Prepare to Qualify

(((send + receive))) presents:
Clint Enns’ Prepare to Qualify
Tuesday, November 23, 2010 – Saturday, December 11, 2010
12 – 4:00 (Monday to Friday) & 1 – 4:00 (Saturday)
Artist Talk on November 26, 2010 at 12:30PM
Gallery 1C03
University of Winnipeg

Prepare to Qualify is short video made on a circuit-bent Atari using Namco’s classic 1982 video game Pole Position as source material. For those unfamiliar, circuit-bending is the creative re-wiring (and short-circuiting) of low voltage electronic devices such as children’s toys and small digital synthesizers. Circuit bending is often used by artists to create new musical instruments and/or to generate new images and sounds.

The idea for the piece began with the question “Does breaking video game systems and playing with lo-fi electronics at the age of 28 really constitute art making?” In the video itself, a voice demands that a pixelated car “PREPARE TO QUALIFY”. As the light turns green, the car remains frozen in an ever changing sea of graphical hardware errors.

Prepare to Qualify was intended to explore the use of video games as source material – often called “machine cinema” or machinima – both thematically and materially. The playful re-contextualization of images from Pole Position and its opening lines allow the video itself to comment on the future use and the ever-growing diversity of possibilities of this still young source of found footage. Furthermore, video game images often hold a significant weight for children of the ’80s due to the enormous number of hours spent attempting to conquer them. Re-contextualizing these images – or in this case, re-wiring the game console – ultimately allows us to conquer these games and images once and for all.

The sound – an arrhythmic cacophony of glitchy blips, blops and an electronically modified voice all produced on the circuit-bent Atari itself – helps us to internalize the struggle that the personified pixelated car has moving forward in its attempt to qualify as “good” or “valid” art.

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A brief electronic conversation between Cheyanne Turions & Clint Enns

CT: Was the piece shot on video? If so, or if not, why? What motivated your choice of medium?

CE: The piece was made on a circuit bent Atari and recorded onto VHS. I experiment with older electronics because they are now cheap and accessible. Before, devices like Atari game consoles, VHS machines, digital cameras, and webcams were considered far too valuable for the artist to experiment with and possibly break. Experimenting with these devices allows the artist to develop new processes. In addition, I feel breaking these devices breaks the authoritative role these devices – and their newer counterparts – play in our lives.

On a side note, these techniques/processes are accessible to anyone with interest, enthusiasm and the urge to experiment and usually do not cost more than $10 in supplies (and this expense often includes the cost of the device itself).

CT: How is the materiality of prepare to qualify, related to the ideas it is investigating?

CE: The piece itself is the subject matter. On the one hand, you have a personified pixelated car struggling to cope with the world around it. On the other hand, you have a low brow, self taught artist, new to institutionalized art, trying to come to terms with questions like, “what is art?”, “what is the act of art making?”, and more specifically, “does breaking video game systems and playing with lo-fi electronics at the age of 28 really constitute art making?”

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From Uptown Magazine November 25, 2010

Clint Enns’ Prepare to Qualify uses circuit bending to recontextualize the familiar

Winnipeg is home to a genius named Clint Enns. Except when he, in rather un-genius-like fashion, forgets to title safe his video and cuts off the first letter of his name in the credits — then he is named Lint Enns. Anyway, Enns (Clint or Lint, as the case may be), in addition to making oodles of super-smart conceptual videos from found footage, low-res cameras, self-made computer code and broken electronics, has a master’s degree in Mathematics and lists “model theory of rings and modules” among his hobbies.

His three-minute video, Prepare to Qualify, will be screening on a continuous loop at Gallery 1C03 as part of send + receive: a festival of sound until Dec. 11.

The raw material for this video piece is an Atari video game, Pole Position, that Enns admits to stealing from his little sister, then circuit bending to produce the aural and visual glitches that comprise Prepare to Qualify. Circuit bending is a process of experimentation that includes connecting parts of a commercial circuit to produce spurious signals that unlock new images and sounds. Prepare to Qualify makes connections between art, video games and destruction. Enns notes that video games have a special significance for him and those of his generation.

“Video-game images often hold a significant weight for children of the ’80s due to the enormous number of hours spent attempting to conquer them. In reality, recontextualizing these images — or in this case, re-wiring the game console — ultimately allows us to conquer these games and images once and for all.”

In a clever, nerdy display of humour, the video’s source is a racing game but the car never budges from the starting line. Instead, it is stuck in a shifting landscape of flickering pixels and dancing patterns — what Enns lyrically refers to as “graphical hardware errors” — while a computerized voice squeaks “art” when it should be intoning “start.” Enns’ work underscores the role the capitalist paradigm of competition in all aspects of our lives — from play to art-making. Instead he presents an antidote — an unwinnable, unplayable version of the game.

Deliberately provoking the screetches, squawks and blats of error, Enns orchestrates a formal improvisation of sound and image. The tape starts out slow — garbled baby talk is set against an echoey boom. Enns coaxes ever more annoying buzzing/farting noises and high-pitched electronic squeals from the Atari console, treating viewers to an psychedelic op art painting for the computer generation. Errors re-draw the scene at lightning-fast pace: the image is repeatedly scrambled into small blocks, rendering the road in a black-and-white houndstooth check, multi-coloured zig-zags or conservative brown plaid. Nearing the end of the video, the digital noise increases even more and the game-world sky comes alive with flickering horizontal bands of black and white.

Prepare to Qualify not only qualifies as good art, but takes the checkered flag!

– Sandee Moore

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~ by cineflyer on November 11, 2010.

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