KNOCKING ON MNEMOSYNE’S DOOR: PART 4 – VoCA

By Last Updated: September 10, 2022Views: 610

This week’s returning writer, Marshall Reese, is an artist working in new applied sciences, video, installations, artists books and restricted editions. He has labored in collaboration with Nora Ligorano as LigoranoReese for over twenty years.




This weblog put up is a part of periodic collection from Reese that focuses on “outsider archivists,” individuals who spotlight the tensions between conventional and born-digital archives and the transition between the 2. Mnemosyne is the Greek goddess of reminiscence, the mom of the 9 muses. Her significance solely appears to develop as we externalize increasingly of knowledge, knowledge, and information. 




 

Joan Logue’s Video Portraits




 




With the plethora of digital units that saturate our lives in the present day, it’s onerous to think about that there was a time, not so way back, when seeing your self, your loved ones, or pals on an digital display was unfathomable. When artists started working in video within the early 1970’s, the closest mannequin of what video artwork pictures may appear like was broadcast tv. The discourse of breaking these norms and the dynamics to suggest video as a definite artwork kind animated the sphere for a few years.




Few artists regarded on the medium, although, in an intimate manner. Joan Logue is certainly one of them. Her ongoing 5 many years apply of video portraiture, worthy of a lot higher acknowledgement, has been getting ready us for the world we dwell in now; a world of shared intimacy that we reveal of ourselves in transferring pictures and stills privately and publicly on social media and in selfies.




I first met Joan and noticed her video portraits on the San Sebastian Video Competition in Spain in 1984. Joan’s portraits moved, breathed and lived. Her topics regarded into her digicam, and peered out to disclose a presence and sense of being much more alive than had they been captured in nonetheless frames as a portray or {photograph}. The portraits of Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Robert Ashley, Nam June Paik, George Lewis and lots of others (courting from 1981-82) that she screened on the pageant clearly associated to tv and commercials. 





21 Second Portrait: George Lewis, Composer


30-60 seconds in size, they had been usually aired as interstitial breaks on PBS’ Alive from Off Middle and on European tv. They had been virtually commercials besides as a substitute of promoting merchandise, they featured modern artists and performers.




Joan’s strategy to portraiture is expansive, taking in ideas of place and time. It is smart to me that she started her groundbreaking work in West Africa within the early 1970’s. We spoke by telephone about her work and the way she’s getting ready her assortment quickly to be acquired by the Centre Pompidou and Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. (In itself, a groundbreaking association between the establishments in addition to testomony to the importance of her work.)




I used to be instructing video in a bit village on the border of Sierra Leone and Liberia to women and men. Someday, whereas cleansing the mud from my portapak digicam, getting ready for the day’s shoot, my digicam was stating the window and there was this younger youngster standing in entrance of my window. He knew that I used to be at all times carrying my digicam round and he noticed the digicam and he noticed me. He was going to duck under the window. And I motioned to him to remain – ‘No, no. Don’t transfer, simply keep there.’ 

It was then I noticed what I used to be seeing on the boy’s face within the video, you noticed all the pieces. It was the actual portrait since you noticed one thing beneath his smiling face. You really noticed the entire particular person with out the facade! And I assumed that is manner higher than any nonetheless {photograph}. And that’s after I began making video portraits. 





First Video Portrait_Sucromu Liberia_1972




Sense of place is critical in understanding Logue’s work. She makes not solely transferring portraits of individuals but additionally portraits of place. Her collection on fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Spring Road shopkeepers in Soho, and villagers in Brittany, France seize her topics pursuing their day by day lives. There’s a quotidian sense and a way of being centered.




Returning to California after Africa, Joan started doing video portraits of artists.




I might go to their studio. Ed Ruscha’s studio or Diebenkorn’s studio. I began in Judy Chicago’s. I might go and shoot them of their setting. Since they had been all painters they understood the concept of silence, they understood after I requested them to not speak, This was in 1976, video artwork wasn’t what it’s now, it was new and the gear was heavy and really costly.





Video Portrait: Richard Diebenkorn @1976


On one other stage, Logue’s portraits are rather more than representations. They’re suggestions loops. They’re not only a recording of the topic, as a result of the artist can also be current within the making of it. Joan sits throughout from her topic subsequent to her digicam in silence. Her portraits are a silent meditation, a wordless dialog between two folks. 




My complete premise was that the silence was a lot stronger than the phrases. You really acquired a way of the particular person’s presence, who they had been and the way they felt. You don’t have a possibility to sit down with any individual in silence as a result of all people needs to fill that area with phrases. It’s tough to be in silence with somebody. In a manner I’m as uncovered as they’re. When two persons are confronted with silence, it’s like an acceptance of one another. You’re not arguing, you’re not schmoozing. The viewer and the sitter change into one, since you each learn one another. 

When you begin a silent portrait, you’re feeling the presence of the particular person after which the sitter form of disappears into their head. You’ll be able to see it within the portrait. Painters completely understood this. Whereas for writers it’s onerous for them to, you already know, not need to speak. 




My favourite video portraits Joan created are these of John Cage. There are three: a brief one and two longer ones. Her use of silence in her work, the truth is, is how they met.




