Collecting Time – Leslie Supnet
The process of animation involves the repetition of photographing incremental movements over a period of time, in most cases with the animator working alone in the dark. The end goal of such a lonely exercise is to breathe life into stillness. The animator is creator and collector of time and images, who can exercise most—if not all—control over the production of the animated image.
Due to budgetary constraints, I began making animation in 2008 with a 3.1 megapixel camera that I bought from Sears; I would duct tape it onto a table with the lens perpendicular to the floor, where I would animate my paper-cut out puppets. At the time, Winnipeg did not have an artist-run studio specializing in animation and I had to improvise at home.
The mere-exposure effect did not develop very quickly for me. The benefits of the repeated motion of moving a puppet or object and taking a picture, crouched on the floor, sweaty and frustrated from the hot lights, came over time, as I was able to see the results of the necessary hardship of repetition: having control over the aesthetic outcome. While I’ve refined the animation process in my home/studio, the physical and mental challenges are still present. What is different now is that I can manage and alleviate the anxiety of creation through the meditative aspects of animation.
Smoke (02:09, colour, sound, digital animation, 2014) is a cameraless animation I made with one scanned image of Mt. Fuji erupting. I manually copied, pasted, incrementally zoomed, moved and saved the images in Photoshop to create the separate JPEGs that form the animation.
Second Sun (03:04, colour, sound, Super 8 animation, 2014) is a Super 8 animation in which I drew each frame out on paper, a post-apocalyptic imagining of the birth of a new sun. I relinquished some control over to the variations in light produced through using different homemade filters to create the dancing flashes of colour.
A companion piece to Second Sun is First Sun (02:28, black and white, sound, 16mm, 2014) created at a residency at Cineworks in Vancouver with the Bent Light Collective. First Sun is the first frame-by-frame hand-drawn animation I made to depict the rise of the first sun. I shot First Sun on 16mm and hand-processed it in Cinework’s Annex darkroom. Hand processing has its own repetitive motions, which have been fine-tuned by a lineage of experimental filmmakers who have shared their techniques over time in order for the process to evolve and live on.
Still from In Still Time (2015)
Catharsis too, has been a beneficial result of the repetitive efforts of animation. In Still Time (10:26, colour, sound, 16mm, 2015) is an experimental animation that investigates the catastrophic image through the direct animation of still images onto 16mm film. The film uses found still images from the current Syrian civil war—printed and repeated directly onto the film, simultaneously abstracting these images and re-animating them—juxtaposed with audio from news sources, interviews and YouTube videos of different events that have taken place during the crisis. Through clues of shape, line, colour, and sound, these abstracted images of catastrophe attempt to facilitate questions about the moral imperative to look, our ability or inability to bear witness to unthinkable human suffering, and our complicity in the violence documented in the image. What are the limits of the catastrophic image? How can trauma and the unthinkable ever be properly represented? How do we give meaning to an event that stops and disrupts time?
Repetition allows us to focus on details, to spot how things change over time. We note differences, similarities, and limits that help us parse and make sense of the world. Through the animation process and through the animated work itself, I’ve been able to find a quiet space in the dark, where I can freely create, collect, and visualize another world.
 The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.
Leslie Supnet is a moving image artist. Leslie utilizes animation, found media, lo-fi and experimental practices to create psychological narratives about loss and change, as well as abstracted visions of a desired future. Her work has screened at various micro-cinemas, galleries and film festivals internationally. She teaches animation at various artist-run centres and institutions, and presents programs with Regional Support Network, a Toronto-based screening series co-organized with Clint Enns.