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Art

12.14.2016

Nerding Out with Digital Artist Ezra Miller

Ezra Miller was born in 1996. Not only will he make you feel old, but his computer lexicon and digital art prowess are enough to also give you a complex and make you question your own accomplishments and what life even really means. An NYU undergrad and digital prodigy, Ezra is climbing the ranks of the art world rung by rung, the latest notch in his belt being this month’s Day for Night music and art festival in Houston, where he’ll be participating alongside the likes of Travis Scott, Banks, and Björk Digital (among many others)…and this is just the beginning.

In anticipation of the festival kickoff this weekend, we chilled with Ezra on the Milk rooftop for a photoshoot and chat. Peep the shots above and get to know our new favorite boy wonder below.

Tell us about your art!

Okay! So I make art with code, basically primarily for the web. I try to program pixels to you know, move sort of fluidly and kind of like capture a certain feeling that I might find in nature. I just try to sort of recreate natural phenomena.

Cool! We checked out your page on Day for Night and there were a lot of terms we didn’t recognize…what’s WebGL and Three.js?

[Laughs] So those are basically the primary frameworks that I use to create—they’re graphics programming languages that allow you to program shaders that’ll run on a computer’s GPU, which is what handles the graphics and what gets drawn on the screen. You can really control everything that’s going on, like the colors and textures, and create a lot of cool effects.

Those don’t seem like terms that would usually titillate a 20-year-old…do you find that you’re one of the only people your age that does this sort of stuff?

I wouldn’t say that necessarily; I would say that there are a lot of young people nowadays that are getting involved in digital art but I do think I’m one of the younger people using code that’s trying to create visual experiences and new aesthetics.

So are you excited for Day for Night?

Yeah, I’m super stoked! I mean, the lineup is so so good…

Yeah…Aphex!

Yeah! Aphex, Arca, Oneohtrix Point Never…there are just so many great people. When the lineup came out I had a mini panic attack because I was just like, “Fuck, I’m in a lineup with these people!” And Jesse Kanda, Arca’s visual director… there are just so many cool visual artists and I’m just really honored to be a part of it.

So how does it work on the visual side? How will your work be displayed?

So I’m gonna be projecting a work that will basically take in my feed from the camera [from the recording of the live performances] and then manipulate it. It’ll be projected onto a large wall on the side of this abandoned post office. It’s gonna be running basically full-time so I’m trying to create something very dynamic; something that hopefully won’t ever repeat itself in terms of the way it looks at one moment and then is also just something that’s fun to look at.

Yeah—a lot of your work is really interactive. Is that essential to your identity? Has it always been that way? And why do you like to do that?

Well, I made a few things that aren’t super interactive that are just standalone animated works, but that are still happening in real time. But I don’t know, I like the idea of interaction, especially on the computer because it adds an element of play that everyone can access. Like, you just open up your web browser and it’s something new and fun and you feel like you’re creating the art yourself…you feel like you’re a part of the work and I think that’s important.

Do you find that you’re wanting to say something deeper about society?

Yeah! I want to start doing more work that has deeper meaning. At the start, I was kind of just starting out and trying to learn these technologies by playing around with them and experimenting. So at that point it was really hard to build pieces with more of a social or artistic meaning, but a lot of it is personal meaning that has to do with things I’ve gone through in life especially in these last few years. I’d say my main interest is trying to find the visual patterns that are shared between things that are able to be created in a digital world and things that happen in a natural world—so like refractions, reflections, natural patterns…there are these algorithms that can create peace, and they make these natural phenomena, and that’s what I’m interested in.

Images shot exclusively for Milk by Jeff Sutera

Stay tuned to Milk for more cool kids and piercing gazes.

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