Digital technology in some form or another has crept into many of our homes, but for Ben Stokes, a founder of the Chicago video production house H-Gun Labs, it’s been a real life-changer. A decade ago, when he made his first video for Ministry as a fledgling out of the School of the Art Institute, Stokes labored long and hard over old-fashioned “in-camera” effects and optical printing to achieve the visuals he had in mind. But when he plotted a similar stop-motion sequence for Meat Beat Manifesto last year, his approach couldn’t have been more different. “I put 34 still cameras around Jack Dangers, and then we took hundreds of stills as he rotated,” says Stokes. The dizzying montage that resulted is punctuated randomly by feathers, chains, flying debris, and fragments of stereo equipment. “We digitalized the images, fed them into the computer. What we got was an illusion of motion, an elaborate effect that ended up not costing a whole lot of money to make.”
Besides making pictures for other people’s music, Stokes sometimes makes a little noise of his own as the experimental, acid house-inspired project Dimensional Holofonic Sound. Appropriately enough, lately he’s been interested in the literal dimensions sound can take on: in a recent video for the Japanese techno group Enitokwa, Stokes’s “vibravision” causes the images to pulsate to the beat. “We’re living in pretty exciting times,” he says. “With the kind of software and computers we have, you have total freedom to create what’s in your head.”
Stokes’s videos–including Enitokwa’s “The Yellow Mix (Part 2),” ambient pioneers the Orb’s “Asylum,” and electronica heartthrob Josh Wink’s “Are You There?”–are part of the ResFest Digital Film Festival, a touring showcase of high-tech videos and films at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Programs at 4 and 10 PM on Saturday will feature Stokes’s works, and a program of electronica videos that includes others by H-Gun begins at 8 PM. Admission for each program is $8, $7 for students and seniors; call 312-397-4010.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): “Helter Skelter” video still; Ben Stokes photo by J.B. Spector.