30 Second Spots Paris, 1983

BVU PAL + U-matic PAL + U-matic NTSC (compilation), son, couleur

Joan Logue 30 Second Spots New York, 1980-82; 30 Second Spots Paris, 1983 Through an intimate and sensitive use of video, Joan Logue has developed the art of making video portraits. After training in painting and photography at the Mount St. Mary College of Los Angeles, she became interested in video in the late 1960s during the commercialisation of the first portable video camera, the Portapak, by Sony. In 1979, she experimented with a new format of very short video portraits entitled 30 Seconds Spot. It was a series of concise video portraits defined by the artist as commercials for artists and their work. With an economy of means, each artist engages in an action, often close-up and facing the camera. Through this very short format, she brings forth a sense of intimacy with the artist, a brief shared moment with a visage that is usually overlooked. This project was executed in the cities of New York, Paris and San Francisco. In 30 Seconds Spot New York, Logue offers a dynamic presentation of about 20 artists from art, literature and dance. Amongst them is composer John Cage whose humour is highlighted – he opens a notepad and reads, “Dad says, 'Remember, your mother's always right'.” He next removes his spectacles and smiles, “Even when she's wrong.” Of great visual impact is artist Tony Ramos spinning on himself: a close-up of his face divided into two parts, one white and the other black. The rotation increases in speed, creating the optical effect of a face blending two colours together. The image is technically accelerated to accentuate the effect. In his portrait, Nam June Paik is seated before a piano. He prepares his hands like a pianist and closes his eyes in concentration. He hesitates to place his fingers on the keyboard, thinks and then has a change of heart. Eventually, he plunges his head on the keys and plays it as would a pianist with fingers. As for Laurie Anderson, she uses her body to make sounds. In close-up, she uses her fist to knock on her temple and skull to create a rhythm whose sound is accentuated by Logue. Gradually, she turns to face the camera while continuing these rhythmic movements. At the end, she clatters her teeth three times to produce a curt sound that is heightened by the effect of echo. The study in sound is likewise present in the portrait of musician Yoshi Wada. The frame is a close-up of his foot acting on a pump. He creates a rhythmic breathing that accompanies a piece of electronic music inspired by Buddhist throat-singing. Focusing on movement, Logue proposes a portrait of dancer Lucinda Childs who appears on the screen against a black background. Her movements which are repeated and accelerated stroboscopically blur her figure. Using tracking, her silhouette is imprinted on the screen. The dancer appears again, clearer and executes a series of pirouettes with an effect of echo on the image. In 30 Seconds Spot Paris, Logue offers another portrait of a dancer-choreographer, Ushio Amagatsu. Through a play on the lighting, she aestheticises the artist's body. Thus while experimenting with new video techniques, these video portraits are also a concise means of crystallising an artistic and intellectual panorama of a city's cultural life in the 1980s.

Priscilia Marques Translated by Yin Ker