Paul D. Miller and Paul DeMarinis: critical analysis essay
Digital media has become so incorporated into daily life that it’s hard not to see it; technology, after all is evolving into something new with each passing day. And with that consistent changing, artist now have a vast amount of tools at their disposal to share their philosophy in ways that are somehow more immersive than before. While traditional paintings and sculptures by themselves pull in the viewer with details in both the aesthetic and contextual sense, digital media has a somewhat different effect. Because of this, artist’s works can have a different effect on the viewer that certainly differs from a traditional piece.
Paul DeMarinis and Paul D. Miller- AKA DJ Spooky- have certainly use these new tools to create pieces that immerse the viewer in ways that more traditional pieces can. Paul D. Miller is an multimedia artist that combines graphic design, film, performance, and music to make an interactive remix. He is also a notable author and accomplished DJ, publishing numerous books and selling hundreds of CD’s. His music though, is the most notable aspect of his pieces for he combines elements of hip-hop and electronica that is often dubbed “Trip –hop”. Paul DeMarinis has also made huge contributions to digital media though his pieces. Like Miller, DeMarinis incorporates sound into his computer installations, making most of his pieces appear like a livening machine. Though the sound itself is considerably different from Miller’s own musical creations. DeMarinis uses more organic sounds, and for the most part, don’t have the musical appeal that Miller incorporates into his works. But nevertheless, these ambient sounds add more to the context of his pieces. Both artist are so similar, yet are strikingly different from each other, that it serves as a example of how dynamic and subtle digital media is.
For a more detailed analysis, one needs to examine the more prominent of the artist’s work and see exactly the philosophy behind then. DerMarinis, has a notable collection of works to choose from, but for the sake of efficiency we’ll focus on his piece The Edison Effect. This piece combined mechanical, electronic, and audio technology from different eras. The piece itself looks like a small ensemble of old record players and other miscellaneous items that are traced with red lasers. What the lasers essentially do- along with other interactive systems- probe the inscriptions on the venial and then turn it into sound. DerMarinis also added sounds form other audio devices, like “March” from John Phillipp in a techno-recording and “Etaion Shrdlu” which makes it possible to hear how a phonograph inscribes sounds of its own machinery into the waltz. Just the structure of this piece and how the artist built these complex sound machines is amazing by itself. But the context gives the piece a beautiful philosophy and context behind this creation. This piece, believe it or not, was the result of an chance experiment that started in 1986. DeMarinis after moving to a area in upstate New York to which he described as “Rural Hell”. During that time, he took a memory chip out of his Apple computer, attached it to an audio amplifier, and though some modifications made it run when light hit it. He further developed this idea, while simultaneously thinking of the first phonograph. This later manifested in ideas about how the impaction the invention of recording had on sound and music, how Thomas Alva Edison laid claim- now you might call this a copyright or patent- to the light bulb, along with some recorded sounds, and in general how it serves as a metaphor to the Edison Effect, which describes how atoms cause that relatively slow transition of a light bulb dimming down. My own thoughts on this piece though, were somewhat different. While receiving the artist interpretation was present, I still couldn’t help but form one of my own. To me the sounds coming from theses’ devices, how the sounds of different objects formed this ambient sound gave the piece an sense of life. The machines served as this metaphor of how technology can take sounds that would on any radio or other digital format would sound so robotic, now have sort of this life-like quality. It’s difficult to explain, but perhaps this is what digital media is bringing to art, a life-like quality that you cannot hear from anywhere else.
Like the Edison Effect, Paul D. Miller’s work consists of combining different sounds and media; but instead of organic ambient sounds, Miller uses elements of hip-hop and electronica to create a audio and visual remix. His approach is relatively new, in that he’s using what most would call “dance club music” to express deep thoughts about the world and human nature. One of his more recent works involves a exploration of man’s relationship with nature through the sounds and aesthetic beauty of Antarctica. Miller’s exhibition Ice Music, is compiled of three different works that center around the same theme. Book of Ice for instance is described as an part science, part art, part history, and part manifesto which explores the current state of the region. Interestingly enough, for all the explorations and research done on this content, Antarctica homes no country or any sovereign nations. While other countries lay claim to some of it’s territory, none have set up a government there. Miller explores this relationship through photos, historical documents, and other resources to illustrate the contents beauty that is disappearing from global warming and resource depletion. Another installment to this is a performance video called Terra Nova which depicts the dynamic beauty of this environment; he also records sounds from the melting glaciers and uses it to create a musical score, one where the viewer can hear the sounds of the content. Another piece that compliments this is Miller’s graphic designs from Manifesto: For a people’s Republic of Antarctica in which it creates a story in which a government is actually forming in Antarctica. What this exhibition highlights Miller’s skill in bringing different layers of media and making it into one coherent whole. Not only, that but it also shows the philosophy and human nature in this remix. Miller’s work is unique from the other artist in that it combines elements of what could be considered pop Culture into philosophy.
After researching and analyzing theses artist work, I found that both had more similarities than differences. Both combine elements of performance, design, and sound into their work to make a coherent whole. They also, through this method, add a deep and philosophical piece. Granted their both have their unique style and signature that stands apart from each other; this is due mostly to how their work approaches the viewer. DeMarinis work, as stated before, uses more organic sounds, sounds that are taken apart then layered upon each other. This creates an eerie but life-like sound, making the aesthetic of the mechanical structure come to life. Again, this seems to have a effect on the viewer, making them be immersed in the piece that is new and unique. Paul D. Miller’s work is immersive as well, but not in the way that DeMarinis is. Miller is more current in a way, because he uses these elements of hip-hop and electronica in his scores. They are not something one would normally expect in an art piece- or at least that’s what the critics say- and it makes the viewer examine the piece more closely. With that said though, the artist methods- the layering and element of performance- are so similar. I myself asked the artist if they were somehow inspired or influenced by each other’s work- Miller never commented back to me though, and DeMarinis’s website is down-. What I find most interesting though is that both their work had an effect on me as a viewer. The way these pieces immersed in in the details and philosophy were different from previous work from different artist. I felt more like a participant than an observer. And perhaps that’s the appeal and nature of digital media; with new technology and tools, will art become more immersive? Will it become something similar to virtual reality? Whichever the case, it is evident that artist will push this boundary more and more as time progressed.