PowerHouse Presents . . . Paul D. Miller Remixed
Interview by Nathan Keene
Paul D. Miller seems not so much to have as to be energy. Talking to him is like reading his work or watching him throw dozens of media clips, beats and instruments into an apparently organic composition live onstage: you find yourself racing to keep up with his thoughts. Or is it his brain? Paul could probably tell you which is which and when but might find the question passé.
We met in a café around the corner from his studio one mid-June morning to munch scones and chat about his recent projects, primarily the latest addition to his video/performance oeuvre, Terra Nova: The Antarctic Suite, and his new book, Sound Unbound, an essay compilation on digital sampling culture from MIT press, where it is currently among the best sellers.
The day before, Paul had flown back from launching Sound Unbound to the several thousand attendees of Art Basel 2008 in Switzerland.
PowerHousePresents (PHP): So what’s your timetable like today?
Paul D. Miller (PDM): Oh, whatever makes it work. Today’s actually a day off, so I’m just chillin’ out.
PHP: O.K. So you’re sort of absorbing the jet lag and…
PDM: Oh, there’s no jet lag. I hit the ground running. It’s more like you’ve got to give yourself a break once in a while. I’ve been in what I call People Mode for the last week and a half at like, art fairs and book launches and stuff like that, so today I think I’m going to take a long walk. There’s a Werner Herzog film shot in Antarctica, Wild Blue Yonder, that I’m going to see at Film Forum.
Terra Nova: The Antarctic Suite
PHP: That’s funny, because I was looking at the Antarctic Suite stuff and thinking “Wow, I wonder if that’s on Paul’s mind at all.”
PDM: It’s an influence. I mean, I haven’t seen it yet, but I love Werner Herzog’s stuff. It’s always an uneasy balance in how you do research; you don’t want to have that research then have too much influence in a current project.
I spent four weeks there; I’ve been editing my film. I’ve been like, in a bubble; that means it’s a unique thing. But I also want to make sure that if there’s anything I need to know about, I know.
PHP: So are you going to play Terra Nova like you did with Rebirth of a Nation, where it’s an event? Are you going to DJ this film the way you did with Rebirth?
PHP: But a lot of it’s your own footage. Are you using archival stuff as well?
PDM: Some, yeah, mainly from Shackleton and other, earlier expeditions that are well documented. They couldn’t have cameras down there because the chemicals would freeze. They had to have people draw a lot of stuff. It’s just been a lot of time in libraries, going through files and looking at how portraiture and stuff like that evolved out of the need to have materials that could work with the environment.