Proust Questionnaire 5.0: Deanna Radford, muse

February 10, 2012

RadfordD_Gender-nudies: More on this photo at the bottom of this post. Photo by Deanna Radford. All rights reserved

I know Deanna from a group of women I meet up with couple times a year here in Montreal, though she has a bit of Winnipeg in her, so we were bound to find each other one way or another. We write stuff. We read stuff. She tells me she’s been around only a year in this group. Seems like she was always there.

When I did first meet her, she described herself as a sound artist. My ears twitched. She explains: “The closest I come to it for now is as writer. I love sound and sound art. These things are very important to me in expressing or sharing my personal music and art tastes as a fan and former radio programmer, and also as writer in articulating and exploring different kinds of relationships we can have to listening and our environment. I find this very exciting and the possibilities for new and interesting configurations are so cool! Favourite sound pieces include: The Radio, composed by Steve Roden, Hildur Ingveldardottir Gudnadottir from her album without sinking and Ryoji Ikeda and the track Spectrum.”

As for writing, I attended the launch of Deanna’s poetry and photo chapbook last fall, which also the same name as her more journalistic writing blog, Building Ground. Since then, she’s put me onto Studio XX here in Montreal and has been a great sounding board on music and talking about stuff like old-school mixed tapes, all of which has led to the lovely Deanna inviting me to be part of a her pirate radio portait. Or that’s what I’m calling it. Details to come. It’ll be available for online listening. Soon, my pretties.

Here’s Deanna.

Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place? A lounge in Istanbul in summer or fall.

Who and what would you be wearing? Something custom made for me by Valérie Dumaine.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking? The refreshing Brazilian beverage, Caipirinha.

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others? Equanimity, humour, independence, respectful of others, and as the saying goes, having grace under fire.

What do you like most about yourself? Hmmm. I’m always learning but, I like how I care for others. I love my singing voice (I can’t carry a tune but I have so much soul!).

Least? The intermittent slips that I make, falling into disquiet. Anxiety is unkind!

What is your greatest achievement? Volunteering, in the most humble of senses! I think that all the time I spent doing this in campus/community radio (CKUW Winnipeg!), helped to shape my work life and begin to articulate my creative self. The contributions I made there allowed me to meet some amazing people and make lifelong friends. It also showed me the importance of community and engagement, which I carry with me. As I get older, these things continue to be hugely important to me.

What is your present state of mind? Funnily enough, indifference, specifically; restless and bored with the quotidian tasks of my day job, though alright since the sun is fierce today!

Where and when are/were you happiest? Most recently, the months of December and January. I experienced intense change for different reasons; spent amazing time with my people in Winnipeg and Montreal; I hit the ground running when the new year came. Somehow, with all of this and the pace and movement, it felt really good. In that, I knew things were not only fine, but really, really good!

What is your first memory? I was still in diapers – I remember being terrified of flies and the fuzzy bits of gold yellow shag carpet that floated around the house when the windows were open, or when my mom was cleaning. To me, the flies and the fuzzies were all too similar!

What, currently, do you most love doing? Hanging out with my sis, my bro and folks; being with my sweetheart; cooking with organic ingredients from near; reading as much as possible; making things and musical selections, taking pictures; reaching the moment where, without disruption or distraction, I am able to weave ideas into words by writing.

What was your worst job? Sadly – working in a fast food hamburger-making restaurant in my youth.

Your favourite colour? Rich chocolate brown.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Achieving balance and space with authority in whatever it is that I’m doing – freedom; being in love; living close to the page – with paper, keyboard or ink and the sounds of my surroundings.

Of misery? Living with resignation and resistance to trying new things and accepting the status quo, whether it be in love, with creativity or work or any combination of those things.

If not yourself, who or what would you be? I wouldn’t mind looking through the eyes of Coco Chanel for a week.

Where would you like to live? Would like to spend more time in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I love the people and the land there. I’m drawn to Detroit, with its former glory and broken buildings and with its musical and political history. I see possibility there, in the urban farming and alternate ideas of what a city can be. 1970s New York or New York 2012, for all of its music and art. I wish to travel to far away places and visit the countries where my families comes from, though wonder how much longer we’ll be able to do this without the increasingly pressing consequence of our actions on the environment.

What is your favourite journey? Road trip! (Okay, and travel by train, too).

What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged? Though I’ve been a vegetarian for fifteen years, if it were somehow possible to have the home made chicken noodle soup that my grandma Nellie made, I would not hesitate! The last time I indulged? Probably twenty years ago.

Name the person who influenced you most and how.
Name the person who influenced you most and how. My mom and dad, of course, who made me the person that I am. Creatively-speaking, my friend Steve Bates, a musician and artist. He’s been a mentor and instigator, really adherent to the notion of doing as an artist. And, do it yourself. He and his partner jake moore are enormously generous and encouraging people who create beautiful work. You can hear some of Steve Bates’ music here. Here, you can get detail about jake moore’s recent contribution to the Quebec Triennal.

Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why? Things that stick out in my mind at the moment and/or continually? Rebecca Solnit‘s writing blows my mind away. The music journalism of David Toop. Innovative sound/sound art/free jazz. The Ex. Black and white photography. Lisa Robertson’s Office for Soft Architecture. Dada. Dub. Otomo Yoshihide. Chris Watson. Steve Roden. Crass. France Jobin. dimcoast. Sina Queyras’ Unleashed. Ethiopian jazz. Jenny Holzer. Hans Ulrich Obrist. Architecture. The more I learn about Foucault, the more I like. Virginie Despentes King Kong Theory was astounding. I love learning about painting. Diego Rivera. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. The Conversation. Caché. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. I Am Love.

In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire? It just might be Tilda Swinton. For now, it is she.

What fault can you most easily forgive? If fear is a fault, then this might be the one.

What fault can you not forgive? Lying or lying mixed with shame.

What is your motto? Lately? One day at time. Or, sleep is for the dead (no matter how much I love it). And, next?

How would you hope to die? Falling asleep after having a great meal with my love, my family and friends.

Any last words? Thank you!!!

RadfordD_Knob-and-lock, froma series of photos by Deanna Radford. All rights reserved

RadfordD_Alcora, from a series of photos by Deanna Radford. All rights reserved

Here’s a little from Deanna about her three photos in this post:

This unnamed triptych of images is from my neighbourhood – a decreasingly barren couple of blocks of boulevard St-Laurent, which I love. I took them in December 2010.

Montreal is such a walkable city. So many times on my walk home from work up the famous Main (boulevard St-Laurent), I would find that new businesses would come and go with a blink of an eye. Such high turnover! With what I perceive to be this transience and traveling from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, I wondered about how shop keepers would choose to present themselves to the world? With hopes for happiness and material wealth? For safety and security? Or, filled with people drinking microbrew and eating brunch? Ahhh, Montreal! The possibilities are as many as the number of neighbourhoods in this dense town!

I live on the north part of the Main, in hipster Mile End, though on a block without a coffee shop or grocery store (unusual in this area of town), and the storefront windows nearby really struck me. There’s a high end mannequin store and a couple of shops, four blocks apart, interested in window and lock security, (all three photographed here). Despite the seeming high-end-ness these kinds of wares appear to offer, my neighbours and co-habitants are single parent families, new Canadians, students, and young women. Despite the legendary status of St-Laurent, I live in a place of passage where people drive on their way out of town and to the suburbs after night in the city.

Since I took the photos in 2010, my block has changed a lot, with the addition of a spa, beautiful antique shop and super successful (and overdue) queer bar. Despite these cool things that have come about, gentrification is coming round.

Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s  made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age.



  1. You two are absolutely brilliant. I will meet you in Istanbul.

    • Deal

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