VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Leister, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Leister
US videomaker


Interview: 10 questions

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

I received a BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and an MFA in sculpture from Bard College in New York. My fine arts background continually informs how I work with moving image. I have been working with video for fifteen years.

My work has been presented at the Torrance Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Delaware Museum of Art, and the North Dakota Museum of Art; Art in General, Apex Art and P.S. 122 in New York; Portland Art Center in Oregon, Counterpath in Denver and Highways Performance Space and Gallery in Santa Monica in addition to various artist spaces.

I have performed at Beyond Baroque, Perform Chinatown, and LACE in Los Angeles. My networked performances have been presented at the Cardiff School of Creative & Cultural Industries in Wales, the Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery at the University of Reno, Outpost Artists Resources in New York and in Low Lives 2 & 4.

I have been living and working in Los Angeles for almost twelve years.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

Soon after graduate school, I started working in digital media. I began making slide projections and then started creating single-channel video. Since I had had no formal training in time-based media, it felt open and liberating to make moving images. Eventually my work extended to video installation and more recently to performance. The freedom to incorporate video in these myriad ways is why I have continued to work with it.

3. What kinds of topics have your films?

Lately my projects have focused on personal and collective memory as experienced through place. The works reference loss and time passed often through a personal recollection. Movement and drawing are also key elements in my projects taking form as a live or networked performance broadcast over the Internet.

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

I don’t follow any particular principles or create work with a certain style in mind. I allow the concepts and the subject matter to direct how each project will unfold.

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

Lately I’ve been using a Canon DSLR. I recently got a GoPro and I’ve been shooting underwater footage in lakes for a current project. It is an exciting way to create images. I primarily use Adobe After Effects because of the many possibilities it offers to manipulate an image. Integrating screenshots, scans of Xeroxed drawings and photography is another part of my process.

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 work embraces the contrast between traditional and digital methods.

I think of some of my recent videos as moving paintings where the layering of transparent shapes of color and the gestural strokes of a paintbrush are mimicked through technology. Each frame is a composition, and it is exciting to craft each transition. The program I use allows for erasing back through a series of layered strokes – an undoing of the imagery, which interests me. It is digital mark-making without any physical connection to real materiality.

My projects that involve performance and drawing demonstrate another opportunity to explore this space between traditional mark-making with charcoal on paper and the technology of live-transmission video.

7. How do you finance your films?

Most of the time my work is self-funded. I have received several grants over my career which are incredibly helpful. Money for equipment, tools and materials, etc. allows the work to expand in new directions and takes some pressure off. Currently, I am a 2014-2015 COLA Fellow, a grant given to artists through the city of Los Angeles.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

In certain projects I have collaborated with dancers – an experience that offers an entirely new perspective on generating a work. I enjoy the collaborative process but most often I work alone on the video projects.

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

As I began to work in video, I learned about filmmakers such as female pioneer, Mary Ellen Bute, John Whitney, and Stan Brakhage. Their moving abstractions became wholly inspiring. My approach to video includes a wide range of methods that merge the traditional with the digital. Drawing is an integral component in my work. I am interested in the drawn line in relationship to the projected image, and I often utilize this dichotomy as a metaphor for the relationship between the body and technology.

Because I am so inspired by movement, gesture and the body, dance has been very influential. Simone Forti and Trisha Brown both use language, drawing and movement in original and dynamic ways. I appreciate the direct, straightforward method that these two artists employ.

Reading is an important part of my process. Writers such as Clarice Lispector, Helene Cixous and Rebecca Solnit have been influential.

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

I am finishing the final edit on a single-channel video titled, “The Invisible Lake Called Telepathy” for an exhibition in Los Angeles in spring 2015. There will be a performance with drawing, a dancer and live-feed video in the show too.

During the summer I will be at a residency in France and I am in the beginning stages of planning a video that will be shot in and around Reims.

I am interested in social media apps like Vine and Instagram. That six second limitation is an interesting challenge that I want to experiment with and shape into a work.

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

Yes, on my website