Looking Backwards and Forwards:
an interview with Logan Dandridge
Logan Ryland Dandridge is the inaugural Cavendish Arts Science Fellow at Girton College.
We caught up with him in March 2022 and spoke about how personal histories are inextricable from the questions he is thinking about during his Fellowship.
CAS: Who are you and how do you know?
LRD: I am thinking about this question the only way I know how.
There’s an image I’ve been holding onto for several years now. I’m sort of the archiver for my family’s records and personal effects. My dad served several years in the army. He was stationed in parts Germany Korea and California during his time in the military. During one of his trips when he was on leave from service he returned to his hometown of Mechanicsville Virginia. There he found himself in his cousin’s backyard at a family cookout. I’ve never actually spoken with my dad about this exact moment but I have a photograph of him at the gathering. It looks about late afternoon and he has this huge grin on his face. He’s standing shirtless and I can see his musculature signs that his years in the service had started to change his body. He’s wearing a baseball cap that has A.R.M.Y in bold script across the front. Beyond anything else he looks so joyous and so comfortable. It’s why I love the photograph so much. I like the idea that I can pick up this joy and hold onto it.
Frankly I can’t fathom the idea of myself without first considering the context that I could not exist without my parents and in this case my dad. The notion of lineage is so visceral in my imagination and in my awareness of myself. I know I’m not the man that I see in the photograph but that I carry something of that man inside of me. In the obvious ways it’s my hair my eyes my height my expressions. And maybe it is also this unique plurality of history pain faith and pride. To me inheritance isn’t just genetic it’s something more. My dad his father and his father’s father have always worked with their hands. My grandfather built his house in the ’60’s my great aunt’s house was completed right down the road a few years later. He built the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Mechanicsville Virginia where so many of my family members attended for generations. Just like my forefathers I use assemblage to turn ordinary composites into something new. I build with images sound and text. I build with memory expression and fantasy. Beyond giving me peace this work binds me to my ancestors and allows me to connect with them in ways I rarely expect. My films help me articulate ideas that look forward and backward they’re chopped and screwed they breathe in history and exhale fiction they dance through time and space.
CAS: Would you share with us a moment in time—from memory or your imagination—that you wish you had documented.
LRD: Recorded history can be so delicate when you don’t like what you remember or when you like some parts but the good moments seem inextricable from the bad. What do we do with these little echoes when their stings are gilded in kisses? I think there’s a certain beauty in history that isn’t recorded. The tragedy in documentation is that every artist explores parts of their soul that can’t be pressed into vinyl or etched into celluloid. These parts of us are beyond all of that. Even now as I consider a moment unbounded by a tangible form of evidence it makes me think about something Saul Williams said in a poem “In tune with the all and evermore the unsaid and the spoken.” Because the truest messages reach us at a frequency that no camera can capture and no sentence could describe. With every passing second the message is re-arranged, folding into itself becoming something different.
When I was about thirteen I was playing basketball outside with my brother Tyler. We had this gravel court a few feet from a shed my dad built one summer that mainly housed the lawnmower and spare tools. Our basketball hoop was the type of standing goal you had to pour sand in the bottom to weigh it down keeping it upright. We’d won the hoop a few years earlier in a raffle. On this night my brother and I were playing one-on-one for a few hours when a car drove down the driveway. Our house was situated toward the back of a long wooded lot. The driveway trailed about half-a-mile from the house and dipped around a bend in the road. From the gravel court we watched an unfamiliar car come down the road and park near the house. I hadn’t seen the man who stepped out of the car for almost three years so he wasn’t immediately recognizable. After taking a few steps toward us I realized it was my brother Trey who was almost sixteen years older than my brother and me. He walked up to the court and put his hands in the air signaling for a pass. I don’t remember exactly whether it was me who passed the ball or if it was Tyler but I distinctly remember Trey grabbing a pass and shooting from about twenty feet away. And even as I recall this moment now I remember my sense of bewilderment as the ball fell evenly through the net. Two years after this moment Tyler and I would be sitting beside each other at Trey’s wake. I feel like I go back to that day so often because it’s one of those moments that can define a relationship a moment that feels simultaneously brief and infinite. When I remember it now it still feels so devastatingly euphoric like a dream that haunts and heals you. The impossibility of seeing Trey alive and well is almost too much to bear but I wish I could hold this memory in my hands. I’d like to play this memory on a loop so I can watch the ball leave Trey’s fingertips and spin weightlessly through the net. I want to hear the excitement in my brother’s voice as we shout in unison cheering into the night air. I want to stay with them in this moment forever.
CAS: What are the questions on your mind at the moment? What are you seeking to uncover?
LRD: Here are some of my questions.
How much of ceremony is liberation?
How many black futures will end before they begin?
What happens to deferred grief?
How much of belief is encounter?
Am I looking backwards and forwards for a reason?
How can you materialize absence?
How would the disruption of the physical universe benefit the disenfranchised?