Looking for Love in all the Right Places: Deirdre Logue – Tracy Tidgwell

Deirdre Logue is an all around creative creature. She always has been. Her long-term love affair with the arts was in full effect by her early art school days at NSCAD, nearly thirty years ago, and she’s been integrating life and art ever since. With a brand new series of interconnected single- and multi-channel film and video works on the horizon, Logue takes a further look into the unpredictable moments of everyday life. As always, she explores the emotional, physical, and psychological impact of contemporary experience with humour and resilience and is interested in the potential in all of this both within the frame and without.

Causing a Commotion

Maybe best known for her multi-channel, experimental film and video work, Deirdre Logue’s dedication to cultural creation, Canadian art, artists, and artist-run centres flows, as the song of spirit goes, deep and wide. Indeed, her internationally acclaimed film and video installations are impressive enough, but she’s also been cultivating an interdisciplinary, multi-media approach to creativity and artistic community that continues to bring together living, art making, and artist communities in countless ways.

Logue began making art in the early 1980s as a teenager in Edmonton, and after high school, did visual arts studies at Grant MacEwan College before heading east to NSCAD for a BA in fine art. It was 1984, at Halifax’s legendary rep cinema, The Wormwood Dog & Monkey, that Logue first engaged in supporting an artistic community with her own work – a project Logue has been committed to in various capacities now for nearly three decades. By 1989 Logue had completed an MFA in Visual Arts with a major in sculpture (yes, sculpture) at Kent State University. “Sculpture,” she said, “afforded a hands on, direct relationship to making things,” which inspired her to be ever interested in exploring materiality, the meaning of objects, and creating things.

In the early 1990s, she spent a few years working as a performer with the luminous Rita McKeough in McKeough’s renowned feminist, theatrical, multimedia production, In bocca al lupo – In the mouth of the wolf. This operatic performance piece confronted and reshaped gender and class violence affecting women through performative experiments with space, language, the body, and voice – feminist questions and approaches that continue to interest Logue today. Worth noting is that McKeough’s title, bocca al lupo – In the mouth of the wolf is a literal translation from Italian to English, but the phrase is also a common Italian proverbial wish for “good luck” with any difficult task at hand. Whether literally or figuratively In the mouth of the wolf, the work of both McKeough and Logue touches on the idea that luck has simultaneously something and nothing to do with living a safe and happy life in the contemporary world. Good luck may offer a good life some of the time, but fortuna swings both ways and Logue tends to explore the more emotionally risky edges of life’s continuum.

Logue is our witness, and in an uncanny reversal, we are hers. Her film and video works reflect a sensibility that connects us to ourselves through our bodies and our emotions. She shows us familiar moments of alone time – occasions consumed with worry, indignity, fear, sadness, and all kinds of tarnished feelings and expressions. And while Logue performs her versions of personal anguish and duress, she also reveals the tenacity, humour, sensuousness, and playfulness of living. On the screen Logue is alive, seductive, and unfinished – possessed by life.

Holding Fast and Moving

So far, Logue’s collection of experimental film and video works include Enlightened Nonsense (1997-2000), a series of ten, hand-processed short films. Screened in sequence, they examine the mind and body through themes such as desire, shame, and fear. Why Always Instead of Just Sometimes (2003-2006) is a “set of 12 short works to be experienced simultaneously on six 19-inch flat screen, wall mounted 4×3 televisions.” Why Always Instead of Just Sometimes delves into the process of living and the idea of going on with everyday life, and it “records accomplishments without impact, small feats of moderate strength and moments of mild impudence. [These films] are reflections on aging, breaking down and reparation… and describe our need for intimacy and our fear of exposure.” Rough Count (2006-ongoing) is a video project in process that pictures Logue earnestly counting out, piece by piece, thousands of bits of confetti.

Her new series of interconnected shorts explores different levels of uncertainty and stress in a given environment. Healthy Place, 9:11, Breakfast/Floss Forward, Path, and Pond are just a few of the titles in this new collection. With this project, Logue makes a slight movement away from her characteristic composite-style of interconnected installations toward a subtler consistency. She intends for this new series to be installed in the same gallery setting, but except for Path and Pond, which are installed and screened together, these films do not rely upon sequence or simultaneity. Contrasting the collections of Why Always Instead of Just Sometimes and Enlightened Nonsense, these works sustain a visual and conceptual relationship to one another through style, theme, and proximity, rather than sequential logic. The works of this series, says Logue, “don’t match, but they do go together.”

