BEARS WITH BANANAS AND BUBBLES IN THEIR BOXERS (EXTENDED VERSION 2023)
...'very sexy. But thought provoking as well. I'm interested in bringing the sanctuary the sanctity back to our sexual energies. I view our work as kin because it appears to me you understand this in ways. Self-love, exploration of kink. No shame just empowerment. To heal to be a better part of our community.' A BOY NAMED PONY
In gay male slang, ‘bears’ and ‘cubs’ refer to body shapes and age groups, a ‘bear’ usually refers to a hairy plus size man whilst a ‘cubs a younger bear. An ‘otter’ is a slimmer hairy man whilst a ‘wolf’ is an older daddy. This short poetry film explores body acceptance and gay male body shaming. Gay men can exclude, leave you outside in the cold as quick as they can include and convivially welcome. The gay male community is even more controlling about what you should look like and how you should behave - in a very nasty way. This very inclusive environment which is very coercive of itself and quite damaging.
This film forms part of a body of my work that seeks to be critical of queer identity and its representation, acknowledging and not wishing to ‘brush under the carpet’ the power relations, antagonisms and exclusive atmospheres that LGBT subcultures sadly create and in fact end up reproducing the violence that they claim to escape. My work uses the mechanisms of comedy and humour to engage, disarm, and highlight the gay male subcultural milieu which needs critique as it creates such stereotypes. It could be argued that I am continually remaining in the crossfire of the violence of representation/ the violence that is done to queer bodies and that a way forward could be for my work to become something liberatory from the violence that I am talking about. In other words, I make a queer art that isn’t defined by the violence. However, I cannot easily forget my troubled relationship with aspects of queer space and that to try and create an art that emancipates myself from aspects of hatred and power relations in a community which boasts ‘Be You, But Not You’ is not a straightforward process of acceptance. I argue that to address queer identity and the spaces (virtual and physical) that it inhabits, has to make an account of it being ever shifting and never stable. There is a space of being accepted, being comfortable, being seen and being seen back which is revolutionary, and also at the same time being a space which is a battle, a battlefield. It is unrealistic to propose a shortcut emancipatory art for what is a (queer) space rooted in tensions and paradoxes and therefore I explore the troubles I talk about rather than just trying to liberate myself from them.
This film addresses intimacies, proximities and spaces of encounter connected to gay male body shaming. It speaks about my personal experience of being in the heat of the gaze of gay men body shaming other gay men (including body shaming me).
Project Type:Animation, Experimental, Short
Runtime:9 minutes 11 seconds
Completion Date:February 1, 2023
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
Dr Lee Campbell is an artist, performance poet, experimental filmmaker, writer, Senior Lecturer at University of the Arts London, and curator/founder of Homo Humour, the first of its kind project on contemporary queer male film and moving image practices that explore humour and LGBTQ+ storytelling and has screened all over the world since 2020. He is gay and lives in London.
His experimental performance poetry films have been selected for many international film festivals since 2019. His film SEE ME: A Walk Through London’s Gay Soho 1994 and 2020 (2021) won Best Experimental Film at Ealing Film Festival, London 2022 and his film ‘Apple of my Eye’ (2022) was a finalist in the Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize 2022. 2023. He received Honorable Mention for 'Let Rip: Teenage Scrapbook' at REELPOETRY INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL 2023, Houston, Texas, USA
Lee had his first solo exhibition in North America of his poetry films, See Me: Performance Poetry Films at Fountain Street, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A in July 2022 and a solo exhibition of poetry film, Bona Polari! at The Margate School, Margate and Wimbledon College of Arts Library, UAL in February 2022. Recent film screenings include CINEM’aMOSTr, Teatro Municipal de Vila do Conde, Porto, Portugal, (de)construction,, Kino Club Helsinki, Finland, Living with Buildings III, Coventry,SF Queer Film Festival, San Francisco, FilmPride Brighton & Hove Pride's official LGBTQ+ film festival, Brighton, Feminist Border Arts Film Festival, New Mexico State University, Splice Film Festival 2022, Brooklyn, TRANÅS AT THE FRINGE - International Screening of Experimental Films and Videopoems, Sweden, Post Pxrn Film Festival, Warsaw, REELpoetry/HoustonTX 2022 International Poetry Film Festival and The Football Art Prize, UK-touring exhibition to Touchstones Rochdale, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
Lee has been interviewed numerously about his current film/performance work including interviews on BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey with Kathy Caton for Out with Kathy, KMTV (local Kent-based TV station) interview feature about Bona Polari! solo exhibition, interview with Jane Glennie, Moving Poems Magazine in July 2022, Daniel Hess for To Tony Productions, Tim Kirk, Matt Skallerud for I Love Gay Today/PinkMedia LGBT, Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With – Lee Campbell (March 2021) BBC Radio Kent- Interview with Dominic King for The Dominic King Show January 2021. His film work has received critical acclaim with recent review features of his film work by Francesca de Luca in Cut Frame Magazine and James Clark in Lost Creatives. In 2008, he was interview ed by Libby Purves for BBC Radio 4 where he discussed his solo performance for Whitstable Biennale that year.
