Wiley Wiggins


Wiley Wiggins

A still from Waking Life (2001)
From Hallucinists, a video for The Octopus Project's Hexadecagon
The twins from Hallucinists
A still from Waking Life (2001)
From Hallucinists, a video for The Octopus Project's Hexadecagon
From Dazed and Confused (1993)

We fell in love with Wiley Wiggins back in the Linklater Days. We watched Waking Life practically on loop, and became jealous of the philosophical potency of his dreams. As a visualist in recent years, his short film animations and motion graphics continue to remind us of a mind-shattering yet mellow world of beauty, sound and abstraction–

Suffice it to say we’re still jealous. And still mesmerized.

Wiley weighed in with Bullett on a few key points of modern existence–i.e. where we came from, where we’re going (or not) and what Sesame Street really did to our minds:

The Hallucinists- Music by The Octopus Project

Do you think the bible will ever become a digital experience?

Do you mean an interactive one? I imagine it would make a pretty nightmarish survival horror game.

Was sound film inevitable?

I think so- there was already a precedent set with live theater, so film had to expand into sound. Usually I argue that new modalities of art don’t generally make older ones obsolete, but this is one instance where it came close. Silent films were sent so far into obsolescence that the form is used almost exclusively as parody now. Even someone like Guy Maddin who clearly loves silent film uses it with a wink. It’s so bound to a specific time that it’s only used to invoke that time.

What do you imagine as a day in the life of Yayoi Kusama?

Wake up at 4:00pm, put on a polka-dot unitard (a different color for each day of the week) paint dots on the morning paper, shout at the cat for a few minutes, make out with a large gourd before lunch, paint dots on the screen of the unplugged television for an hour, contemplate a mylar balloon until finally falling asleep around noon.

Favorite book–and why?

I love any piece of fiction where the protagonist gets snowed in for a long period of time and we’re stuck with a recounting of their day to day minutia. A Wild Sheep Chase and The Secret History jump to mind.

What will the cinema of the future look like?

To try to predict that is to set yourself up to be wrong. I consider games to be an extension of cinema. But every artform gets debased when it’s railroaded by commercial success as its only measure of value. If things keep going the way they seem to be, future cinema will be a drug and virtual reality induced torture experiment that puts your consciousness inside the body of a Transformer or He-Man (whatever toy franchise has been computed to be the most marketable that week), and then your new body will be exploded in space over the course of six hours. Then the memory of the event will be erased from your mind the next morning.

Something we don’t talk about, but should?

Where we are headed. I think we are culturally debased, drowning in a sea of information while somehow remaining basically ignorant, and generally joyless. Jaded and naive at the same time. I think we need to start over.

Something you’d like to adapt?

I’d love to be given the license to do a really huge Duck Tales video game. But it would have to be in some post-Disney world where archives of Uncle Scrooge comic books were found in some tomb somewhere and I was given complete freedom. Also, I’ve seen some lovely interactive (or at least animated) adaptations of Bridget Riley Op-Art paintings. It would be cool to do some interactive or film adaptations or Anonima Group paintings. An adaptation should treat the original as a theory, and in adding some dimension to it (images, motion, sound, interactivity) it should test that original theory. Some ideas, once they get the breath of life, end up being flimsy and unsustainable. If you are imposing limitations on something old rather than adding new aspects- like a book of a movie, or a movie of a game, or some other reduction- you would have to take some lesson learned from the greater work and compress it in a new way. I can’t really think of any time this has been done. Regressive works are almost always crassly commercial and worthless. Coupon: the movie: the ride. But there are certainly films that are informed by games, books that are informed by film. If someone is clinging to a ‘franchise’ they’re doing it for money. If they really just cared about the story, they’d adapt it and create something with a new identity.

Actually I’d like to combine both my Op Art and Duck Tales game ideas and do a game adaptation of Donald Duck in Mathmagic land:

In the game you play Donald Duck, you’re in ancient Greece, infiltrating the Pythagorean mystery cult of mathematics. A large portion of the game occurs in Donald Duck’s mind, and is entirely abstract, but obeys fundamental mathematical principals.

Actually I did a video for My Education that was loosely inspired by it:

How do you feel about Stan Brakhage?

I like Brakhage. You mentioned silent films- Brakhage may have been the last person to do anything new in moving pictures that was soundless- but of course when we think of silent films we think of a live musical accompaniment, which most experimental film students will tell you is a no-no with Brakhage.

A story that couldn’t be told through film…

Anything that requires interactivity either to implicate the audience, or to make a real-time experience bearable and engaging- Sailing across a small sea in real time without exposition- it would seem unbearably long and eventless in a film, but millions of kids did it in Zelda: Windwaker. And what’s more, you do it so many times that you almost feel like a sailor once it’s through. Imagine a genre film that was almost entirely piloting a ship through an almost empty solar system- planet to planet in real time. It would be such a deep violation of genre expectations that Tarkovsky’s Stalker would seem like Star Wars, but plenty of people (well, plenty of Europeans at least) did it in the 80’s in games like Mercenary II: Damocles or Elite.

Should we keep on telling stories at all?

I’m less concerned about novel stories than I am about novel images and experiences. Stories are skeletons that get retold and refined, but they aren’t the meat of a piece of art. In games, stories are a byproduct of navigating a sort of possibility-space. A good game can be a sort of engine that generates stories.

Did you ever invent personalities for numbers when you were learning math in order to make the process more bearable? 

Oddly, yeah. I think that might be some low-grade form of synethesia, either that or we all just saw Sesame Street at formative ages and had anthropomorphized letters and numbers imprinted on our still-soft brains.

See more of of Wiley’s work here, hereoh yes, and here.