A Conversation w/ Leslie Supnet

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Thursday, May 21, 2015
Thursday, May 21, 2015

The following email conversation took place in May 2015, following the acquisition of several video works created by Leslie Supnet for active Video Out distribution. Her work will be presented on July 14th 2015 from 7:00pm – 8:00 pm at VIVO Media Arts Centre, 2625 Kaslo St in a program titled, Radical Visions by Leslie Supnet.

SJD: Shauna Jean Doherty
LS: Leslie Supnet

SJD: You have produced works across Canada, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto. Does the landscape of each location influence the work that you produce?

LS: Yes it does, as each city gives off different vibes that affect how I’m feeling. Winnipeg was a difficult but uniquely beautiful city to live in, and most of the work I created there has a tragicomedy feel to them. Winnipeg is in itself a tragicomedy. Vancouver is a completely different beast with natural majesty all around, and with a unique demographic and natural landscape. It was here I made First Sun. In TorontoI just finished a city symphony piece on 16mm called Ways + Means which is really frantic and kinetic. I used pixellation mostly to capture the hustle and bustle of Toronto as a city.

SJD: You have worked with Super 8 film for some of your works. What is it about the Super 8 film aesthetic that you like? How do you feel about the disappearance of the medium, or do you feel it’s experiencing a resurgence?

LS: I love the film aesthetic, and the draw to Super 8 for me is the ease in which I can shoot film, which Super 8 allows with it’s small film cartridge and easy to use cameras. Although the picture isn’t as sharp as 16mm, I can take my lightweight Nizo and go and not be weighted down by too much gear. I feel that although we are witnessing the disappearance of 35mm, 16mm and Super 8 these formats will continue to thrive within the film art world since it’s existence doesn’t depend on the mainstream Hollywood distribution system.

SJD: How do you develop the storylines for your narrative works?

LS: For my narrative works, I usually start from a feeling or an emotion that I need to work through. For Gains + Losses, it was the death of a family member that sparked the narrative which eventually took the form of a goodbye letter.

SJD: There is a tension between sweetness and darkness in your works. How do you maintain this balance?

LS: I feel humour is an important aspect of keeping both the sweetness and darkness in check so that neither overpowers the other. Life is a generally tragic affair, so keeping things light is necessary in order to keep things from getting too overly cheesy or sad.

SJD: Do you feel any pressure to make certain types of video works as a woman?

LS: I don’t feel pressured to make a certain genre of work, as I feel attention to woman artists in general is quite slim. Sometimes I feel that there is no pressure because no one is paying attention. And looking at the recent Canadian Art study, it looks like most of the time that is the case.

SJD: Are you still involved in the Regional Support Network? Can you explain what it is to our Vancouver audience?

LS: Regional Support Network (RSN) is a nomadic screening series started by Clint Enns and myself in Toronto, Ontario out of a desire to show experimental moving images from other cities unmediated by a Toronto curatorial lens. Explicitly, the work is not curated by RSN as we invite curators from other areas to present work from their community. The only condition is that the curator must be an active member of their community and that they must present their own work in the program. Through RSN we are attempting to challenge a culture of moving image curation in Toronto, a place that we feel is in need of a paradigm shift away from old routines. The oppressive conservatism we struggle with politically in our day to day lives, we see in our community of experimental moving images and must be challenged with at least another voice to speak alongside the dominant ways of working. In addition, we are hoping to challenge Toronto moving-image aesthetics by allowing work to show that may offend our sensibilities, both in terms of content and form. What we desire is evolution.

SJD: Tactility seems to be central in your practice, whether its in-camera edits, film processing, or hand-drawn animations. Can you explain your attraction to this tactility or materiality?

LS: I like feeling a connection to materials in the process of creating. I was first drawn to animation using paper-cut outs and now classical animation because it allowed me to keep what I loved about my drawing practice and the use of old paper into moving images.

When an image appears on film after hand processing – it’s just awesome and magical. Materiality is magical!

SJD: Can you explain the animation techniques that you use?

LS: I’ve mostly used paper-cut out animation, under the camera. More recently I’ve been doing classical hand drawn animation as in First Sun and Second Sun. Sometimes I do cameraless animation and scan drawings that I then manipulate in After Effects. But I prefer under the camera and getting my hands dirty.

When I’m shooting live action, I like to experiment with pixellation and finding patterns on signs or in the streets to animate instead of straight shooting.

SJD: Do you have any animators or filmmakers that inspire you?

LS: I absolutely love the works of Amy Lockhart, Barry Doupe, George Kuchar, Sally Cruikshank, Arthur Lipsett and many many others!

SJD: Some symbols seem to recur in your work (skulls, pyramids, horses), do you do this consciously?

LS: I definitely have recurring symbols in my work. In my drawings ghosts make regular appearances, and in my moving image works – horses. Especially when I do found or collage film work, horses keep coming back. I’m drawn to their strength, beauty and the sense of freedom they give off. However, recently I’ve been occupied with capturing birds in flight on film. It’s a bit difficult but so gratifying when the shot is successful!

Venue Accessibility

VIVO is located in the homelands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples in a warehouse space at 2625 Kaslo Street south of East Broadway at the end of E 10th. Transit line 9 stops at Kaslo Street on Broadway. From the bus stop, the path is paved, curbless, and on a slight decline. The closest skytrain station is Renfrew Station, which is three blocks south-east of VIVO and has an elevator. From there, the path is paved, curbless, and on a slight incline. There is parking available at VIVO, including wheelchair access parking. There is a bike rack at the entrance. The front entrance leads indoors to a set of 7 stairs to the lobby.

Wheelchair/Walker Access

A wheelchair ramp is located at the west side of the main entrance. The ramp has two runs: the first run is 20 feet long, and the second run is 26 feet. The ramp is 60 inches wide. The slope is 1:12. The ramp itself is concrete and has handrails on both sides. There is an outward swinging door (34 inch width) at the top of the ramp leading to a vestibule. A second outward swinging door (33 inch width) opens into the exhibition space. Buzzers and intercoms are located at both doors to notify staff during regular office hours or events to unlock the doors. Once unlocked, visitors can use automatic operators to open the doors.


There are two all-gender washrooms. One has a stall and is not wheelchair accessible. The other is a single room with a urinal and is wheelchair accessible: the door is 33 inches wide and inward swinging, without automation. The toilet has 11 inch clearance on the left side and a handrail.

To reach the bathrooms from the studio, exit through the double doors and proceed straight through the lobby and down the hall . Turn left, and the two bathrooms will be on your right side. The closest one has a stall and is not wheelchair accessible. The far bathroom is accessible.

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