DJ Spooky - “The World Can Always be Changed and Transformed”

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Feb 28, 2018
by Carly Sikina and Nicole Bogart
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DJ Spooky - “The World Can Always be Changed and Transformed”

Composer, multimedia artist, editor and writer shares his inspiration DJ Spooky presents in the Max Reinhardt Library

During an informal evening presentation in the historic Max Reinhardt Library of Schloss Leopoldskron, Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, took Fellows on a poetic journey through Antarctica, unveiling his large-scale multimedia work that acts as an exploration of the composition of ice and water, and our relationship to the vanishing environment of the polar ice caps. 

The project, a result of his art residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, paints a picture of the devastating effect climate change has had on the volume of ice in the Antarctic. Miller recounted his expedition to the South Pole, explaining how ice is a good measure of the changing nature of our environment, but also for how human nature is changing. 

“Why is water, which is essential to life, free and diamonds are costly? We need to stop thinking about nature as some sort of exploitation,” he told Fellows. 

The project blends music and art with data and science. Partnering with Sinfonia Antarctica, Miller created an audible portrait of the landscape, composed using algorithms based on Antarctica’s weather and temperature patterns. 

The album, Of Water and Ice, combines melodies from a string quartet playing the algorithmic compositions, with additional data-driven electronic sounds and field recordings of ice from Miller’s journey to the frozen continent. The result is a representation of climate change through electronic sound.

Miller’s work demonstrates how mathematics, science, and technology can be harnessed as art forms. 

Drawing on inspiration from famed German mathematician Johannes Kepler and his essay “The Six-Cornered Snowflake,” Miller explained how he was able to craft code onto the image of a snowflake, examining the complexity of nature and its influence on human life.

Asked what inspires his eclectic work, the composer, multimedia artist, editor and author elaborated: “I’m inspired by this sense that the world isn’t the way it could or should be.

“The world can always be changed and transformed. History is the kind of rearview mirror, and the forward facing mirror, so to speak, is pretty much potentially infinite and there are so many different paths we could take. 

“I think the arts give us an optimized view of what potential there is in the world. That’s where I think the creative economy and this idea that we live in a time where imagination is critical to almost all aspects of living in a data-driven society. 

“I want to spark people and transform their sense of standardization of life that we are kind of living in right now.”


DJ Spooky is a Fellow of The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future, which is part of the multi-year series Culture, Arts and Society. The program was supported by the Edward T. Cone Foundation.