Feb 8, 2018
30 Under 30, Class of ’18: Milah Libin, Music Video Director
MOST LIKELY TO: Stay in on a Friday night
FAVORITE QUOTE: “You arrived like a day and passed like a cloud.” – The Pretenders
Seeing the world through the lens of women is eye-opening. I not only mean this in the sense that we’re in a time where more women are behind-the-camera—Ava Duvernay, Kathryn Bigelow, Issa Rae, Greta Gerwig—but also what that being behind-the-camera means and allows for. That being behind-the-camera means that women are in the position to tell a story with all of the nuance necessary to shift how we see, and to what ends.
When watching Milah Libin’s work, I am aware of this nuance. It’s hard not to be. Every shot tells a story far more complex than what’s being captured. Her vision highlights blindspots. The things hidden in plain-sight. I’m particularly thinking of Princess Nokia’s “Flava” when I write this. In many ways that video—like many others Milah and Princess Nokia have collaborated on—is about the things women would want had they had it their way, but the brilliance of Milah’s eye is that it showed me the exorbitant price women pay to have anything at all. That price is beyond monetary. It’s one taxing of the mind, body and soul. Milah uses her camera to document the receipts.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now?
I do a lot of different things, if we’re talking about music videos As a kid, all there really was to do on the internet was watch trailers on Apple.com/trailers, or watch music videos on Yahoo. I remember watching the Christina Aguilera “Beautiful” video over and over again. My dad had a compilation of Spike Jonze music videos that I would watch on repeat around the same age—from The Beastie Boys to Bjork to Biggie. However, I never considered making a music video until years later.
When did your occupation become real to you? Like, you knew this was what you were going to do?
When Destiny (Princess Nokia) and I made “Dragons,” the first music video I ever made. It opened a door to a medium I had never explored.
How does Brooklyn/your neighborhood particularly inform your work?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and have never lived anywhere else (besides 3 years right outside of the city for college—but I was back every weekend!). Brooklyn is, visually, all I really know, and it seeps into everything I do—music videos, photography, poetry. The way grass grows through cracked pavement; the deli guy that lets you pay a quarter short until next time; the stray cats (some of which have become pets); the J train rumbling outside of my window like an ocean. It is where I take most of my inspiration from.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now?
Since I am from Brooklyn, and have never really lived anywhere else, I don’t have the best understanding of the world outside of the diversity and creativity of New York City. And separately, I have so many different interests that I sometimes struggle on how to balance them. That is the main reason I love my newest project, Dizzy Magazine, so much. It combines photography, talking with artists, writing, video, curation, etc.
What’s most rewarding?
My dad started his filmmaking career directing music videos. It’s most rewarding when he likes the videos I make.
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date?
The first two issues of Dizzy Magazine, the publication I run with Arvid Logan, and Flava. The most recent music video/short film [name] I made with Princess Nokia and my brother Travis.
Who/what inspires you?
Little kid art, people on the bus, street cats, my friends, my mom, dad, and brother Travis, my boss Sandeep, Mary Gaitskill, Cynthia Cruz, Lucinda Williams, old cartoons and anime, Wong Kar Wai, Spike Jonze, Destiny Frasqueri, Arvid Logan. The list goes on.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years?Hopefully Dizzy Magazine will be an established, well-received art publication. I’ll own a place in Brooklyn, have children. Will have lived in Japan for at least a year, made a feature length film, and learned how to drive.
What’s next for you?
The third issue of Dizzy Magazine comes out mid-April. We will be having launch events in New York City and Tokyo! We will continue producing our new project DIZZY VIDEO, a series of artists in their homes and studios (that you can watch on dizzymagazine.com). I have a couple directorial projects with Princess Nokia coming out soon, which we are both really excited about. And as always, I will continue to program events at Picture Room in Brooklyn Heights!
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