DUPE chats to Video Artist Ben Bickford about Channel 4, Rituals and Youtube
We would visually describe your work as Contemporary Hippy, and Psychedelic, and then we hear the soundtrack for some of them. Rap.
Is it an intentional contrast? Psychedelic visuals with rap sound?
The two videos I have made with a “rap” soundtrack were made mainly to expose unsuspecting people (aside from a safety warning) to my form of Stroboscopic Video Art and to give some purpose to a few of my failed experiments. It is an intentional contrast but Rap has its psychadelic side and a lot of it is about expansion of consciousness in one form or another, I listen to all sorts of music and yeah I do really enjoy a lot of rap/hiphop/trap whatever you want to call it. I think those videos actually came about from spending many nights with my girlfriend experimenting with psychoactive substances, performing rituals, trawling youtube to find new music to enhance these experiences yet she’d always complain about all the music that had no visual and that we were just sat looking at an album cover or something, so I thought I’d make a couple myself.
Artwork can be inspired by the place where you grow up. Your hometown is Hastings. Do you think the town has influenced your artwork?
I lived in Hastings from 1986 to 2006 when I moved to London. There is an exercise I learnt from Robert Anton Wilson (RIP Eris be with you Bob) who learnt it from Aleister Crowley who learnt it from a Buddhist monk in Selong. It’s a simulation of enlightenment where you sit down and think of all the reasons, decisions, encounters and chance that brought you to sit down and attempt said exercise. “So I’m sitting here doing this exercise because I read a book by Robert Anton Wilson, Why was I reading that book? Because my friend J told me I should, How did J come to suggest this to me?… and so on. It really doesn’t take long before you end up with reasons such as “I’m sitting here doing this exercise because Emperor Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus began the conquest of Britain in AD43 eventually coming to Hastings forcing settlers to take refuge in the natural valley between the East and West hills …..I’m doing this exercise because planet Earth is the only planet in our solar system with the capability to support life…..” so it becomes clear that an infinite amount of coincidences, synchronicities, and accidents throughout not just your own history but the history of the Universe has brought you to the point where you are sitting down doing this exercise. So I think the town has undoubtedly influenced me as a person and as an artist.
How important is the music to the video art? Half of your videos are silent. How do you choose which ones have sound?
Some of my videos have soundtracks and they use binaural beats, which is the name given to a method of using two different frequencies in different channels to coax the brain to a frequency that is perhaps so low that humans wouldn’t normally be able to hear those frequencies and experience the power of them. These serve to reinforce the psychic healing and dissociative powers of the Stroboscopic Visuals, unfortunately this only really works when listened to through headphones. So if you want to attempt to fully experience the power of Brainwave Entrainment then the sound listened to through headphones is imperative.
Some have been intentionally left silent to make them more accessible to users who perhaps have no idea about stroboscopic visuals or binaural beats or psychic healing tools and want to kick back and relax to some of their favourite music with their chosen consciousness expanding substance and watch some hypnotic visuals.
Watch the video: VALIS * Stroboscopic / Binauaral Beats * ( Dreammachine Simulator )
Here at DUPE we follow you on Instagram and notice that you post a lot of Asian images. Are these images your online sketchbook? What are your main inspirations?
An online sketchbook of sorts is a good way of explaining what that is about, I don’t really know myself. For several years now I have curated an image blog (doommantra.tumblr.com) and a lot of what is on my IG (@doommantra) is my favourite posts from the Tumblr. I try to take inspiration from everything that surrounds me/I surround myself with, Eastern art and thought has for many years been of great interest to me, I guess I first got into it through tattoos and spending a lot of time in tattoo studios with Mahakala masks from Tibet, Japanese woodblock prints and shrines to Ganesh adorning the walls, I found them great tools to meditate on while forcing myself to endure several hours of pain. So I started to look into where this imagery came from, what it represented, what it meant. I’m interested and inspired by what some of the oldest known schools of thoughts have to say about existence, life, death, the creation of the universe… what is the best way to live….what is reality and how do we best experience it? The mysticism that spawns from these ideas and the lives of those who practice the mental and physical exercises of the various sects, magical orders and cults of eastern and some western civilisations/societies.
What are your tools of the trade?
Gan-Zi-Gu-Nu, MacBook Pro, Canon Powershot, Arizer V-Tower, W Grey Walter The Living Brain, Some ancient Sony Hi8 Camcorder, Iphone5, κάνναβις
DreamMachine, Soma, The Tibetan Book of The Dead, (RS)-2-(2-Chlorophenyl)-2-(methylamino)cyclohexanone.
Describe the creative process in creating one of your Video works.
It involves a fair amount of swearing, sitting in the dark, looking at percentages increase on timers, smoking and despair.
Your video works have appeared on Channel 4. What are you working on next?
Yeah that was great, really grateful that Lightning&Kinglyface asked me to contribute to their short film they aired on Channel 4 last year.
Recently I have been working on a collaborative project with an amazing artist who you can find on IG as @jonascrookedmoon or soundcloud as https://soundcloud.com/kryptarituals who makes some of the best lo fi drone music I’ve heard. I’ve been supplying him with visuals for live performances and stroboscopic psychic healing videos tailor made to fit his sounds. Something new will be out for that soon but in the meantime you can watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czCGya244Cc the video I made for the track dödsdrone.
Have you always made videos? Or has it been a gradual progression.
I started making videos in 2005 on my foundation course in Hastings with a good friend and early frequent collaborator who unfortunately doesn’t make art anymore. I stopped for a while to become some performance artist that practiced hypnotism and magical rituals but I didn’t enjoy that and I still make other things now and then. Otherwise I’ve been making them on and off for almost 10 years and I honestly still don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t use editing suites properly I just make them work for me. Many hours are still spent trying to learn how to do something I can see in my mind but have no idea in how to do that or how to even phrase it so that Google can find me the answer, so it is a very slow and constant gradual process for me but I like the idea of approaching this technology as a novice, I don’t really want to perfect my understanding/use of technology.
If you could collaborate with another artist who would it be and why?
John Whitney (1917-1995) he did the title sequence for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, invented computers for animating and was considered a father of computer animation in general. After many failed attempts at attainting an out of body experience it finally happened whilst watching one of his videos and practicing a consciousness expanding ritual. I couldn’t get enough of his animations and watched Matrix III several times a week for a month or so.
Watch the video: LIL UGLY MANE - NO SLACK IN MY MACK // STROBOSCOPIC VISUALS - DOOMMANTRA
Our current issue is ‘The Dark Issue.’ What are your darkest thoughts?
To live is to suffer, there is no meaning to gain through suffering.
www.doommantra.com (coming soon)