A sweater, lovingly and arduously knit by a mother, incrementally unravels as her daughter treks her way across Canada by foot. Along the way, the film tugs at the crossed threads of familial ties, art versus craft, gendered materiality, and the relationship we have with mother nature and her great divide.
“The Knits” is a loving yet humorous homage to the artist’s mother and her chronic affliction of “the Knits”.
Lisa Birke is an award winning Canadian video artist who situates between the traditions of painting, digital video and performance art. She has had solo exhibitions across Canada and her short films have been screened at film/video festivals and media centres internationally, including amongst others: Vancouver International Film Festival (Canada), European Film Festival (touring), BLOW-UP Chicago Int. Arthouse Film Fest (USA), Athens International Film + Video Festival (USA), ARTVIDEO LAB (France), InShadow International Festival of Video, Performance and Technologies (Portugal), Cologne OFF X (USA, Israel, India), Cold Cuts Video Festival (Canada), International Short Film Week Regensburg (Germany), SESIFF(Seoul international Extreme-Short Image & Film Festival), and AVIFF (Art Film Festival Cannes) amongst many others. "Red Carpet" was awarded the “Lakehead Juror's Prize” and the “Audience Choice Award” at the Orillia Museum of Art & History in Orillia (Canada) in 2014. The short film "Calendar Girls" was awarded a “Jury Award for Creative Achievement” at the Arizona International Film Festival (USA), the Jury Award at ForadCamp (Barcelona) in 2015 and was recently presented at Manif d'/Art (the Quebec City biennale). Birke recently created projects for CAFKA 16 (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area) and the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery. "The Knits" was completed with an Ontario Arts Council Media Artists Project Creation Grant.
Lisa Birke is Lecturer at the University of Waterloo in the Fine Arts and the Global Business and Digital Arts programs.
DIRECTOR STATMENT :
I examine 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. Revealing what lies beneath the surface of femininity, my work toys with a conclusion that is problematic, comi-tragic, and most essentially, human.
In "The Knits", through a unique split screen format, the viewer is presented with the process of knitting a sweater, start to finish, on a widescreen background image. A smaller, letterboxed, tv-format overlay shows a large, three-armed, flesh-coloured “sweater” being pulled over the artist’s body on the West Coast of Canada. The “mother” then holds onto a single thread and the sweater unravels as the offspring makes her way across Canada. Chronicling a sense of nationalistic nostalgia connected by a single thread, a conceptual and emotional tension is established. Will the thread ever be broken or do the tales we spin remain irradicably “dyed-in-the-wool” so to speak? The film metaphorically explores the conflicted desire of a daughter who wishes to keep the familial and generational bond intact whilst achieving unfettered freedom
In knitting, one literally gives one’s time—chronicled in interwoven loops of yarn—to someone to wear. Knitted items remind us of our grandmothers and mothers and we physically carry a document of these women next to our skin, as a second skin. Straddling a liminal filmic space between documentary, performance-for-video, and magical realism, “The Knits” introduces an ephemeral and relative notion of time, both in unravelling the threads of generational relationships and in visually combining the aesthetic technological artifacts of the past and present