In her characteristic performance-for-the-camera-style, Logue most often features herself, or rather her body and sometimes her voice, as subject in a kind of performative self-portraiture. Located somewhere between the extremes of comfort and agony, her characters are always faced with some kind of personal process of anxiety or distress. As part of her life-long artistic project of emotional honesty, her images are undeniably challenging emotionally, physically, and philosophically for Logue personally as both artist and performer, but also for the observer. For once you’ve seen a Deirdre Logue film, you too experience firsthand the immediacy of her low threshold for pain. You’re right there with her because you know that feeling – you feel it too. Every bit of discomfort, worry, shame, displacement, fear, and twisted humour causes the notorious Logue-esque emotional itch. And as you continue to watch, you too become so itchy that you find yourself needing to scratch, twitch, squirm, tremble, shudder or laugh – nervously. Your stomach flips. Your eye tics. Your foot taps. Logue expresses this itch so that it can be scratched. You know this feeling. These kinds of gut reactions and underbelly feelings about the human condition are exactly what Logue’s films stir up. So, as we watch her cinematic self-portraits that on the surface may seem focused on her personal neuroses, we inevitably get the sense that these scenes are about every one of us, and they are.

Logue plays with so-called clear-cut divides between personal and collective experience and mingles private and public spaces and issues. Her work bridges these gaps fundamentally through her interdisciplinary approaches to experimental media art making and cultural production in general. Besides filmmaking, she’s worked both personally and collectively in performance, writing, drawing, and music making, as well as taking on residencies, sitting on boards, curating, collecting, teaching, mentoring, organizing, fundraising, and taking on directorships. She brings together her own creative practice with those of other artists in the community, and she works to connect artists with the cultural and economic support they deserve and need through her commitment to art, artists, and artist-run centres. Logue has been the Development Director at Vtape since 2006, and before that, served as the executive director with both the Canadian Film Makers Distribution Centre for nearly six years and the Images Festival of Independent Film and Video for over five. In the mid 19990s, she was a founding member at Windsor, Ontario’s film and video collective, House of Toast, and was the artistic director at Windsor’s Media City Film and Video Festival for nearly three years. She’s been working with Philip Hoffman and others at the legendary Film Farm, aka, the Independent Imaging Retreat, since 1997. This list goes on and on, and by the way, barely begins to skim the surface of the true depths and details of her long time service to Canadian art and artists mingled with her own art practice.

Her art-making process too blends divisions that often define boundaries between the artist, her medium and the spectator. While her filmmaking is largely a solitary process – for the most part she records and edits her work on her own, if she edits at all, since much of her performance is filmed in one take – she is fully aware of the interconnections between herself, the camera, the finished work, and the viewer. She films intimate moments in domestic spaces only to expose them over and over again to the viewer who becomes as implicated in the intensity of experience and sensation as Logue herself. Spatially, we’ve seen Logue in her bedroom, in the dark, in her tent, in nature, with her cat, as well as in footage from her past. She draws together the partitions of inside and outside, personal and collective, private and public.

And then there are the Centre for Fucking the Patriarchy and the Feminist Art Gallery. The Centre for Fucking the Patriarchy and the Feminist Art Gallery are two new interwoven visionary projects collaboratively produced by Logue and her girlfriend, Allyson Mitchell, who is herself a celebrated interdisciplinary artist and culture maker as well as an assistant professor of women’s studies at York University: “Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell, are the Centre for Fucking the Patriarchy – a response, a process, a site, a protest, an outcry, an exhibition, a performance, an economy, a conceptual framework, a place and an opportunity. We host we fund we advocate we support we claim. The Feminist Art Gallery (FAG) is our geographical footprint located in Toronto, Canada.” And in a full-on public/private mashup, this footprint happens to be located in their backyard. As the Centre for Fucking the Patriarchy, Logue and Mitchell have been gathering feminists, artists, activists, and all sorts of FAG matrons at their home since 2010 by hosting planning meetings and other cultural and fundraising events. The FAG gallery, a newfangled, smallish garage which features three exhibitions each year as well as various events, talks, screenings, and gatherings, officially opened its doors in May 2011 and has already presented three incredible exhibits.

