Dylan Romer Explains the Art Behind the iPhone App

For years, South Florida-bred artist and daytime software developer Dylan Romer ran around town with a laptop, a camcorder, and an XBox 360 controller. Armed with a BFA from FIU, an MFA from UF, and a homemade program, he created live psychedelic video art that screened at galleries around Miami. He captured events as they happened -- people booty-dancing at shows, performance artists writhing, drummers pounding -- and translated the images into choppy renderings of reorganized time. Through his program, the world looks like a moving collage of double exposed images.

Recently, Romer paired with fellow Miami artist and programmer Samuel Lopez de Victoria to develop the video game Miami Rumble, which pits local scenesters, native animal and plant species, and objects like chancletas against each other in battle. It was commissioned last year by the Borscht Film Festival and played by enthusiastic attendees at both the festival's after-party and The Heat Lightning's cultural gathering at the end/SPRING BREAK.

Romer recently folded his high art into a consumer-sized package with the Time Piles video app. Newly available on iTunes, Time Piles allows just about anyone with an iPhone to film trippy recordings fit for a Romer exhibition. We asked Romer about the creation of his latest adventure -- and whether or not an app can be art.

You've been making art that is reflected in Time Piles for a while now, right? 

This is an old project of mine. Every time I learn a new programming language, I've used this project to learn my way around new languages. 

What's your message with Time Piles, with its aesthetic, the way it works, the composition of the visuals?

The bigger idea behind it is that time doesn't exist. That we just are in the present. So, what the video does is takes moments and starts to pile them together so that a collection of moments that lead up to the present become one. It's kind of like the idea that everything is happening all at once. 

You created a sort of template to make your work with and now, with the app, you're selling it to people. Does your own artwork then maintain its uniqueness? 

The idea is that the effect is really open to many different interpretations. It's always been interactive. Whenever I've done this before, just running it off of my laptop, I was always trying to get people to have fun with it, just see what happens when they start to play with it. Making it an app allows it so that anyone with an iPhone can potentially come up with things that I would never have thought of to use it for. The effect is like a point of view. People can take that point of view and look at whatever they want through it. 

You're selling commercially, but is it still an artist endeavor? 

That's a good question. I'm not sure of a specific answer. Is it art? I think that people can have fun with it. I think of it more as a toy and maybe someone can use it to make art, or maybe I could use it to make art, or maybe it's just people having fun.

What sets Time Piles apart?

I think it is unique compared to a lot of the video apps out there that are maybe trying to recreate the Hipstamatic sepia tone in video or maybe a little bit of a blur on the video and this is something different that that. The reason I decided to push it is because I thought it offers a unique experience.