“Clint Enns | Q + A.” Digital America 21 (April 18, 2023).
Digital America: What inspired you to start creating digital artwork?
Clint Enns: I began making art in 2006. One of my first experiments involved circuit bending a webcam. At the time, webcams weren’t typically a part of the computer, they were standalone devices. I would find older ones at thrift shop and I would haphazardly re-wire them to produce glitched out videos. Much of my early work can be seen as thinking through ideas of the “hand-made” in the digital age, although I wasn’t working within this framework at time. I was simply experimenting with different mediums. In a recent article titled “Hardware Hacking, Software Modding, and File Manipulation: Process Cinema in the Digital Age,” I detail some of these hand-made processes and the ways in which artists use them.
DA: Your portfolio is on the website tumblr, which has a rich history in the internet art space. Why did you choose tumblr? What aspects of the platform do you think best reflects your work?
CE: I began to use tumblr in 2012. At the time, I was taking photos with toy cameras (both analog and digital) and I would process found undeveloped, analog 35mm rolls stolen from cameras in thrift shops. I used tumblr to showcase this work since I liked the informal nature of the format and it was used by a number of artists I admired. Although my tumblr is publicly available, I now view it as an archive and often dump large batches of photos at once. It is a snapshot of my personal and creative life. I also use Instagram, and try to post an image a day, but I feel this is more of a curated version of my creative life.
DA: Your pieces All My Life (2016) and Splice Lines (2012) both feature images from films made in the 1960s, All My Life and 6-64 Mama und Papa. What about these 1960s films interest you the most? What inspires you to use them in your work?
CE: I have made a number of works that would now be considered post-cinematic including works based on: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967), Andy Warhol’s Empire (1965), Hollis Frampton’s Zorns Lemma (1970) James Benning’s Ten Skies (2004). Each of these works lends itself to being transformed into a photograph that both stands on its own merit while, at the same time, allowing new insight into the original artwork to be obtained – new ways of seeing the original film. All of these works (with the exception of Rope) would be considered structuralist films, a movement that was born in the 1960s. These types of films lend themselves nicely to this form of re-imagination.
DA: When did you first discover Bruce Baillie’s 1966 film, All My Life? Can you describe the creative process you went through when making this piece?
CE: It is a film I’ve seen numerous times at various underground film screenings over the years, although I can’t remember the first time I saw it. I have always liked the simplicity of the work, the way it seems to transcend the sum of its parts. I used software to reduce a digital version of the film into a large number of stills. I used another piece of software to stitch them together in order to produce a panorama which I “cleaned up” in Photoshop. When I first tried to produce the panorama, I used too many stills and the software spit out an extremely large, glitched out panoramic image. I tried to write a script to transform this image into “film stills” in order to produce a video, but the image was just too large and would crash the software I was using. I eventually animated the glitched out panorama on super 8 producing a short film titled All My Life (After Baillie) (2016).
DA: What is your definition of “post-cinematic” art? In what ways is it highlighted in your pieces?
CE: A post-cinematic artwork is a form of meta-analysis that allows one to inspect the underlying form of a moving image artwork. That is, post-cinematic artworks deconstruct the original cinematic artwork, revealing or highlighting its structure. In Splice Lines, the violence of Otto Mühl’s performance is removed, replaced by a different form of violence – that of the “cut.” In All My Life we see the full panoramic view at once, yet the experience of watching the landscape reveal itself is lost forcing us to ask: What lies in the boundary between the photographic and the cinematic?
DA: What are you currently working on now? Are your new pieces more similar or different compared to your old pieces?
CE: After Walmart stopped processing film in February 2015, I started collecting digitally-born vernacular photography and produced a number of works using this collection of images including “One Year Project.” an artwork representing the entire calendar year of 2004 through timestamped images. The project represents the entire 2004 calendar year and consists of 366 found, digital images with their original, in-camera timestamps visibly indicating the day on which they were taken. Basically, it is a visual history constructed through the images produced by amateur photographers that were unknowingly participating in the evolution of the Internet and the birth of the social photo. Currently, I have been experimenting with text-to-image AI and have produced a number of images using Stable Diffusion and Disco Diffusion. The technology is exciting, in particular, the ways in which it breaks down or fails. I am writing a short little chapbook about it, but the technologies seem to produce more questions than answers. It is an exciting time to be thinking through these new forms of computer vision.