He is visiting lecturer in the History of Art, Design and Film at Kingston University, London, and visiting lecturer in Arts and Digital Media at London South Bank University.
Screenshot of work in progress, David OReilly, "A Glitch is a Glitch" (2013). Episode of the television series Adventure Time.
David OReilly is a 3D animator’s 3D animator. Embracing a stripped-back aesthetic that foregrounds the very processes of animation on which it subsists, OReilly—whose past short films include the award-winning "The External World" (2011) and "Please Say Something" (2009)—is recognized as much for his astute grasp of dark, abstract comedy as for his unique approach to visual design. Drawing on glitch aesthetics, underground Japanese Manga and the most parasitic of Internet memes, OReilly forges original compositions from the debris of contemporary culture.
Animated GIF from the website Parked Domain Girl Tombstone (2013)
DR: On first inspection, a lot of your work appears to be rooted in the 90s, drawing on the low bandwidth aesthetics inherent in GIFs, midi plugins, embedded frames, ASCII art, and forgotten webring hyperlinks. But the 90s comes out in other ways, too. Pop-cultural undercurrents include Nintendo and Leisure Suit Larry; mixtapes and a particular flavor of Europop.
Your work spans several distinct, but overlapping areas of discourse. We could start by talking through design, animation, glitch art, code, game play or the interface. I want to start right from the bottom though, and ask you about inputs and outputs. A recent work you collaborated on with Jeff Thompson, You Have Been Blinded - “a non-visual adventure game” - takes me back to my childhood when playing a videogame often meant referring to badly sketched dungeon maps, before typing N S E or W on a clunky keyboard. Nostalgia certainly plays a part in You Have Been Blinded, but what else drives you to strip things back to their elements?
I’ve always been interested in how things are built. From computers to houses to rocks to software. What makes these things stand up? What makes them work? Naturally I’ve shifted to exploring how we construct experiences. How do we know? Each one of us has a wholly unique experience of… experience, of life.. When I was a kid I was always wondering what it was like to be any of the other kids at school. Or a kid in another country. What was it like to be my cat or any of the non-people things I came across each day? These sorts of questions have driven me to peel back experience and ask it some pointed questions. I don’t know that I’m really interested in the answers. I don’t think we could really know those answers, but I think it’s enough to ask the questions.
Stripping these things down to their elements shows you that no matter how hard you try, nothing you make will ever be perfect. There are always flaws and the evidence of failure to be found, no matter how small ...
“But even if the internet is dead this doesnt mean it's over. It is all over.”
When we met recently we talked about the glitch as it relates to contemporary image culture, but we also talked about the glitch as something to aspire to. In your essay, A Thing Like You and Me, you retell Walter Benjamin’s parable of the Angel of History, pushed by the harsh winds of progress away from the rubble of history, its back facing into the unknown future. You say that we are the rubble, or at least, that we should align ourselves with the rubble. I’m fascinated by these allusions to excess and detritus in your writing, and I see something of the glitch aesthetic making its way into your video works. I thought we could start from these bruises and cracks; from the things we can’t predict, control or maintain. How would you relate the glitch to Benjamin’s rubble?
One of the biggest misunderstandings about digital information is that it is replicated identically, without loss or transformation. But anyone who works with such information knows that digital practice is constituted – like perhaps any technology – by malfunction. One has to constantly convert information in order to work with it across different platforms and softwares and on the way it is reformatted, translated, compressed or sometimes even blown up, it is enhanced or diminished: it changes. It changes its format or container or outlook or context.
Digital information is thus characterised by transformation, degradation, circulation, but also by its surprising ability to mutate and produce unpredictable results. The glitch, the bruise of the image or sound testifies to its being worked with and working; being passed on and circulated, being matter in action. History inscribes itself into the image in ...