry and play, as well as of certain aspects of conceptualism, basically its linguistic concerns, which at some point turned to concerns about the body, the sensorium and the subjectivizing effects of desire”. Cecilia Castañeda, “Electronic Disturbance Theater: un modelo cambiante de afectos”, Cuánto tiempo lleva todo esto derramándose sin desbordarse, Mexico City: Centro de Cultura Digital, 2021, pp. 93, 94. Available at:

  6. Russell, 2020.

  7. Legacy Russell, “Digital dualism and The Glitch Feminism Manifiesto”, The Society Pages, December 10th, 2012. Available here:

  8. Op. Cit.

  9. Steve Kurtz “Critical Art Ensemble” [conference], Universidad Di Tella, Buenos Aires, July 25, 2014. Available in:, cited in Cecilia Castañeda, “Electronic Disturbance Theater…”, 2021, p. 94.

  10. Terminology that, although it seems to me absolutely archaic, colonial, and patriarchal, strongly vocifies those geographies, latitudes, and affects that do not collude with the hegemonic powers.

  11. This piece is part of the online exhibition Cuánto tiempo lleva todo esto derramándose sin desbordarse (How long all this has been pouring out without overflowing), you can visit it through la Zona Hipermedial del Centro de Cultura Digital (the Hypermedia Zone of the Digital Culture Center) (

  12. Net art understood as the artistic practices that use the internet as a canvas, which were strong at the end of the 90’s, beginning of the 00’s.

  13. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

  14. Legacy Russell, “Digital dualism and The Glitch Feminism Manifiesto,” The Society Pages, December 10, 2012. Available here:

  15. And, no doubt, in many other Latin American countries. However, I will focus on my personal experience.

  16. The Royal Academy of Spanish Language.

  17. Legacy Russell, “Digital dualism and The Glitch Feminism Manifesto,” The Society Pages, December 10, 2012. Available here:

  18. Understood from programming and technological development as the testing or prototyping phase.


There are no coments available.

filter by


Geographic Zone