VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Birke, Lisa

Lisa Birke
German/Canadian videomaker


Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background:

I was born in Germany and my family immigrated to Canada when I was 5 ½ years old. I grew up in a small community on Vancouver Island on the west coast of British Columbia in Canada. Mine was an artistic house and I was always interested in various art forms: dance, theatre and the fine arts. I attended an Arts University in Vancouver for my BFA (Emily Carr University of Art and Design) from 1994-1999. Here I studied painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and animation. I practised as a professional artist in the mediums of painting and installation between 2000 and 2011. In 2011 I decided to pursue my MFA at the University of Waterloo where I accidentally came to video practise.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

I was on a painting residency in the Yukon, in north-western Canada. I was staying in a community of ten people in a cabin by myself at an isolated lake in the middle of winter. The setting was so beautiful and with some time on my hands in between my time painting, I began to film myself using a small DSLR camera. I took “yoga” positions in the nude in the landscape and the works became a form of tableau vivant. I was following a wim, and also saw this work as a challenge to see if I could withstand the extreme elements and cold.
When I arrived in Waterloo for my MFA I had to present some of my past works and was not able to bring my paintings with me. I presented my short video works from the north and it went from there.

3. What kinds of topics have your films?

I examines notions of ‘self’ through the lens of gender, bringing the cultural tropes of woman into focus and into question. Filmed unaccompanied in the Canadian landscape, absurd yet insightful performative acts become entangled in nuanced and complex narratives in single and multi-channel video works that make reference to art history, mythology and popular culture. I am interested in subverting art historical and hollywood representations of the female heroine. Gender roles are often reversed or confused in my work revealing what lies beneath the surface of femininity. My work toys with a conclusion that is problematic, comi-tragic, and most essentially, human.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

I see my work functioning as a type of performance-for-video. I work with an initial idea that then progresses and develops throughout the filming process. The production, filming, performing and editing is all done alone without a crew in the wilderness or other settings. Often situations are out of my control and I try to allow for “accidents” while filming my actions. I carry all of the gear, props and costumes that I need for my performances and film everything using a tripod and limited resources. These initial shots will sometimes be edited together with footage using different view-points and camera angles and I will often return to a site/location several times to collect supplementary footage.
Because of my background as a painter I see the works as functioning as moving tableaus and I tend to compose my shots in the same way that I would structure a painting. My dance and theatre history also come into play when carrying out the performative acts. The passage of time is very important to me and I often create projects that play out over the course of a year or even longer.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

My early works are all filmed using a Canon Rebel T2i. I have recently acquired a Nikon D810. I also have a small digital audio recorder and some other basic gear (I have some self-built filming devices such as a monopod pole made from tripod parts and PCV pipes). My editing is done on a personal 70in imac using Premiere Pro and some supplementary audio editing software by Sony.

6. These days digital technology is dominating also video as a medium. In which way the digital aspect is entering the creation of your videos, technologically and/or conceptually?

My entire process is based in digital technology because it is accessible and cost effective. I often also use Photoshop and other editing platforms to supplement my editing process. Because I work primarily in the Fine Arts exhibition realm, digital projection and installation practise is very important to my work. I see my videos functioning primarily within gallery spaces and for this digital technology is an indispensable tool.

7. How do you finance your films?

My work is financed through my teaching practise. I am a sessional faculty member at a couple of Universities in Canada. I also work as a second shooter for a professional photographer. When I am not teaching or working I am making my video work.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
I always work alone.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

I am influenced by other artists whose work has made a lasting impact on my life. I feel that art has the potential to enrich our experience of the world and opens our eyes to its magic and mystery. Some of these video artists include Christian Marclay, Pipilotti Rist, Bill Viola, Shirin Neshat, Kelly Richardson, as well as many others. Outside of these other artists, the beauty and vastness of the Canadian landscape, popular culture and mythology have also been a great influence on me. I am fascinated with how we create narratives and construct meanings in our culture and collective social experience.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

I hope to continue to make engaging, humorous and visceral video works while increasing the scope and scale of my projects and improving my technical capabilities as an artist and video maker.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on the CologneOFF platform? Where?
List some links & resources

My full catalogue of work can be found at
My vimeo channel can be found here: