Programmed by Shahbaz Khayambashi and Mark Barber. Presented by The Citizens Committee on Moral Hygiene at Trinity Square Video in Toronto, Ontario on January 27, 2015.
Clint Enns and Leslie Supnet have been working in Toronto and Winnipeg for several years in several formats. The two have frequently collaborated on projects, which makes it no surprise that they share certain sensibilities: specifically transgressions of the medium. Indeed, both filmmakers question the very notion of cinema, but they do so in exceedingly different ways.
Clint Enns transgresses–disrupts–the medium of cinema iconoclastically by appropriating, re-contextualizing, and re-presenting the works of others. In doing so, he attacks and tears down every aspect of the moving image, including, but not limited to, the form, the content, the material, the respected and established practitioners and, even in one case, the very act of seeing itself. After a screening of one of his films, a viewer claimed that “there is nothing left for the cinema to say; cinema is dead and Clint Enns has killed it.”
Leslie Supnet, on the other hand, has no interest in attacking the moving image, preferring instead to ignore its advancement. While others may be attracted to modern innovations, she chooses to go back to the proto-cinematic roots of the moving image, creating vibrant new works using allegedly outdated methods: her hand-drawn animations, with hints of Soviet and Eastern European cartoons, her cardboard cut-out works and her Muybridge-influenced photographic experiments seem to transcend the medium. Her work was once described as “childish with a thanatotic twist” by a stunned critic. By refusing to give into the prevalence of new media, she has managed to locate and perfect a space for herself in the world of forgotten methods and techniques.
Adventures in Transgression Review
I arrive just in time to catch the beginning of Adventures in Transgression, a screening of videos by Clint Enns and Leslie Supnet at Trinity Square Video. The mood of the crowd is that of cabin fever induced excitement and recklessness that make for an interesting evening, and, TSV has a capacious screening room with a sound system worthy of the ambient industrial tracks to come.
Some of the videos of Clint Enns have a tossed-off larkishness, like the short nostalgic clip called Freddie Mercury Sing-A-Long.
Others are discomforting, like the superimposed close-ups of an ejaculating penis and vigorous teeth brushing in Gleem or the tight shot of cataract surgery called Botched Eyeball Operation which is more horrifying than any slasher movie. Let Me ASMR You explores the perceptual phenomenon of autonomous sensory meridian response, which is evidently a popular youtube indulgence.
Many of the works have a connection to some earlier film or technology or video art piece. They are remakes, tributes, recreations, remixes, variants of existing technology or artwork — some more obscure than others — which becomes clear in seeing Andy Warhol, Michael Snow, James Benning, Hans Richter, Chris Burden, Name June Paik and others referenced in the programme notes. Clint Enns is apparently a student and ardent fan of earlier achievements in moving imagery but he is definitely on his own path.
The videos that are truly spellbinding, for me, are those in which Clint Enns goes for pure image. Take as a starting point, for example, the scratchy, flaring, generally beat up look of a Guy Maddin film and keep going…and keep going… all the way. Clint Enns apparently sets outs out to degrade his images until they are virtually abstract.
What happens on the journey to total annihilation is really interesting: not only are the visuals often incidentally gorgeous but also the viewer is obliged to think about the phenomenon of seeing itself.
In Spiderman vs. Macrovision the real time image decay is fast and unsettling. Macrovision’s “Ripguard” technology, was designed to prevent illegal copying. In the tape we see antique cartoons repeatedly churn, hesitate and dissolve into a froth of colour only to be reformed momentarily and dissolve again, like a babel of photons struggling for coherence.
Strangely, in these videotapes the emotional content is heightened with increasing abstraction. The sound design/music (frequently performed by Clint Enns) is a big actor. In winnipeg stories: sacrificial memories, composed of discarded footage, Clint Enns achieves a fitful, melancholy tone. The golden glow gives the tape a “trapped in amber” look and the music is wistful, haunting, emotive.
The Everden (which is my favourite) creates a sense of panic and paranoia as the viewer looks deeper and deeper into a bleak urban landscape. It’s like watching the famous “grassy knoll” footage from Dallas. Everything is so tantalizingly close, but the resolution just isn’t there and the image breaks up, becomes meaningless, closed and unknowable.
