Biting cold…cruel gusts along Annette Street…broken down Dupont bus…one glove lost…not even February….but the days are getting longer.
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.
Still from Freddie Mercury Sing-A-Long by Clint Enns
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.
Still from Let me ASMR you by Clint Enns
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.
Detail of still from Ten Skies by Clint Enns
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.
Stills from Spiderman vs. Macrovison by Clint Enns
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 factor. 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.
Still from winnipeg stories: sacrificial memories by Clint Enns
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.
Still from The Everden by Clint Enns
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.
Still from First Sun by Leslie Supnet
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.
Still from Fair Trade by Leslie Supnet
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.
Stills from Wind and Snow by Leslie Supnet