Lee’s poetry has received critical acclaim and was mentioned in a Summer 2022 edition of London’s Islington Tribune. His poem ‘Clever at Seeing without being Seen’ was recorded for Sometimes, The Revolution is Small, Disarm Hate x Poetry project by Nymphs & Thugs Recording Co. UK.Publications of his poetry include Hakara: A Bi-Lingual Journal of Creative Expression, The Atticus Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Untitled. Voices, Gob Jaw Anthology 2019-2022, Issue Two: Wasteland, Powders Press, Issue One: First Times, Powders Press, Otherwise, You Are Here - The Journal of Creative Geography, Queerlings – A Literary Magazine for Queer Writing, New Note Poetry, Streetcake Experimental Writing Magazine and Step Away Magazine.
Lee has a long history of curating performance and fine art exhibitions internationally. For example, between 2005-2008, he curated All for Show, an internationally touring film showreel of emerging and established British moving image artists whose work exposed the banalities of everyday life through humour, self-introspection, and serious play. In 2020, Lee curated Radical Ventriloquism at Kelder, London. His most recent curation is Homo Humour which has screened at Metal, Southend-on-Sea, Open Eye Liverpool and FRISE, Hamburg, Germany in 2022 and forthcoming at Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR), Brunel University and Brewery Tap Project Space, Folkestone in February 2023. In January 2021, he curated a set of queer poetry evenings for BBC Radio.
RECENT SELECTED AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
2023 Shortlisted finalist for ’SEE ME’ - Out-Spoken Poetry Prize, Southbank Centre, London
2023 Honorable Mention for 'Let Rip: Teenage Scrapbook' at REELPOETRY INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL 2023, Houston, Texas, USA
2022 WINNER of BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, for ‘SEE ME’, Ealing Film Festival, London
2022 Finalist for ‘Apple of My Eye’, Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize 2022
2022 Finalist for ‘See Shells’, Drumshanbo Written Word Weekend Poetry Film Competition, Drumshanbo, Ireland
2022 Juan Downey International Contest (Finalist), Chile
2022 Hombres Video Poetry Award (Finalist) for ‘SEE ME’, SlamContemporary, Italy
2022 Finalist for ‘Rufus’, MicroMania Film Festival 2022, Buffalo, NY, USA
2022 Finalist for ‘The Perfect Crime: A Doggy Whodunnit’, Absurd Art House Film Festival 2022
2022 Finalist for ‘Reclaiming my Voice’, Vesuvius International Film Festival
2022 Honorable Special Mention Award, Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival 2021 Best Psychedelic Fantasy film winner for 'See Me' (2020), Retro Avant Garde Film Festival NYC
2021 Semi-Finalist, Serbest International Film Festival 2021
2021 Honorable Mention, Splice Film Festival, New York
2021 Nominee for Best Original Concept and Best Atmosphere Independent Horror Movie Awards 2021
2021 Honorable Mention Award for 'See Me' (2020), Screener Short Films
2021 Best Kent Film nominee for ‘Peer’ (2020), Margate Bookie Film Festival
2021 Honorable Special Mention Award, Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival
2020 Semi-Finalist (3rd place winner), Splice Film Festival, New York
2019 Special Mention Award, London-Worldwide Comedy Short Film Festival
My work broadly explores vision, visuality, and the politics of seeing and not seeing and has a long historied body of practice since 2000. As both the writer, director and performer within the experimental films and poetry performances I create, I view my practice as me performing an autoethnography; using these media forms and the chosen themes within their narratives to help me self-reflect and (better) understand myself in relation to acts of looking, seeing and being seen and the difficulty in terms of not seeing/not being seen and my own subjectivity and experiences as British, working class, male, and gay. Themes of masculinity and desire underpin many aspects of my work.
Comedy historically comes from a queer identity defence, when it was harder to be gay in public, to be funny like Kenneth Williams who used gay slang known as Polari to communicate with other gay men covertly. Extending these ideas, underpinning my work are the mechanisms of comedy and humour to create a form of autoethnographic storytelling that subverts and challenges through a sophisticated usage of camp, innuendo and double-entendres to speak of personal narratives often raw, often painful but always generous and authentic.
Applied humour as a tactic to subvert and challenge a issues of homosexual identity and representation in relation to themes addressing seeing/not seeing etc. My practice presents a personal archaeology and revolves around my own autobiographical perspective, using the mechanisms of comedy and humour to engage, disarm, and highlight the gay male subcultural milieu which needs critique as it creates such stereotypes.
With a background in Painting and then Performance Art, my current artist moving image film practice brings together personal drawing, painting, photography and performance. Collage has become a major tool in this recent film practice, reinvigorating paintings and drawings that I produced nearly twenty years ago which are juxtaposed throughout my films with current photographic and performance for camera work. These films are often made with reusing / repurposing personal archival material and sound and moving image recordings. Things insist, in a spiral, nothing’s wasted. In my current practice, I use all my capacities, from theatre to drawing to painting to language to the comic to the affective to the relational, to painting and performance and film. Excavating (fine art) work I made long ago and resuscitating it, I bring it back to life through the medium of film and moving image. Integrating my fine artwork into my film work, my films create an arresting palimpsest effect by recycling pieces from previous bodies of work and placing them within my current context to see how their meanings may now differ from when they were first conceived. Whilst what is presented through my films can be read as one person’s (my) narrative, so too can it easily be read as lots of different voices layered to talk about wider levels of experience with various references to cultural context that (any)one can relate to.