Conceptual artist Paul D. Miller fuses film and music into one explosive mix that will cause viewers to question racial stereotypes and the power of media to promote them during a performance at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) on Thursday, Aug. 14. Miller, better known as DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, will put a 21st century spin on D.W. Griffith’s infamous 1915 silent film classic The Birth of a Nation when he presents his multimedia remix Rebirth of a Nation at 8 p.m. in the museum’s Auditorium.
Miller will draw on his celebrated skills as a writer, musician, club deejay, and social critic to create a sensory-rich performance that examines the uses of propaganda in the film. Griffith’s landmark film was hailed for its use of cinematic editing techniques and reviled for the anti-black sentiments it spewed and its distorted account of the Reconstruction-era South. In Griffith’s version of the post-Civil War South, white southerners are victimized by carpetbagger opportunists, corrupt politicians, and lustful, newly freed blacks. The film’s main character organizes a secret vigilante group—the Ku Klux Klan—to reclaim the white privilege surrendered with the loss of the Civil War.
But in combining the roles of “deejay and director,” Miller uses Rebirth of a Nation to examine the paradox of Griffith’s backward political stance versus the groundbreaking technical expertise he brought to the film. During his high-energy performance, Miller will cut, paste, and weave video sequences in real time and project those images onto three screens to create a new experience for novice viewers as well as those familiar with Griffith’s film. The accompanying soundtrack is an eclectic mix of Miller’s electronic compositions including a score written by Miller and recorded by the acclaimed string ensemble Kronos Quartet.
Miller’s media art has appeared in museums around the world, including the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Bienniale of Architecture, and the Tate Modern in London. His written work has been featured in The Village Voice, The Source, and Artforum among other publications. His most recent book, Sound Unbound, is an anthology of writings on electronic music and digital media. Miller, who has a discography of over 100 titles, has collaborated with a wide variety of musicians, artists, and composers in almost every category from hip-hop, jazz, rock, electronic, and reggae to classical and conceptual.
A moderated discussion between the audience and the artist will follow his performance. The dialogue will be led by Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan and author of Say It Loud! African American Audiences, Media and Identity.
Tickets to the show are $18 for members and students; $20 for non-members. They can be purchased at the DIA box office, by phone at (313) 833-4005, or online at www.dia.org.