HOW CAN I GET MY PARTNER TO BE MY FINGER? (2019)
** AWARDED Special Mention at London-Worldwide Comedy Short Film Festival Autumn 2019 **
‘There is something so unnerving about it … a fantastic battlefield of the quotidien’
‘Your frustrations are bubbling to the surface that are in response to these contingent tape recordings - the whole thing has a really uncertain, strangely haunting, ultimately utterly mundane quality’
‘A conversation with the other through the self as a means of othering oneself – bringing the (speaking) body, a bodily intimacy back into the realm of speech and discourse in a very light way’
SUMMARY: Nobody ever really knows what’s going on in relationships. That terrible existential dread, that we know no one, and furthermore, we do not even know ourselves. This performance combines comedy, movement and visual performance and takes the form of a conversation where two speakers (my fiancée, Alex and I) don’t quite meet.
How Can I Get My Partner to Be My Finger is a performance of tensions between the active and the passive of who is in control and who is being a puppet. Between the live and the mediated. Dialogues that oscillate between persuasion and control. Between the found and the spontaneous, the controlled and the supposedly uncontrolled. Between the supposedly intimate and the constructed. Between the demotic and the personal.
The finger is the most primitive version of a puppet. In a pitch-black space, a spotlight is shone on my finger in a similar stage set-up to how the mouth appearing disembodied was illuminated in Samuel Beckett’s stage direction for Not I. What follows is a conversation between a couple -one present, one technologically distant - my partner Alex and I. Alex ‘speaks through’ my finger via a tape-recording. Sometimes I ‘speak for’ Alex. The big question is: is it Alex speaking or is it me speaking? How can I get my partner to be my finger? The most proximate, the most intimate, the most utterly strange is the stranger within me. And the same for Alex.
The performance builds up tensions and then releases those tensions in much the same as the mechanisms of comedy. These tensions are built up using sets of unknown questions/set of words and phrases from somebody else (my fiancée, Alex) and how I improvise around these - the improvisation of someone else who is not actually there but ‘speaks through’ my finger. What is really speaking through the finger ... what body/psychical part ... what social relation ... whose stranger is being ventriloquised?
The performance serves up multi-layers, multi-voices: mine, me speaking in place of Alex (the voice of the finger) and Alex’s (actual) voice being played through a dictaphone recording which creates a bizarre displaced refigured sense of intimacy. Yet, throughout the entire performance the viewer is unsure where the voices are coming from and it appears there is no distinction between ‘self’ and ‘other’.
Something deeply intimate but radically outside of me. Being simultaneously performer/writer and performer/director/actor, I use my finger in a similar manner to the ventriloquism performed by Danny in the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining (speaking through one’s finger), a ‘voice’ from the finger comes from my partner Alex who pre-records (sometimes awkward, difficult, intimate, personal, humorous) phrases/questions into a Dictaphone in different voices I hear them coming from the finger every time I press play. I have had to train myself to put myself in a frame of mind to occupy a space of candidness in front of people with the finger without limiting myself. The performance becomes a potential site of conflict or revelation! and just using finger feels much more like am confronting myself. Alex works with what he knows to be my triggers. As the conversation unfolds, I try to control a narrative between me and Alex which I can't control. The conversation is ripe with absurdist dialogue and humour produced in my effort to try and control the (collective) narrative through the conversation. The question of marriage and getting a dog acts as an umbrella, a comedy frustration which through the course of the performance breaks down into these smaller dissonances which are humorous. A slideshow of pencil drawings by Lee that makes reference to ideality – Alex, Lee and Rufus the dog. Weird inversions taken place - the more controlling I become, the more feminine I become- then I am also the dominant one. I am effectively having a relationship with a voice box that won't do what I want it to do - this is reminiscent of those kinds of slippages that happen in relationships. Whilst the recording allows me to replay things which I wouldn't be able to do in real life , it creates an interesting distance that reveals something; in relationships we hear what we want to hear and sometimes that might be hearing confrontational things that we don’t like.
Project Type:Experimental, Short
Runtime:5 minutes 22 seconds
Completion Date:July 1, 2019
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
London-Worldwide Comedy Short Film FestivalLondon
Special Mention Autumn 2019
MicroActs: Invert VisionsLondon
November 21, 2019
Radical Ventriloquism, KELDERLondon
March 12, 2020
Homo HumourMiami, Edgezones, PerforMIA 2020
February 15, 2020
Dr Lee Campbell is an artist, experimental filmmaker, curator, lecturer at University of the Arts London and founder of Homo Humour Films, the first of its kind project on contemporary queer male film and moving image practices that explore humour and LGBTQ+ storytelling. His recent moving image work revolves around his personal autobiographical perspective and explores (gay male) identity and desire. Comedy is an integral part of his work. He uses it to engage, disarm, and highlight.
He completed a BA in Painting in 2000, a Masters in Painting in 2007 and received his doctorate PhD in 2016 and was part of the artist studio programme Conditions between 2018-2020. Key performances include Whitstable Biennale 2008 and artist residencies at The Banff Centre, Canada 2012 and Spazju Kreattiv, Malta 2019. In 2009, his performance work was featured in a publication written by Bob and Roberta Smith called Hijack Reality: How to Guide to Organize a Really Top-Notch Art Festival. Between 2007-2011, he regularly performed as part of Testing Grounds.
His recent films have been selected for many international film festivals including Queerbee LGBT Film Festival in London, SPLICE Film Festival, New York, MicroMania Film Festival, MicroActs International Artist Film Festival 2020, and The Gilbert Baker Film Festival, Kansas 2020. Future screenings of his films include 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, Athens, and Pornfilmfestival, Berlin in 2021. He was awarded a Special Mention at London-Worldwide Comedy Short Film Festival Autumn 2019 and won Semi-Finalist (3rd place winner) at SPLICE Film Festival, New York in 2020.
In 2020 he has been featured in John Hopper’s Inspirational magazine, appeared as a guest speaker for Tim Kirk’s ZERO Q: 20 QUESTIONS WITH INTERESTING PEOPLE FROM THE LGBT COMMUNITY and featured twice already this year on Queerguru.com.
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 has curated Radical Ventriloquism at Kelder, London and presented Homo Humour Films screenings in Miami and Italy (Online).
am interested how the medium of film and photography (that particularly include collage-methods) considers how male body image/self-representation particularly from a gay male perspective has been coded, performed, and socially constructed from the 1960s to the present day. Applied humour as a tactic to subvert and challenge issues of representation, my current film work presents a personal archaeology and revolves around my own autobiographical perspective, using the mechanisms of comedy and humour as an integral part of my work to engage, disarm, and highlight.
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 this new exciting phase of my 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.