The Everden also made me think of the Laura Poitras’ film Citizen Four, in its dark, brooding unease and revelations of betrayal and duplicity. The sound track of processed ambience and guitar, the unrelenting static, drop out, smear and interference all conspire to create a powerfully tense piece about extreme alienation in this: the age of surveillance.
Leslie Supnet’s work also has a “take no prisoners” approach to materials. She chooses to hand draw her animations, paint and cut out her sets (with scissors), and shoot in super 8 instead of HD.
Capturing simple, graphic pictures with these erzats techniques Leslie Supnet’s work frequently achieves a sense of elemental imagery. In pieces like Sun Moon Stars Rain or First Sun the bold images, coupled with a boisterious percussive sound track results in wildly playful pagan joyfulness.
Leslie Supnet’s narrative animations explore themes of depression, anxiety, loss and redemption. Simple line drawings have an affecting emotive depth and nuance that seems precisely current.
Her processed super 8 work also has complex results using simple imagery. Recurring themes include flocks of gulls, bizarre landscapes, cats, horses. Last Light Breaking has an other worldly, meditative dreaminess. Wind and Snow combines startling depictions of classic subjects in flaring, shimmering psychedelic colours. Less like a documenter of the natural world and more like poet, Leslie Supnet gets at the essence of what’s around her.
Pre-screening Loop: Simpson’s Empire | 2013 | Loop | DV
Films and Videos by Clint Enns:
video/poem | 2015 | 6 min. | VHS->DV
Skies | 2012 | 3 min. | DV
Rhythmus 25 | 2015 | 2 min. | DV->16mm
Softly Through the Night | 2011 | 1 min. | VHS->DV
Gleem | 2010 | 2 min. | PXL2000->DV
Guy Maddin on the set of the Haunting | 2010 | 1 min. | Vidster
Debbies Does ASCII (an ASCII pr0n from a 1981 BBS) | 2007 | 1 min. | DV
Spider-Man Vs. MacroVision | 2010 | 2 min. | DV
Freddie Mercury Sing-A-Long | 2009 | 1 min. | DV
Fan Letter to Steve Reinke | 2011 | 1 min. | VHS->DV
whiplash | 2010 | 1 min. | VHS->DV
Blood + Sand | 2011 | 3 min. | VHS->DV
Confessions d’un voleur d’ordure | WIP | 2 min. | 16mm->DV
On Light, or the Ingression of Forms | 2007 | 2 min. | Circuit Bent Webcam->DV
There is no G.O.D. without R.G.B. | 2008 | 1 min. | DV
winnipeg stories: sacrificial memories | 2008 | 5 min. | Super 8/Video 8->DV
Let Me ASMR You | 2014 | 3 min. | DV
Botched Eyeball Operation | Collaboration with Denys Gareau | 2008 | 1 min. | DV
The Everden | 2013 | 16 min. | PXL2000->DV
Intermission Loop: Bloom in Spring | 2013 | 5 min. (Loop) | Super 8
Films and Videos by Leslie Supnet:
Last Light Breaking | 2013 | 8 min. | DV
Fair Trade | 2009 | 5 min. | DV
Dimensional Fluid Light | 2008 | 3 min. | Super 8
How to Care for Introverts | 2010 | 2 min. | DV
Finding the Truth in the World Around Us | 2013 | 2 min. | DV
Hang in There | 2009 | 3 min. | DV
sun moon stars rain | 2009 | 3 min. | Super 8
The Animated Heavy Metal Parking Lot | 2008 | 2 min. | DV
A Small Misunderstanding | 2008 | 1 min. | DV
Wind and Snow | 2011 | 5 min. | DV
gains + losses | 2011 | 3 min. | DV
First Sun | 2014 | 2 min. | Super 8
You Are Here | 2012 | 3 min. | DV
Smoke | 2014 | 2 min. | DV
A Time is a Terrible Thing to Waste | 2012 | 3 min. | DV
Amethyst Visions | 2012 | 4 min. | DV