The FAG’s mission is “to grow sustainable feminist art” and as a privately funded public space that relies on a “web of matronage” for financial support to pay artists and to contribute to FAG events, they have the freedom to program and show all sorts of art by artists who would otherwise not get great exposure and attention. Logue sees FAG as “a healing gesture” – a long overdue movement towards “artistic freedom that provides space for feminist and queer cultural production and its visibility.” Logue is a visionary. She has the incredible ability to mix up time and space, inside and outside and create something beautiful, accessible, relevant, and necessary today. Indeed, Logue knows no usual limits. She continually reaches for the stars, scoops them up, shakes them up and showers the art world with their reflective shimmer of brilliance.

Heartthrob

Logue’s love of art is palpable. It’s strong and unmistakable. But I ask myself – I ask Logue too – is there love in her films? When I watch her work, I feel. I feel the effort, the fear, the humiliation, the lack of safety, the desire, despair and desperation. I feel the rough textures of being human. I relate to her bothered vulnerability, her need for process and her expression of all of this. I feel love for living. And I love Logue for giving this to her audience; for showing us the physical and psychological endurance life sometimes requires and the burden and injury we bear because of it. I love her perverted sense of humour and the ways in which she makes us look at how marked we may be by the personal and political complications of life. I love this kind of dramatic emotional honesty. For Logue the stuff of her films is ordinary; it’s what we live through everyday: “it’s nothing spectacular,” she tells me. Yet when I watch her films I experience something seriously far-sighted and sensational.

I watch in sickening awe, laughing, wondering, as she sits in her tent early one morning and uses both hands to stuff her mouth with an enormous wad of pink cotton candy in the double perspective, two-channel, Breakfast Floss Forward. I dread the inevitable arrival of a fish feeding frenzy as her foot dangles in the water with bread wound around her toes like the fish food it becomes in Pond. I feel apprehensive and a little lost as she rushes through an open field, desperate, searching and panting in Path. I chuckle knowingly as I respond to an online mental health quizzes/diagnoses with almost exactly the same answers as she does in her three-channel installation, Healthy Place. My breath switches back and forth from shallow gulps of air to deep attempts at calm with hers. I feel somewhat relieved of residual anxiety and body-memory when I finally see her digital clock at 9:34 instead of at the haunting 9:11 in the eleven-channel installation, 9:11. I have a special kind of affection for Logue’s films. I feel them and they seem to feel me too. Her films make me feel a whole lot of complicated things – including love. The love in Logue’s art is in her care of the self. Playing out disturbing moments and simply being with intense and confusing emotions and experiences, she shows love for living a life in this intense and confusing world. She feels and does: repeat. Life goes on.

“Maybe my work is about relationships…” she says when I ask her about the love in her art, “relationships to the self and about reconciling the problems of self-love and acceptance.” I think Logue’s films ask for our connection and compassion as she explores the scratchiness of being emotionally honest. She shows us someone who deserves love and tenderness and in doing this, she gives us the opportunity to love and tend to ourselves. Interested yet not fully swayed by my interpretation of love in her work she asks me, “are deep feeling and love synonymous?” I think about how both deep feeling and love touch upon something nurturing, therapeutic, and resilient in us all.

*****

If you didn’t get to hear Deirdre Logue in conversation with psychiatrist Dr. Susan Abbey at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s symposium, The Art of Healing: Artists and Medical Practitioners in Duet, on October 21, look here:

Cabin Fever, a curated group show exploring the psyche of boredom at Neutral Ground in Regina from October 29 – December 9, 2011.

Open Space in Victoria is hosting Deirdre in a residency, exhibition and catalogue. Upcoming 2012.

Tracy Tidgwell is hopefully devoted to feminist art and activism. A photographer, performer and writer, she continues to explore culture through creativity, community, feminisms, feelings, and bodies.

Deirdre Logue’s film, video and installation work focuses on self-presentational discourse, the body as material, confessional autobiography and the passage of ‘real’ time. Recent solo exhibitions of her work have taken place at Oakville Galleries, the Images Festival – where she won both Best Installation and Best of the Festival – the Berlin International Film Festival, Beyond/In Western New York, Art Star in Ottawa and at articule in Montreal. She was a founding member of Media City in Windsor, the Executive Director of the Images Festival, the Executive Director of the Canadian Filmmakers’ Distribution Centre, is currently the Development Director at Vtape and lives in Toronto, Ontario. http://www.deirdrelogue.com/

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Comments from old site:

Submitted by mel on Mon, 11/07/2011 – 15:14.

Fantastic piece. xoMél