11 Questions with Clint Enns

Peter Hayes “11 Questions with Clint Enns,” pivotartgallery (March 7, 2013).

Video artist Clint Enns explores a wide range of topics in his work: from cinema, to technology, to spirituality, his research clearly influences his work. The combination of academic investigation and artistic experimentation makes for smart contemporary twists on major themes in film and video history.

By editing and mixing video footage from many and varied sources, Enns can imbue video games with new (and astute) meaning, explore the spiritual side of film history, and embrace the materiality of film imagery even when that materiality only exists digitally. He wryly references art and film history, contemporary culture, gaming technology, while showing off the often overlooked beauty of analogue.

In addition to video, presented here is a body of still images that the artist refers to as Post Cinema. By combining digital imaging with analogue film, he exposes the weaknesses in both while shrewdly leveraging the strengths. The intertwining of still and moving photography in this series reflects an earnest understanding of the historical issues and engages the viewer on both a detailed and a general level.

Peter Hayes: How did you first become interested in exploring film, cinema, and photography?

Clint Enns: I first began making films in 2006 and I was an avid cinephile for many years before that.  The first film I made was for the One Take Super 8 Event in Winnipeg, Manitoba – an event where filmmakers shoot a roll of Super 8 and the first time they are seen is unedited in an audience full of people.  My partner, Leslie Supnet, pushed me into making it and I had a blast.  Since that time I haven’t been able to stop making films.

I began taking photos in 2010 when my friend Ashley Gillanders, a Winnipeg photographer, shared a disposable camera with me.

In 2011, I made photography a part of my practice while taking a course titled The Practice with Toronto filmmaker Mike Hoolboom at York University. The course was about exploring cinema and our practice through Buddhist philosophy, which may sound cheesy, however, the course was totally amazing.

PH: Can you articulate what you are looking for when creating your work?

CE: I really believe in fun formalism, that is, entertaining films and videos that explore and experiment with the formal elements filmmaking.  I attempt to make works that not only experiment with form but distance themselves from the supposedly “boring” world of avant-garde film.  I am interested in experimenting with the medium itself and its underlying structure.  Currently, pursuing a Masters degree in Cinema and Media Studies at York University has lead me to theorize about medium specific explorations.

PH: What is most satisfying to you about the creative process?

CE: In general, I love making films and videos, however, the most satisfying part is when a work breaks your expectations and you produce something better than you imagined it would be.  It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it is like “Oh shit, I made that it.  Awesome!”

PH: If you have artistic/creative role models, who are they and how do you relate to them?

CE: The support and camaraderie of the Winnipeg film community means the world to me.  There is definitely something happening there.  Filmmakers and video artists like Michael Snow, Guy Maddin, Shana Moulton, Wendy Geller, George Kuchar, James Benning and Owen Land have had a huge influence on my own practice, specifically their use of humour.  I think the use of sound in Benning’s work is incredibly clever and humorous.

On that note, I believe humour and satire is an effective form of critique. For instance, consider the way in which Owen Land makes fun of Hollis Frampton in Wide Angel Saxon (1975) or the structuralists in Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1966).

Some people take art making too seriously.  Relax, it’s only art.

PH: How does your study of mathematics influence your work?

CE: Mathematics has helped me to develop problem solving abilities.  In addition it has provided me with an interest in abstract structures.

On a practical note, it has provided me with the ability to write basic code and at the very least it has provided me with the ability to hack other peoples more complex code.

PH: Your work references history and specifically film history while adding a contemporary twist. What specifically about film inspires you as opposed to, for example, painting history?

CE: Cinema speaks to me more than painting.  I like how the field is fairly new and rapidly evolving.

Some people view seminal avant-garde films as sacred, however, to me, they are another database of found footage.  With that being said, I reference historical works in order to develop a dialogue between my work and the original.  It is also a chance to pay homage to the my favourite films and filmmakers.

PH: In addition to appropriating imagery and technology, how big a fan of video games are you? Thoughts on the evolution of gaming technology?

CE: I like video games, however, I wouldn’t consider myself a gamer.  I am more interested in game art and game technologies than I am in playing video games.  I am convinced that the evolution of gaming technologies, especially in regards to game art, is directly linked to our understanding of the underlying structure of digital video.  Furthermore, I feel that video games provide us with a better reflection of contemporary culture practices than television at this point.  In regards to my own practice, I view video games as another source of found footage.

PH: Where do you want to see your art career in, say, ten years?

CE: I hopefully will be alive in ten years.  If I am, there is a good chance I will be making making, watching and writing about films and videos. I hope to continue to be an active member of my local film and video community.

PH: How do you feel about contemporary art and your contribution to it?

CE: I believe strongly that contributing to the experimental film and video scene means more than just making experimental films and videos.  To me this taking part in the community through writing, programming, interviewing, reading, theorizing and watching.  If artists aren’t interested in each other work and aren’t creating dialogue, how can we expect others to be interested.

PH: What is the most important thing you want viewers to come away from your work with? What, if anything do you want them to learn through your work?

CE:  My videos are experiments and explorations.  With that being said, they aren’t intended to be instructional.  I hope people enjoy them.

PH: What can you add that would help us understand you and/or your work better?

CE:  If anyone has any questions about my work, feel free to contact me.