SV Interview with Ouida Biddle and Miles Martinez

StandardVision spoke with Ouida Biddle and Miles Martinez, the creators of October’s SV Presents piece Visible Nightlife, about the process and inspiration behind it all. Visible Nightlife is on view through October 31, on our SVLA1 screen at the top of every hour, in downtown Los Angeles. This is the final weekend to catch it so be sure to swing by!

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Describe your process – from inspiration to completion of a project. How long does it usually take for you to create something like Visible Night Life?

Ouida: It took absolutely forever, about 8 months, mostly due to old machines and a desire to try new things; we were all very excited about physics engines and were seduced by an idea of effortlessness, which led to many hours of trial and error.

What is the concept behind Visible Nightlife?

Ouida:  It started with an interest in being very specific to the place and the time. We love LA, we feel very connected to the strangeness of the city. It’s a place of many simultaneous realities occurring at once, a place seemingly always teetering on the brink of disaster. We wanted to blast through the notion of projecting fantasies of being somewhere else other than downtown. We also wanted to depict layers being blasted through to get to something beautiful.

Miles: We wanted to address the space of the sign as the façade of a building in an area of intense rapid development downtown. And how Los Angeles is a very wild city. All sorts of nocturnal life, people, animals, plants growing out of control. As it is a silent video I wanted to use text to mirror the context of the sign as a space for advertisements, but in a more abstract way. 

Are there any differences in technique that you believe set you apart from other artists in the field?

Ouida: No, haha. I can only speak for myself here but I feel like my skills are totally average in architecture, but I’m the only one applying them to whatever subject I am addressing. I can now say, unlike most architects, that I am versed in simulating the fragmenting and explosion of buildings.

Miles: We each have different skill sets, mine including computer graphics and animation which I am always improving. I hope to set myself apart based on style more than high realism. 

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What about your process, or the technology/format, makes this work difficult to create?

Ouida: Computers. Lack of systemic knowledge, but that’s the nature of experimentation. 

Miles: Animation is a process that takes hours upon hours of work to make seconds of video. There is a sort of magic to it that is always fascinating to me and continues to make it worth the effort. 

Describe what makes this piece site-specific to you. How does your environment (Los Angeles) influence your work?

Ouida: The video itself is about as site specific as it gets, since its a simulation of the perspective arriving right to the screen. LA is also not a museum- type city, it’s messy and ugly, so there’s not a preciousness to it.

Miles: We began by using the building and its façade as a starting point, where Ouida made a model of the building and our idea was to burst through this layer of reality to something more abstract and flowing. You then see objects from around the city, shopping carts, torn fabric, chainlink fences flying around, vines growing over. Our idea was to incorporate many elements of downtown life. 

Tell us about those crazy eyes at the end!

Miles: The eyes are illustrating the word Visibility and belong to a type of Unknown being.

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Is it more challenging to create public artwork? Are there many restrictions or boundaries for public artwork? If so, does this restrict your process or do you enjoy a little problem-solving?

Miles: I am very interested in the way video is becoming more omnipresent in society, the way we encounter it as we move throughout our lives and around the city. Moving images are becoming more and more common with LED technology, like science fiction has predicted. This is how I wanted to approach this piece, to highlight that hyper-simulation and the blurring of real and virtual space. I am also interested in the public space and the visual language of advertising in relation to an artwork that isn’t serving the function of selling a product, but using text and images to raise thoughts and connections. I appreciate the accessibility of a public artwork, it is something I’ve never done before. There are challenges in knowing that a lot of people would be able to see it and limits to the types of images one can use but I think there is a lot of potential within those limits. I am so much involved in designing posters and things that are circulated online, it feels like a natural form, but a very unique output.  

What is DLS Solution? How many people are involved in this? What are those gatherings like?

Miles: DLS Solution is an exhibition think tank focused on light and sound environments. The growing list of contributors changes based on projects, and includes Daniela Anastassiou, Ouida Angelica Biddle, Cayetano Ferrer, Nate Gonzales Hess, Jacqueline Gordon, Jonathan Mandabach, Ashland Mines, Daniel Pineda, and myself. The exhibits commonly incorporate projection mapping on existing structures, for example: large satellite dishes, a geometric pyramid stage, architecture, and sculptures. That is also how we decided to start by using the building as a starting point for the video. The events are activating a space and are a mix of art installation and music performance, and usually turn into a dance party. The sound is provided by DJs mixing effects and loops in abstract ways and then can end up mixing tracks. There is a lot of technology involved like video projectors, sound systems, and CDJs and each event has been unique.  

Do you have specific goals for future work or do you simply take things on as they come your way?

Ouida: I’d like to do something with the Clippers, or with Knott’s Scary Farm. 

Miles: I’m plotting some secret projects for next year combining visuals and music.