CLEVER AT SEEING WITHOUT BEING SEEN (2021) LIVE ZOOM PERFORMANCE

Co-curator of Festival ECRÃ Ana Albuquerque remarked:

‘Lee Campbell’s Clever at Seeing without being Seen and Dina Kelberman’s The Fan May Not Be Changed, You Just Don’t Know The Future turn platforms like Zoom and Teams into stages where the curtain never falls. Artifices once used for the furtherance of neoliberal productivity slavery become spaces of creative potential in the hand of our artists. The possibilities are endless. The performances in this edition prove that the exploration of the body, space and canvas does not cease with physical distance, and prove that the pandemic is more a challenging environment than a scenario of infertility’

‘Love the live element alongside the constant peeling and reworking layers of time and perception’,

'Can so relate to George Michael!',

“Dad watched the match; I watched the players.” Love the idea of football as erotica and the ‘soundfield’!’,

‘I also smuggled Gay Times!’

‘Never seen anything THAT immersive on Zoom!'’

‘It had a cadence and a reality that I found powerful’

‘You have the ability to verbalise all those layers that I feel but have yet to find a voice for! Angry and authentic, Avant-garde like Derek Jarman’

‘GENIUS meld of powerful messaging, word play and sense of history’

‘‘So relatable, so cool. I love this - so theatrical!,’

‘Seeping peeping, great ending echo'

Innovating the possibilities of media re-use, feeding-back and looping round of text, and the layering of the voices, my re-plugging the films into Zoom generated repeated multi-layered multimedia sociocreative live Zoom performances as colourful, immersive, textured, organic and disorienting montages of young queer experience told through my own personal autobiography.

Queerness is inherently performative; we play different parts to survive. This performance
nails a specific talent queer people need to acquire, the title. It evokes sharply and poignantly a lot of the feelings which are so common to discovering one's sexuality in adolescence ('I got very clever/Very clever at seeing/Without being seen'). As a teenager, you do not really know who you are. It is a self-reflection – a journey through identity and a ‘this is what it was like’ to come to terms with my homosexuality; of me finding somebody attractive (men) but not really knowing what I am. I speak my personal truth, my personal history of seeing and not seeing to confront the politics of seeing and underline how validating seeing can be but also the difficulty of not being seen. Whilst it can be understood 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: George Michael, late night tv, bad porn. Intimate and personal in a really powerful way, part of the performance includes reference to a dad and son (me and my dad) conversation exploring what one is seeing and what the other is seeing about the same action of men in football with one person viewing it one way and the other a different way. Here we travel back in time to 1996, to a football match between Chelsea and Aston Villa courtesy of a cassette recording played through a tape recorder made at the time of the match. Inspired by Samuel Becketts’s usage of the tape recorder in Krapp’s Last Tape, the tape recorder becomes an an extension of my body. The double of the term ‘tackle’ is one of many humorous double-entendres/double meanings employed throughout including: tackle, cruise, hole, and fag. The performance sets up a range of ambiguities and spaces for interpretation. For example, depending on who the subject of the call is, the ‘eye-eye’ imagery and audio chants can be seen as threatening or flirtatious/provocative in a threatening or flirtatious way.

THIS is what it was like for me to grow up gay in 1990s working class homophobic Britain and then a self-reflective critique of gay male subculture, of what it meant for me to come to London in early 2000s and be confronted with the implicit power relations attached to gay male queer physical social spaces of conviviality. For example, when I go into the pub for ‘bears’ and ‘cubs, I directly confess my personal experience of these spaces, laying myself bare using cultural expressions to talk about queerness as a community and speak of its challenges, pressures, pros and the cons like gay male identity labelling and body policing etc. The gay male subcultural milieu needs critique – it creates such stereotypes.

The work underlines the message ‘just be you’; the work gives others permission to be themselves., My performance is raw and authentic, I am saying that to be authentic I had to look at and collage together images and visuals to explain my identity to myself. This performance is my path to authenticity, and I share this in order for the audience to become more authentic. The idea of building a queer identity was so different pre-Internet. In the manner of bricolage – building /constructing what is at hand/available, as a teenager I could be said to be the queer bricoleur making my collage constructions in my teenage scrapbook which I refer to in the performance. At the end of the day I had to experience the same cultural elements (as heterosexual folk around me) and make something entirely different with it. I was seeing things in things that were not necessarily meant for queer people. I was making things queer, these little building blocks in my identity and it was not meant to be there at all e.g. watching the same football match with my dad with my Dad watching the match and me watching and fancying the players.

Collage is such a tired word. Spoken in the first person through a semi-confessional but poeticised mode of address whilst having elements of the diary film, collage of cultural history, partly documentary, partly confessional text, Clever at Seeing without Being Seen proposes a new way of thinking about collage as a term. There are so many different references within the work to decades of British history though different registers of image making, language and bodies through a complex repetitive system of layering making the viewer continually question how many layers there are. With a parallel to our unconscious, with its many layers, many of which we do not have full access to. As artist Alice Channer commented upon first seeing this work, ‘all this stuff (the visual and audio imagery) that has been marshalled into this form, that’s an act of strength!’.

Whilst recognising that there is a joy of having this palimpsest of different modes in the work, upon reflecting maybe they don’t all have to exist together; I have loud bold images scored with a loud bold voice and after a while that may become counter-productive. The dynamic range then becomes like a solid range. Reflecting on this, I now think about the ‘musicality’ of the work so moments really ‘pop’, for example, the layering subsides towards the end of the performance, so the viewer starts to hear the taunts more clearly. And not just in terms of the work’s visual imagery and sonic components but also in what I am saying in the poetry so that I don’t place too much emphasis on rhyme which may take away from the poetry as a whole. Indeed some viewers have commented that the work is at its most effective when it is a little more pared back and subtle.

