Opinion, by DJ Spooky
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – “One supreme fact I have discovered: it is not willpower, but fantasy-imagination that creates… imagination creates reality.” – Richard Wagner
Geography is crucial for my work. My most recent book is about Antarctica. I took a studio there and went to several of the main ice fields, and did “acoustic portraits of ice.”
In the last couple of years, I’ve been doing a series of museum and gallery shows, and I even went to Antarctica and took a studio to several of the main ice fields to make field recordings of ice to create a symphony about ice.
I’ve been really busy, but its not all in one place, it’s hyper globalized, and that’s what DJ culture is all about – being comfortable in the flow of this kind of info density. Watching forty mile chunks of ice break off of Antarctica will change your life forever, but realizing that driving a car, or flying a plane, or having a nice steak, or drinking from a plastic bottle – all contributed to the destruction of the environment, it’s a bit complex, but music needs to pave the way for getting people to think about this kind of complexity. I’m just doing my share.
My Antarctica project is a remix of what people think about the environment through the prism of sampling. I guess I really like to think of my Antarctic remix as a kind of update on the term “phonograph” – phonograph, when you break it apart, simply means “phonetics of graphology:” writing with sound. I wanted to make a book that would reflect some of the graphic design material that went into my concepts about “sampling” as total creativity.
These days, we are all sampling the media. My Antarctica project was about collecting impressions and composing through software to create a full-scale multimedia project. With multimedia, everything blurs. Software takes the concept of the imagination and makes it something you can edit, tweak, and transform – with digital techniques. Everything becomes an edited file.
It’s strange to think that culture is simply a matter of millions of files flying around, but sometimes, that’s how being honest works: you really would have a total transformation of what it means to “create” if people had to face the fact that we now think in terms of networks for everything: that’s what some theists call “the second self” – for me, DJ culture, with its obsession with collecting records, and archiving everything, pre-dated the “cloud” concept – with primitive material like the “mix-tape.”
Now we would call it “collaborative filtering” or something technical, but the impulse is the same: gather fragments, make something new. That is how you will bypass the climate change skeptics: render them obsolete.
The Soviet architect, graphic designer, and collage artist Gustav Klustis once said of his music staging loudspeaker arrays: “Fantastic work. Looking for new media. Surface. Space. Construction.” For The Book of Ice I took a look at how the role of the “archive” of Antarctic history – in photography, graphic design, and contemporary composition – has shaped some of the ways we think about contemporary digital media aesthetics.
In conjunction with a live music concert based on my graphic design scores, I present material from Book of Ice project through the prism of an intersection of sculpture, architecture, live performance, moving image, digital media installation.
From the molecular structure of ice to the composition of atmospheric pollutants as they color the night skies, the material for my installations and writings will explore the links between the physical realm of beautiful remote places like the ice fields of Antarctica, and the ethereal realms of digital media portraits of a rapidly changing world.
Paul D. Miller (a.k.a DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid) is a NYC-based multimedia artist and writer, and is currently artist-in-residence at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. His most recent book is The Book of Ice (Mark Batty Publisher, 2011). He will be a guest speaker at The Economist upcoming ‘Brazil Innovation 2012’ event in Rio.