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Local Artist Explores Digital Age Through Video

If you look closely at the schedule for this year's Hi Mom! Film Festival, you might be surprised to find that many of the works are not films at all.

Rather, they're videos or works that combine alternative media. In the digital age, film is an emblem of the past.

Local Web designer Giles Hendrix, whose video "Divided Eyeprint" will show at Hi Mom's Sunday screening at the Hanes Art Center, represents the new wave of multimedia artists.

Hendrix's videos deal specifically with the technology age. "Divided Eyeprint" is an all-out sensory experience that integrates both his digital and video work.

"We live -- at least I do -- in metaphors of information," he said. "The visual life is more real than the rest of life for a lot of people."

Hendrix's house is an offbeat mixture of high- and low-tech. Old Apple PCs sit next to DVD players and Macintosh laptops. A bright orange lounge chair in the corner gives the living room a distinctly '70s flavor. On the way to the front door, a purple bumper sticker on his car reads, "I don't trust the corporate media."

His artistic influences are similarly eclectic -- early Russian cinema, the video art scene of the '60s and '70s, and of course today's cutting-edge digital artists.

Hendrix was studying film at Northwestern University when the Internet took off in the early '90s. A lot of his friends were just getting into digital media, and soon he was hooked.

"The timing was undeniable," he said. "I saw the two worlds evolve and was very interested in how they would meet, how it would fall out over the years."

After graduating, Hendrix moved to Chapel Hill to head the design department of WebslingerZ Inc., a Web design company. Founded in 1995, the company has done a lot of design work for UNC and has become a successful, if not lucrative, enterprise.

The electronica and drum-and-bass music scenes that took off in the '90s also provided inspiration for Hendrix's video.

"I would mix video images for live performances," he said. "I liked the noise, the scratching, the minimalism of it. Video-making really grew out of my experience VJ-ing."

At WebslingerZ, Hendrix met Ethan Clauset and Troy Mathison, who were finishing an electronically-based album on their computer in the same office.

"Working with Ethan and Troy and doing live visuals for their performances forced me to put together stuff in real time and not worry about mistakes," he said.

It is their music that provides the soundtrack to "Divided Eyepiece."

After some trouble hooking up his laptop to a large '70s television, Hendrix gets "Divided Eyeprint" running. Grainy images of a UNC game were replaced by the deliberately pixilated images of his video work.

Most filmmakers and video artists are very particular about how their work is shown, but Hendrix is not worried.

"If people are looking at it, it's fine with me. I'm not concerned with perfection. As a designer I am, but in video I'm interested in letting go and not worrying about every pixel," he said. "I do this to offset the paradigm of doing corporate work."

"Divided Eyeprint" is a collage of urban scenes, appropriated footage, giant pixels, 3-D animation and even a Nintendo snowboarding game. The text in the video comes from e-mail headers Hendrix found using search engine spies.

Hendrix sampled and resampled the footage and then edited the piece in his living room. He pointed out the footage he had shot of the power plant near Carrboro.

"I wanted to make a piece that was kind of like VJ-ing where there is this overwhelming sense of information and waves of distortion which eventually creates this very interesting visual cacophony," he said.

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Despite the fact that it was all put together electronically, there is a distinctly handmade quality to Hendrix's video.

"I'll run an effect 10 to 20 times to produce a much more abstracted result," he said. "When I shoot stuff, I think of it in five times the normal speed. I'm used to quick edits."

Hendrix said he doesn't feel a need to control the creative process as he's working -- instead, he works more intuitively, he said.

"The actual creation process is very visceral." He admitted that "You don't necessarily know what it all means when you are doing it. What's valuable is how people decide to interpret or place (the work)."

While film will always have a certain allure, Hendrix said he is excited by the possibilities of average consumers accessing media technology.

"Film is the ivory tower. But now you can go get a Macintosh and do the stuff that production houses charge an arm and a leg for. I think that's threatening to corporations, and so there's a lot of resistance to the digital world."

Hi Mom! is the first film festival he's submitted work to, but Hendrix is considering sending work to other festivals in the near future.

In the coming months, he plans to move to New York City. Hendrix will continue to work at WebslingerZ, but is leaving things open.

"What I'm doing now pays the bills," he said." I want to increase the amount of video work I do, but I don't want it to replace the things that have given it birth."

"Divided Eyeprint" will show at Hi Mom!'s Locals Only screening, 10 p.m. Sunday at the Hanes Art Center.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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