Works by Dayna McLeod screened from March 13 - May 1, 2023.
The internet is always changing. Technology will evolve by the end of today. And those of us who occupy the web, and use it as an inspiration for creation and a communal hub to post and share, have little to no agency over the capricious winds of digital change. URLs, HTML, embed codes, and flash players can be as brittle as the proverbial glass house, waiting for the next tech giant to send a rock crashing through. Maintaining one’s own digital presence, making sure that works remain safely tucked away on whatever corners of the internet we place them, is a full-time job. As hard as we may try, few solutions have been presented. We mostly rely on corporations (YouTube, Vimeo, WordPress, GoDaddy) to house our works. But who in their right mind would fully trust one of them? The cruel fact is, many digital works, like their more filmic ancestors, will be lost. I once had a teacher who found a certain beauty in this. But it is a view I mostly do not share. What shall we do? I do not have the answers. But the hope in starting this platform was to try and give new lives to such works. And I am thrilled today to present three of them by the Montreal-based video and performance artist, Dr. Dayna McLeod.
As Dayna will outline below, these works were made in a different context, as part of an epic project that now bears traces of the digital deterioration I have outlined. To watch these works (and the others we mention in our conversation) is to see key facets of Dayna’s artistic practice: an emphasis on performativity, humor, and the deconstruction and reconstruction of the world through queer and feminist artistic traditions. I first got to know Dayna through her interest in videographic criticism. So to watch this earlier work, which draws from video art, performance art, found footage, and remix practices, is to see how porous each of these definitions can be. I mention them not to thrust a definition upon these works, but as a useful way of understanding the artistic traditions that infuse Dayna’s work. And that is the word I think of when I watch these videos and hear Dayna talk about them: work. The labor of creating, of embodying that which she brings to the screen. To watch these works is to see a process. To see creation as a lived act.
Hung Over and Boob Cleaning, Splinter New Boots, and It’s a Date! are 3 short experimental videos that I made for 52 Pick-Up, a project that I started in 2009 that ran until 2014. 52 Pick-Up was a video production challenge for anyone looking for a weekly deadline and a low-stakes creative experience where videos and pages were not indexed or tagged with keywords or other (now commonplace) searchable metadata. I made over 100 videos, and the collection hosts approximately 3000 videos made by more than 50 international artists. Currently however, it’s kind of broken. Built in HTML, I have not been able to keep updating the site (lack of resources, time, and funding) or upload and convert the multiple video files needed to ensure playback across multiple devices without using YouTube or Vimeo, and because not all web browsers support all video formats. I could go on about 52 Pick-Up, and really just wanted to say that I KNOWAH it’s not working to the best of its ability—if there’s anyone out there with the resources and interest to update it, message me. If you want to know more about the challenges of 52 Pick-Up and projects like it, check out Alex Ketchum’s Self-produced Digital Public Scholarship from her book, Engage in Public Scholarship! A Guidebook on Feminist and Accessible Communication (2022).
Hung Over and Boob Cleaning (2009) is an edit of video diary footage from 2007 when I performed Monarchy Mama in Warsaw and Berlin, a durational performance piece where I wore a costume made of 21 vinyl breast plates that were equipped with vodka that participants could suck on. This video features me cleaning the outfit while a touch hung over.
It’s a Date! (2009) uses sound from What to Do on a Date, a 1950s educational film hosted at Prelinger Archives. The visuals are looped stills from a new camera I had bought in 2009 taken by placing it on top of a table at The Gladstone in Toronto on a night out.
Splinter New Boots (2010) centres around a pair of spike heel lace-up boots (that are trying to be ski boots?!?) that I got at a thrift store, the challenge of putting them on, and the need to get a glass of wine from the kitchen. It’s cut to Señor Coconut’s Music Non Stop.
Ultimate SUB Ultimate DOM (2009) and That’s Right Diana Barry- You Needed Me (2009) were also made as part of 52 Pick-Up, but went on to have lives of their own on the queer film and video festival circuit. Deb! (2022) and The Menopausalist (2022) are recent interpretations of performative embodiment.