Miren Oller is a prolific set designer and art director based in Berlin. We chat about the experimentation of her work in different artforms, the significance of our daily experiences in order to feed our creations and if pinterest is really all the rage.
After watching a number of projects you’ve been involved in, I am amazed by the aesthetic and attention to detail in your craft. In many of your works you can find a richness of colors, flowers, playful shapes and structures and creative compositions that really captivate the viewer. Specifically in the music video “Pretty Bones” by artist Yeule, the set design is in its full glory. What were some of your inspirations?
I am obsessed with the effects of time on things; the way nature, objects and people suffer a visible/physical transformation of this abstract intangible concept. It was a coincidence that the director of the music video in “Pretty Bones”, wanted me to show the decay in a beautiful poetic way, so I could focus on playing with this suggestive aesthetic that I love.
My inspirations were obviously the classical baroque still life paintings, which I mixed with some more modern elements. The song talks about a hurt bitter woman, so I developed different women personalities for each still life - all sharing this mysterious, dark, romantic, witchy essence. For me the concept and the attention to detail when creating a set are both 50/50 relevant.
"I like to jump between different disciplines because I have the feeling that it keeps me motivated and awake".
Music video Pretty Bones by Yeule
Your work ranges from fiction, music videos, photography, to scenic design in performing arts. Why is it important for you to experiment and create with different art disciplines?
For me it is all the “same” thing but there is a different way to approach the projects and different levels of freedom and scale. I like to jump between different disciplines because I have the feeling that it keeps me motivated and awake, I learned from switching from one “language” to the other and I apply those different inspirations I get to the next thing I do. Everytime I start a project, the most important thing for me is that there has to be a new challenge to solve, rethink, and create something new. It doesn’t matter which discipline it is.
"It is important to soak up as much visual information as you can, be aware of where it comes from and then you can give it a new turn".
Music video Pretty Bones by Jesper Munk
In an era with an oversaturated world of images, a scroll through the internet makes one feel like everything has already been “done” before. How do you subvert that and try to find your own artistic voice or style?
Almost everything has already been done, but there are always new combinations, new technologies and influences coming in. Actually, I love how the collective unconscious works; we think that we are creating something unique and it was already done 60 years ago and everybody is suddenly doing the same.
But I’d say that it is important to soak up as much visual information as you can, be aware of where it comes from and then you can give it a new turn. Also experimenting with materials that catch your eye, paying attention to little accidents, daily life situations, staying curious to different ways of doing things, always having present your own experiences throughout your life and travels, being connected to your emotions and empathy. That will always give you an actual personal imaginary that is probably going to be somewhat new or unique.
And what I do is thinking every new concept/script and seeing what it specifically needs to be explained in a true way, not thinking about how I want it to look like, so that it comes fluently from a more authentic and personal place.
"Staying curious to different ways of doing things, always having present your own experiences throughout your life and travels, being connected to your emotions and empathy".
Music video Monster by Alli Neumann
"It's enriching to get inspired by other people from different backgrounds and it's surprising to see how quickly people get motivated to start a new project without any money".
When taking on a new project, what is the part of the process you enjoy the most?
My favorite part comes after reading a script, I choose the details that I think carry a stronger meaning for the story and, based on that, I start developing a visual concept that will help to express those ideas. Also, the moment where everything begins to take shape as a set is really satisfying and addictive.
Das melancholische Mädchen by Susanne Heinrich
You are currently based in Berlin, what is it like working and collaborating in such an interesting city?
The interesting thing about Berlin, and I guess about every cosmopolitan city, is the opportunity to work with very talented people who came from the other side of the world to build an artistic career in the same place. It’s enriching to get inspired by other people from different backgrounds and it’s surprising to see how quickly people get motivated to start a new project without any money. Compared to other places where I worked, I would say that what particularly defines the Berlin art scene, is the fact that people are not that afraid of experimenting, innovating and failing. It is rather prefered than being too safe and repeating old formulas.
During the pandemic have you continued to create art in some form?
I’ve tried to stay away from the pressure of “now that I have time I have to use it and be more productive than ever” because it can be a bit paralyzing as well. In fact, it was quite liberating for me to see that instagram went back to a more personal place rather than a portfolio competition for a while. So I’ve been enjoying quite a lot of this new weird freedom and rhythm, I’ve been doing exercise for the first time in my life, I’ve been illustrating and drawing quite a lot, and I started some personal projects with friends which hopefully will see the light soon.
A dream collaboration?
To wrap a mountain together with Christo and Jeanne Claude, to work with Achim Freyer on a theatre performance, to develop a stage for Susanne Kennedy, to work for Roy Andersson or Michel Gondry or whatever talented director with an interesting script and strong feeling for Production Design. I am easy to please.
Production design, photo by Joan Galo, @allaboutgalo
Pinterest, friend or foe?
I don’t like the interface, but I admit that it is practical when I search for mood references.
So to me it is a “froe”.
Production design, photo by Noemi Ottilia Szabo for VOGUE, @noemiottiliaszabo
If you could come back as an object what would it be and why?
A glass of champagne.
It is practical, beautiful, see through, ephemere, it is difficult to make a better version of it, you can make nice sounds with it, and have a nice celebration.
Interview by Sarah Zelich