Ben Miller is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Milwaukee, WI. He is also co-curator of 62nd dimension with Cody Frei, a guerrilla gallery that pops up in spaces throughout Milwaukee. Ben Miller takes inspiration from his hyper-emotional drawings and creates videos, live performances, and prints that defy conventional art-making in search of an authentic and genuine artist’s narrative. I decided to catch-up with Ben in a non-threatening manner through an email interview.
CW:Who or what are your influences and what do they do for you and your work?
BM: Right now… The writing and films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, tarot, Robert Wyatt, dreams, Carlos Castaneda, snow, visualization, Bob Dylan’s Christmas album, and the chants of Maria Sabina. I enjoy things that keep themselves a few steps ahead of me, things that have me in a state of wonder-fun-confoundedness. A healthy diet of laughter is an influence. Just now, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” popped up on itunes shuffle. That’s nice, too.
CW:When I first met you and your artwork I immediately thought you were trying to reveal the embarrasing, secretive, and repulsive aspects of becoming an adolescent or being human. I thought it was it was your intent to display them as admirable, beautiful, or just as valid in importance as any other human activity that usually gets more attention in traditional art concepts. As our friendship continued I observed a shift in your work when you started to use the computer to make drawings, prints, and video work. Then it appeared as if your work was arranged by some highly spiritual being. More of your work began to occupy liminal space in between God and man like it was Hercules or something. Can you talk about this observation and maybe about how you perceived this change and what caused it?
BM: I’d say that adolescent is good word for those older works. I see them as being on the same level as a bored kid putting a bag of flaming dog poop down everyone’s chimney on Easter Sunday. The shift in the work happened because the kid got tired of climbing all those chimneys and his dog ran away and he got a new puppy.
Hercules is a fun way to put it. You could say it’s between God and man, or you could say it’s between irrationality and rationality, both aspects living simultaneously–somewhat paradoxically–in the same container. There are some questions, that the more you try to demystify them, the blurrier they become. Experiences that can be grasped on one level while at the same time making no sense on another level.
In my recent makings I’ve been tinkering with creating places, beings, and objects that are amorphous in essence, in which their qualities and relation to their seemingly separate surroundings becomes foggy and evasive of definition. A perpetual state of becoming. Shedding each new skin even before it is done growing.
CW:Your recent drawings have become especially minimal in their marks as well as extremely unmonumental, what is the motivation and in intention behind this shift?
BM: It can be fun to go hiking, howling, and running around in the woods. It can also be nice–and equally fulfilling–to quietly stare at a single plant or rock. Minimal drawings happen when I feel more like staring at a rock.
CW:I’ve seen a couple of your musical/performative live experiences before and they are definitely not unlike your drawings or videos. However, they differ because the performances are striving to encapsulate a large group of people collectively in an experience and an atmosphere whereas your videos and drawings seem separated from the viewer and seem to be artifacts of the artists unknown experience. Why this difference?
BM: My drawings are like an old man in a loin cloth sitting next to a tree by the side of a dirt path. You could sit down with him and listen to him for hours or you could just as easily glance past him. The performances are more immediately visceral, they have a more physical immensity. I love it when an artwork, music, or a film is so large or I am so close to it or so wrapped up in it that it almost envelopes my entire periphery and nearly shuts out my awareness of everything else, when the gap between the piece and me is lessened. Performances can lend themselves toward this.
CW:How does your studio practice lend itself to your curatorial practice with Cody Frei in 62nd Dimension or vise versa?
BM: I can get excited about the quiet visual explosion that happens when I put this next to that on a piece of paper. It’s alchemical; I can combine two elements in a drawing that, together, create a sensation that the elements did not create independently, and then I relish the joy of those things sizzling in a new light. Curating for the 62nd Dimension is similar to that. Cody and I find art we like, then we have fun throwing different works into the ring together, enjoying the birth of whatever new creature is birthed from that commingling.
check out Ben’s Involvement: