One wouldn’t expect to create a ripple in time through the means of old VHS tapes or footage of water being mixed with oil and Jell-O, but Jason Miller saw the potential and a pattern.
Miller, a Lamar grad and production director at 91.3 KVLU, will host “Ripples,” a multimedia installation of his work, today at 6 p.m., at Betty Smith Creative Works, located at 2485 Calder Ave.
“I found out that all those things have those waves,” he said. “Those ripples and those motions, and so, I wanted it to be something that’s meditative.”
By processing video through synthesizers and technology from the ’80s and ’90s, the video and ambient music artist reconstructs life in a completely different color in his video and art installations.
“When you build something like this, you have to have something that separates you from other people that are doing it,” he said. “You’re changing some of the patterns with this gear, but if you just can find something that looks pretty compelling just to look at — you make it hyper-real.
“I like it to be where you’re looking at another world. Some of these landscapes look really foreign to you because the grass is pink and the sky is green, and there’s waves that go through stuff that aren’t natural, too, and the sky has a strange feedback black.”
The installation is composed of multiple CRT television sets.
“We love looking at screens,” he said. “I think that it’s just the analog warmth of the image. I just think they haven’t seen a CRT television in a while, and they didn’t see how the colors and the patterns can look on one when you use this stuff — it’s a different image.”
Miller said there are many options he has to enhance, both the footage he finds and what he films.
“You can slow it down just a little bit, slow it down a lot, and it takes on a whole different life,” he said. “They’re very organic when it starts out, but (afterwards) it looks not that way. It looks electronic.”
Miller, who used VCRs to blend visuals with music in high school, said he’s no stranger to manipulating the two.
“I was making videos for songs that I had, but now I’m actually making video pieces,” he said. “I’m putting sound and music to them. I like the aspect of it because it combines those two — sound goes hand-in-hand, and I just love that.”
Listening stations outfitted with headphones will be set up throughout the installation. Miller said the music offers a different feel in comparison to his previous exhibitions.
“There’s a little bit more motion to it, a little more down tempo, more of a chill-out feel that’s different from ambient,” he said. “You can kind of escape in there, put the headphones on and stare at the screen.”
Miller’s composed both the music and visuals.
“The images that sit inside that video world have to do with ripples in water and oil and movement,” he said. “Some of the things are actually water that I filmed close-up from fountains. I’m using that as sort of a basis and a foundation to manipulate them all.”
Miller uses a VHS camcorder.
“All the stuff that’s done with the concoctions, its’ pretty simple,” he said. “You take a big glass bowl — as big as you can find — and you take all the things and you mix them in there, and you stir them up and shake it up. Once the motion is going, I’ll film that, like really close and really tight, where it’s like you just see the oils and the things move.”
Miller also uses found VHS tapes at thrift stores. He said he’s often surprised with what he comes across.
“It’s strange,” he said. “When you see people that throw away somebody’s baby tape, or a wedding tape, you’re like, ‘They’re pretty darn confident in their digital.’
“All our home videos have the same family things that we film, how we film them. The awkwardness, what people think is funny — it’s all pretty much the same.”
Miller said life was recorded a lot differently back then.
“We take for granted, maybe, that it’s so easy, and we just do little snippets, little soundbites, whereas people rolled for a while,” he said. “We filmed stuff that we thought was very important — now, we can film everything.”
Miller said the thrift store tapes provide a different view of life.
“I got this really cool vacation one, and this whale-watching one,” he said. “Both of those have been really great insights, especially the vacation one to Hawaii. I really enjoy their trip. It’s like 1988, too, so you’re looking at the world in 1988.
“You see the world as it was. You see some of the compelling things of that place. They brought that tape home and let somebody watch it, and somebody got a taste of that exotic place. It could be really unique, or it could be a very just normal touristy kind of thing, but either way, you’re watching that and there’s a compelling nature to it. Someone trying to capture that and show other people, I find that fascinating.
“It’s an interesting kind of little niche part of video hunting, because I’m looking for everything, but whenever I see somebody’s home tape — yeah, I grab it.”
UP multimedia editor