The Knowledge: Chris Milk
Artist Chris Milk has made music videos for the likes of U2 and Kanye West. His latest work – projects like the award-winning The Johnny Cash Project and Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown – show how technology can create emotional resonance. Here, he reveals the people, principles, ideas, and tools that keep his creative fires burning.
This documentary has about a hundred fascinating ideas about creativity in the digital age. As the technological barriers have been lowered, everyone is now a photographer, musician, filmmaker, editor, graphic designer, or fine artist. The problem is who to pay attention to. It may be simultaneously the best and worst time in history to be an artist.
In 1999, Qwest released an ad in which a guy checking into a motel is told each room has ‘every movie ever made in every language – at any time, day or night.’ When I first saw it back then it seemed about as far away as flying cars. Search YouTube for ‘Qwest – Every Movie’ to view it for yourself. See what just happened there? What they failed to mention was that it would be on a TV we carried around in our pocket. In fact, I just searched and watched that very spot on my new Galaxy Nexus.
Or humanity translated through 1s and 0s. Artfully crafted technology has the potential to touch us like any other art form. The web takes cinema and turns it into a two-way conversation with the viewer. We are at the inception point of a brand new art form that will provide us with the great canons of the next century. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what to make with it.
…but people still whine about it. I’ve seen people complain endlessly online about how they refuse to download ‘another damn browser’ to watch a web project with HTML5 or WebGL in it. In 1954, if you wanted to watch The Ed Sullivan Show in glorious color, you had to drive to the store, give them the equivalent of $10,000, and carry a 400-pound crate back to your house. Now you click three buttons on a screen, for free.In 2004, Franklin Leonard started The Black List as an experiment in taking the collective temperature of the Hollywood zeitgeist through the best unproduced screenplays of that year. Now Franklin is upping the game by building a site that uses the power of crowdsourcing and algorithms to not just determine the best unproduced screenplays, but the best unproduced screenplays that I, the user, will specifically respond to. It’s like ‘also recommended’ on Amazon, only for the murky waters of unmade films.
Amazon’s membership program isn’t ‘creative’ per se, but it allows me to be. I don’t have an assistant. If there’s something I need, I order it with Prime shipping and I have it the day after tomorrow. That goes for everything from paper towels to HDMI cables to refrigerators. It’s the best $70 a year I’ve ever spent.
I’m fascinated with this guy. He uses code to produce new works indistinguishable from those of long-dead classical masters. Musicologists think he’s the devil; I think he’s a prophet.
Being from NY, and working in a pizzeria there growing up, I take this probably a little too seriously. The ‘My Maps’ function in Google Maps makes it much easier to update and share the exhaustive research.
In breathless monologues posted on Vimeo, Jason Silva is preaching the future as inspired by the likes of Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil. Why shouldn’t we look at death as a curable disease that we just haven’t cured yet? I do now. I just hope he figures out the answer and slips me a vial of it before my time comes.
I have to admit, I was very late to this game mainly because I don’t get up early on Saturday mornings. My current goal is to listen to all 454 episodes of this weekly radio show. There is something weird and magical that happens when you remove the visual of a narrative – it sometimes becomes more emotionally resonant. I find myself crying at stories that I know, if I was watching an accompanying visual component, I wouldn’t cry at. Why does it affect me more when I can’t see it? And since I’m trying to make emotional works in a visual medium, am I fighting a losing battle? Should I be directing radio plays? Is the FM frequency the future?
"We are at the inception point of a brand new art form that will provide us with the great canons of the next century. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what to make with it."
- Published April 2012