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The Arts

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Immaterial world

Toronto artist's odd, engrossing video installations get almost too close for comfort

Posted: 07/17/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Video tends to leave me cold: it's a ghostly medium. It's everywhere in the visual landscape, but, like an airport terminal TV, it slides imperceptibly into the background. It's intangible. A film or photograph is still a thing you can touch, but a video is data -- a series of digital instructions set in chilly, flickering motion.

At the same time, some of our most intimate exchanges now play out onscreen. New aunts and uncles "meet" baby nieces and nephews for the first time on Skype. Video provides a venue for romantic encounters and a bewildering variety of sexual expression. As a technology, it helps meet our need for connection even as it exists somewhere separate from our physical, tactile perception of the world.

In Id's Its, her exhibition at Plug In ICA, Deirdre Logue works to close that gap. She finds novel ways to bring video fully into lived-in, shared space, enveloping viewers in an immaterial world of electrical impulses, coloured light and her own personal, embodied experiences.

Logue's taped performances range from banal to bizarre, but they share an appealing directness. We watch her cry, eat dinner, feed soggy bread to goldfish with her bare toes, repeatedly toss the camera as high as she can, and stroke the sole of her foot with a tiny rubber doll hand. The gestures aren't "meaningful" in any direct sense, but each puts us in a specific position: they evoke psychologically charged sensations, draw us into private moments, and (literally, in the case of Flip Toss) throw us for a loop.

Logue riffs on Freud's concept of the "id," a primordial, pre-verbal form of consciousness driven by instinct, physical desire, inchoate visual stimuli and touch. Entering the gallery, viewers are confronted first by Velvet Crease, a trio of monitors showing extreme close-ups of Logue's vulva, hair and skin rendered abstract and strange by a sparkling crust of gold glitter. In distorted, low-res videos, Logue worries the stitches of a crocheted blanket with her fingertips and caresses her foot with that uncanny, unfeeling doll hand. Each triggers its own distinct -- and not necessarily welcome -- physical response.

The work's expansiveness, intimacy and peculiar tenderness can only really be appreciated first-hand, owing as much to Logue's thoughtful approach to installation as to the videos themselves.

Eddies of glitter spread across the gallery floors (the imagined residue of Velvet Crease), scattering light from the various screens in three dimensions. Logue is attentive to architecture, painting walls and building stages to house and frame projected images, stacking monitors in haphazard, sculptural piles. The videos themselves are punctuated with fields of solid colour whose saturated hues overlap and suffuse the space. Cables, computers, surge protectors and extension cords are left exposed, and every vacant outlet is plugged with a colour-changing LED nightlight, giving form to the invisible currents that animate the work. The cumulative effect is instantly welcoming and warm, if radically unfamiliar.

Technology can drive us further apart, distracting us from one another in real life and focusing our attention on mediated, individual, virtual experiences. With Id's Its, Logue reminds us that all but the most primal experiences are mediated somehow. Deep, sustaining and uncomfortable connections are always possible, no matter the tools we use to forge them.

 

Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist

and writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2014 C12

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