DANCING WITH SPIDERS (2023)
Back in the day, a bank holiday, I'd be off to Benjy’s, popping the poppers in my hand!’
‘Brilliant! Very emotive of the place and times. Thank you for sharing'
‘Took me back to the days of Benjy’s. Sunday night dancing with the Pharaohs!’
This poetry film shares my personal experience about going to Benjys nightclub gay night in Mile End in the early 00s. As with many of my poetry films, repetition of sound and image build throughout the film, creating a rhythm. ‘When everything stops’ (the moment in the story where the lights go out / everything goes silent) interrupts that process. Breaking the rhythm is part of the narrative and then the rhythm comes back after (‘I’m gonna get lucky I’m gonna methinks’). It’s almost like a survival – ‘we’ve survived!’ In this way, breaking the rhythm becomes erotic, quite sexual and sensual.
My usage of interruption in DANCING WITH SPIDERS, both as part of the story and what the viewer experiences on screen (when the film goes black) as a ‘stop’ picks up on French filmmaker François Truffaut’s fascination within interruptive ‘stops’ in filmmaking in relation to processes of narrative. Tom Gunning (1995) suggests ‘When Truffaut (Francois) said that he loved the moments in film when the narrative stops, he seemed to announce a whole generation’s preoccupation with the contingent and non- narrative elements of film practice [...] narrative seems to still carry an ambivalent react, a taint of ideological conformity and containment’ (1995:120).
GUNNING, T., 1995. Response to ‘Pie and chase in K. B. Karnick and H Jenkins (eds) Classical Hollywood Comedy. New York: Routledge
Project Type:Animation, Experimental, Short
Runtime:5 minutes 29 seconds
Completion Date:August 26, 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 (UAL) 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 lives in London.
Lee burst onto the London contemporary art scene in 2000 when he was invited to exhibit in 'Beautiful' held at the Oxo Tower Wharf with artists including Turner Prize winners Mark Wallinger and Chris Ofili and others including Danny Rolph, Hew Locke, Tomoko Takahashi and Chantal Joffe. He has since exhibited his work internationally as well as curated many exhibitions around the world. His experimental performance poetry films have been selected for many international film festivals since 2019.
In 2023, Lee's poetry film ‘Bears with Bananas and Bubbles in Their Boxers’ was a Finalist in The Artists Spoken Word Competition, NYC, USA and 'Rufus' won Best Animated Short at The Rooster Film Festival, Portland, USA. His film SEE ME: A Walk Through London’s Gay Soho 1994 and 2020 (2021) has won numerous accolades including winning Best Experimental Film at Ealing Film Festival, London 2022, shortlisted for BEST POETRY FILM at the Out-Spoken Poetry Prize 2023, Southbank Centre, London and receiving Honorable Mentions at Los Angeles Underground Film Forum and Experimental Forum, Los Angeles both in 2023. Other film accolades include his film ‘Apple of my Eye’ as finalist in the Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize 2022 and an Honorable Mention for 'Let Rip: Teenage Scrapbook' at REELPOETRY INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL 2023, Houston, Texas, USA and for 'Juniper Park' at Experimental Forum, Los Angeles in 2023.
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. In October 2023, Lee will have a solo retrospective of recent film work at Raun for Kunst, Paderborn in Germany.
Recent film screenings include: The Artists Spoken Word Competition, NYC, USA, Appalachian Queer Film Festival, Huntington, West Virginia, USA, Filmfest Paderborn, Paderborn, Germany, Squish Movie Camp, Rotterdam, Post Pxrn Film Festival, Warsaw, The West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival, Morgantown, USA, Hacker Porn Film Festival, Italy, Brighton Rocks International Film Festival, Brighton, Hastings Rocks International Film Festival, Printworks, Hastings, New York City Independent Film Festival New York, TEASR Film Festival, Tucson, USA, The Rooster Film Festival, Portland, Oregon, USA, Lynchian Film Festival, Global Fest, Kino Club Helsinki with global Impro ensemble from The Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki, Musiikkitalo Finland, Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize 2022,Down East Flick Fest, North Carolina, USA, PFFB Porn Film Festival Berlin, Berlin, WIPE Film Festival, Berlin, Iris Prize LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Cardiff, Wales, Ealing Film Festival, London, Monologues and Poetry International Film Festival, CINEM’aMOSTr, Teatro Municipal de Vila do Conde, Porto, Portugal, VIDEOAKTION #3, Raum für drastische Maßnahmenm, Berlin, SECS FEST, Seattle, USA, Hombres Video Poetry Award (Finalist) for ‘SEE ME’, SlamContemporary, Italy, (de)construction,, Kino Club Helsinki, Finland, SF Queer Film Festival, San Francisco, CA, USA, Failed Films Season 5,Los Angeles, U.S.A, Feminist Border Arts Film Festival, New Mexico State University, U.S.A,TRANÅS AT THE FRINGE - International Screening of Experimental Films and Videopoems, Sweden, Post Pxrn Film Festival, Warsaw, Living with Buildings II, Coventry, REELpoetry/HoustonTX 2022 International Poetry Film Festival, The Football Art Prize, UK-touring exhibition to Touchstones Rochdale, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens,NFSW Film Festival, Los Angeles, USA,Miami Performance International Festival, EdgeZones, Miami, FilmPride Brighton & Hove Pride's official LGBTQ+ film festival, Brighton, UK, Festival ECRÃ Edition 5, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wicked Queer Film Festival, Boston, USA, Fisheye Film Festival, UK, Southampton Film Week, UK, The Gateway Film Festival, UK, STATES OF DESIRE: Tom of Finland in the Queer Imagination, Casa de Duende, Philadelphia, USA. Darkroom Film Festival, Deptford Cinema, London, The Gilbert Baker Film Festival, USA, HOMOGRAFÍA/HOMOGRAPHY, Brussels. Visions 2020 selected by Hetain Patel, The Nunnery, Bow Arts Trust, London, Porn Film Festival Vienna, Satyrs and Maenads: the Athens Porn Film Festival, SPLICE Film Festival, OUTStream Film Festival and Queerbee LGBT Film Festival.
Lee has been interviewed numerously about his current film/performance work including interviews on BBC Radio Ulster with WIlliam Crawley, 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 interviewed 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, The New Normal 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. In October 2023, Lee curates Slang Bang in London - a night of performance poetry contains spoken word slang. In January 2021, he curated a set of queer poetry evenings for BBC Radio.
RECENT SELECTED AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
2023 WINNER of Best Micro Short for 'The Colour of His Eyes', Under Appreciated Film Festival
2023 Semi-Finalist for 'Head Boy', Neum Underwater Film Festival, Neum, Bosnia
2023 Finalist for ‘Bears with Bananas and Bubbles in Their Boxers’ The Artists Spoken Word Competition, NYC, USA
2023 Honorable Mention for 'SEE ME', Los Angeles Underground Film Forum, Los Angeles, USA
2023 Honorable Mention for 'SEE ME' and 'Juniper Park', Experimental Forum, Los Angeles
2023 Shortlisted for BEST POETRY FILM for ‘SEE ME’, Out-Spoken Poetry Prize 2023, Southbank Centre, London
2023 WINNER of BEST ANIMATED SHORT for ‘Rufus’ at The Rooster Film Festival, Portland, USA
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.