The images comprising the visual imagery are drawings and paintings I made between 2005-2007 and 2018-2019, movie and audio recordings on mobile phones circa. 2005 and photographic stills and moving image recordings that I took between 2011-2019 on various iPhones. The green screen video recycles/repurposes/remediates this media but also in their collection when they were recently bought together in several examples of my moving image work e.g., the green screen contains visual snippets and language from recent films I made in 2020 including Let Rip: The Beautiful Game, Tackle, Let Rip: A Personal History of Seeing and Not Seeing, and Satisfaction, (You’re Matched, Say Hello).

  • Lee Campbell
    Director
  • Project Type:
    Performance
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Student Project:
    No
  • SPHERE FESTIVAL

    May 23, 2021
    OFFICIAL SELECTION
  • Festival ECRÃ Edition 5
    Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil
    July 15, 2021
    Official Selection
  • DISTURBANCE #2 , Ugly Duck
    London
    United Kingdom
    February 2, 2021
    Official Selection
  • TRANSITSTATION Voice #3 : manoeuvre
    https://www.transitstation.org
    September 3, 2021
    OFFICIAL SELECTION
  • Miami International Performance Festival 2021
    MIAMI
    United States
    September 26, 2021
    OFFICIAL SELECTION
  • FACETS 21: IMMERSIVE STORYTELLING SYMPOSIUM
    NOTTINGHAM
    United Kingdom
    November 2, 2021
    OFFICIAL SELECTION
  • Rise Up! Reconnect. Rebuild. Recreate 10th International Digital Storytelling Conference
    Loughborough University
    United Kingdom
    June 20, 2022
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Lee Campbell

Dr Lee Campbell is an artist, poet experimental filmmaker, writer, Senior Lecturer at University of the Arts London, curator of regular performance poetry night POW? Play on Words in South London and 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.

Lee’s experimental performance poetry films have been selected for many international film festivals since 2019 including Queerbee LGBT Film Festival, The Gilbert Baker Film Festival, Kansas 2020 and 2021, HOMOGRAPHY, Brussels and STATES OF DESIRE: Tom of Finland in the Queer Imagination, Casa de Duende, Philadelphia, USA, 2020 WICKED QUEER 2021, Boston, USA, FilmPride - Brighton & Hove Pride's official LGBTQ+ film festival, Brighton, UK, Splice Film Festival 2021, Brooklyn, USA and Darkroom Festival, London

In 2022, Lee’s films have already been selected to screen in these prestigious events/festivals: Beyond Words curated by Gabriel Sosa, Fountain Street Gallery, Boston USA, Micromania Film Festival and The Football Art Prize, UK-touring exhibition to Touchstones Rochdale, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

RECENT SELECTED AWARDS:

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

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Dr Lee Campbell is an artist, poet experimental filmmaker, writer, Senior Lecturer at University of the Arts London, curator of regular performance poetry night POW? Play on Words in South London and 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. His experimental performance poetry films have been selected for many international film festivals since 2019 including Queerbee LGBT Film Festival, The Gilbert Baker Film Festival, Kansas 2020 and 2021, HOMOGRAPHY, Brussels and STATES OF DESIRE: Tom of Finland in the Queer Imagination, Casa de Duende, Philadelphia, USA, 2020 WICKED QUEER 2021, Boston, USA, FilmPride - Brighton & Hove Pride's official LGBTQ+ film festival, Brighton, UK, Splice Film Festival 2021, Brooklyn, USA and Darkroom Festival, London.
 
In 2022, Lee’s films have screened/will screen at prestigious events/festivals including REELpoetry/HoustonTX, Houston, USA, Living with Buildings II, Coventry, UK, Beyond Words curated by Gabriel Sosa, Fountain Street Gallery, Boston USA, Micromania Film Festival ,The Football Art Prize, UK-touring exhibition to Touchstones Rochdale, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Scream Queer Film Festival, Rome, Italy, Splice Film Festival 2022, Brooklyn, USA, TRANÅS AT THE FRINGE - International Screening of Experimental Films and Videopoems, Sweden, Post Pxrn Film Festival, Warsaw, Poland and FILM.ART Festival, Innsbruck, Austria. He has a solo exhibition of his poetry films, See Me, in July 2022 at Fountain Street Gallery, Boston, USA.
 
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, Daniel Hess for To Tony Productions, Tim Kirk, Matt Skallerud for I Love Gay Today/Pink Media 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.
 
His live Zoom poetry performances have been showcased at events including Disturbance#2, Ugly Duck, London, Theatre Deli, London Festival ECRÃ Edition 5, Rio de Janeiro, the Immersive Storytelling Symposium, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham and Rise Up! Reconnect. Rebuild. Recreate 10th International Digital Storytelling Conference, Loughborough University. In October 2021, Lee headlined Forum+ Incite! Lee currently performs regularly at poetry events across London including Poetry Shack, Mind Over Matter, Poetry LGBT, The Word Zoo, Mother Wolf Club, Gob Jaw and Paper Tiger Poetry where he won Best Poem of the Night (September 2021). Lee presented a one hour solo poetry performance at Brighton Fringe 2022 in 2022. Lee was one of the invited performance poets for Bold Queer Poetry Soirée, Above the Stag Theatre, London in June 2022.
 
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 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 and Queerlings – A Literary Magazine for Queer Writing.
 
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 this year has screened at Metal, Southend-on-Sea, Open Eyen Liverpool and FRISE, Hamburg, Germany. Lee runs a regular monthly experimental poetry /spoken word night, POW! Play on Words, at The Bridge House Theatre in South London where he is currently curatorial poet in residence. In January 2021, he curated a set of queer poetry evenings for BBC Radio.

RECENT SELECTED AWARDS:
2021 Honorable Mention, 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