I used to be dwelling at 110 Mercer Road in Soho the place many people lived on the time, Nam June, Shikego Kubota, Mary Beth Edelson, Yoshi Wada. And we didn’t have mailboxes. Everyone threw their mail on the staircase and periodically sorted by way of them to seek out theirs. I acquired this, John used to name them mailagrams. A “mailagram” from John Cage, was a take off on a telegram however this was John’s type of letter writing, a form of quick kind he had printed to reply his correspondence. 

John had despatched me one and mentioned, ‘Properly, I heard you’re doing work in silence. I wish to speak to you.’ Everyone within the constructing knew this from going by way of the mail and referred to as me, ‘Did you see, you bought this factor from John?’ I mentioned, ‘Yeah. Yeah.’ So I referred to as him and he invited me over and we talked about silence. I requested him if he would do a portrait with me. And he mentioned, ‘Sure’. In order that was in 1979. I did one 30 second portrait of John Cage and I did two longer portraits, all silent portraits.




My fondest reminiscence as a video editor for Standby is remastering Joan’s portrait of John Cage within the 1990’s. She had shot Cage on analogue videotape and we had been within the technique of transferring his portrait to digital video. It was late at evening and we’d spent a while working collectively. On the finish of the edit session I recall looking for the top body of his video to fade out. And I couldn’t discover it! There was no timecode quantity. 




After which, attempting to match the body, I keep in mind focusing intently on the video of Cage’s face, looking for some expressive change, for an finish body. To look at his unbelievable presence so intimately went far past the concept of conventional portraiture. I noticed that the identical factor that occurred to Joan when she filmed her topics was occurring to me because the editor. 





30 Second Portrait: John Cage @1981-82


A course of Joan elaborated on throughout our dialog:




I’m within the presence of them, you already know. So that they’re taking a look at me. I’m taking a look at them. Abruptly the sitter who’s being targeted on, taking a look at, you already know, the viewer, me, the one that’s making the portrait, fairly quickly, disappears. The topics go inside, disappearing into their very own ideas. So within the technique of the 20 minute silent video portraits, their faces first are alert, curious and fascinating.  Then there’s a sluggish change to what turns into seen.

You’ll be able to see it on all people’s face when that occurs… they begin to reveal an inside portrait of themselves. After 20 minutes is about over, their ordinary presence returns. I can see them exhausted and able to cease. 




There are over 1,400 videotapes in Joan’s assortment. The sheer variety of codecs could be their very own historical past of the technological improvement of video and tv, together with half-inch open reel, U-Matic, One-inch, DigiBeta, VHS, Hi8, Betacam, and digital video. Over one ton of Logue’s video will quickly be a part of the collections of the Biblioteque Nationwide and Pompidou Centre in Paris the place she did a lot of her work within the 1980’s and 1990’s. Making ready the gathering for its subsequent stage has been a labor of affection. 




Mona Jimenez, Affiliate Professor Emerita of Cinema Research at New York College instructed to Joan that they provoke an archival mission together with her college students Athena Holbrook and Joey Heinen. (Holbrook and Heinen presently are collections specialists within the New Media Departments of MoMA and LACMA, respectively.)




Athena and Joey got here and spent two years going by way of all the pieces. They went by way of all of it. A number of codecs. They checked out each tape to see if it was in form for migration or broken. 







Video by its nature is straightforward to repeat from one tape or model to a different. This is named tape era, which additionally, till just lately, degraded picture high quality, generally considerably, which is why ultimate edited variations are referred to as “masters”. Archivists make particular efforts to seek out the unique model of the tape for the very best quality picture. It was necessary, due to this fact, for Athena and Joey to look at Joan’s assortment very carefully, to know and set up it from that perspective to facilitate the subsequent stage of the method for figuring out what movies had been appropriate to digitize.




Athena and Joey found totally different variations and edits of lots of the similar works. Additionally they realized that Joan used digicam originals as masters for a few of the ultimate video portraits. The archivists organized her assortment accordingly by format with a color-coding system that correlated to picture era. They usually additionally assessed the tapes for any put on and injury.




Joey and Athena discovered just one broken tape – out of all of the tapes. A one-inch reel to reel tape that styrofoam acquired caught onto the tape courting from 1982, after I shot it over 30 years in the past. It was unbelievable that there was just one tape that couldn’t migrate.




Alongside together with her tapes are detailed ephemera about every portrait. 




Not simply my notes. The notes of the shoot. The notes in my journals. Any texts written about any of the exhibitions, concerning the 30 second items. I imply, who knew about holding meta-data, who knew that phrase again then?




On the partitions of the Pompidou Centre within the Biblioteque Nationwide, viewers will see Logue’s dwelling portraits hanging within the galleries. They may enter an actual digital portrait gallery, a dream that Joan has been engaged on for a few years.





A Self-Portrait with Mother 1979


My causes for making the lengthy portraits had been to ultimately substitute work. Regardless that they had been shot 50 years or 40 years in the past, you continue to have the presence of the topic’s current. I would like the general public to see an entire exhibition of them and fill the galleries with lengthy portraits and quick portraits. A brand new portrait gallery crammed with the dwelling, respiratory presences of my topics. 




Notice: All quotes are taken from a telephone dialog with the artist and Marshall Reese from Could 2, 2022.

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