LET RIP: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF SEEING AND NOT SEEING (2019)
LET RIP: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF SEEING AND NOT SEEING (2019)
‘As a queer man myself I thought your film — especially the observations in the titles — struck a chord… Very relatable’
'This short film is original and utilizes an interesting technique. A very creative way to reveal a personal story, it's revealed slowly and not too on the nose. The audience has to piece it together and read between the lines. It takes some interesting turns, staying engaging and unpredictable yet maintaining the style throughout the short.'
‘The most exciting moments are the sounds of the tearing, the way it is repeated, never quite sure if something is animated or live’
‘The text is really well written, really funny and very personal.’
‘The discomfort of observing yourself and finding something funny about it is really interesting - the film operates on that level between discomfort and humour and total seriousness’
‘The writing is beautiful, succinct and playful and funny. Colloquial but multi-layered and complicated and a compendium of the London gay vibe. A palimpsest of layering that brings out meanings that go way in excess of anything theoretical.’
SUMMARY: Made with sound and moving image recordings using a Sony Ericsson Cybershoot K800i mobile phone between 2005-2006, drawings and paintings made between 2005-2007 and 2018-2019 and photographic stills and moving image recordings made between 2011-2019 on various iPhones, this film is set within the context of gay male adolescent reaching sexual maturity in 1990s British suburbia. It charts teenage-hood; discovering one’s sexuality in private, away from one’s parents. A scrapbook but on film – a moving scrapbook of having lived through phases of what being gay might mean – layers and fragments of history. On one level it is a social document but explores the point where the social and desire combust together.
As a teenager, you do not really know who you are. This film is a self-reflection - 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. Layered physically and then layered further digitally, the visual is a collage that interacts with the human figure (me). Embedding physicality into the film through the ripping, some ‘rips’ reveal imagery and text quickly whilst others are slow - how things come to you over time. It is an excess of snippets from my life and moments of recognition pertaining to the desire to be seen but not wanting to be seen at the same time. Let Rip presents a personal history of sight, not seeing yourself, discovering a part of yourself through seeing. The sonic motif of a rip points to the era which I grew up in with physical magazines, posters on bedroom walls, collage, X-rated late night tv and Top of the Pops. Different accounts of queer desire and homophobia are deeply personal however keep a part of myself to myself. Even the first image is a shadow of me taking a picture of myself. It is really mundane, a very non-visible version of myself, just a shadow of a person.
The act of ripping metaphorically in Let Rip reveals something in quite a shocking way. One viewer previously commented, ‘I had a very visceral experience of these masculine forms being ripped with a sense of rage and aggression’. Throughout the film, there is a constant play between vulnerability being exposed in my biography and the defiance in the sound of the rip - ripping through the homophobia etc. The ripping is so visceral; it’s on your skin. It hits you on an intuitional level and is inarticulable but really supports this going back in time and reconstructing something in the present. To rip also means Rest in Peace – which gives contradiction as this is an excavation of older work, old material, old me. I am revisiting myself and previous work; bringing myself and this prior work back into the present. Let Rip may look to the past but it also has an ease and a comfort with the language of Modern Britain.
It is ‘an honest and sincere account and reflection upon personal narratives, reconfigured and re-understood' (Balaclava-Q, 2019). It presents a 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. Not overly confessional but relaying frank autobiographic details of my actual lived experience, it tells the story of me being a gay teenager growing up in 1990s suburban Britain and explores the ways that people have looked at me and how that affects me. As the film unravels, written placards juxtaposed against a moving background panning a kaleidoscopic cornucopia of hand pencil drawings, photographs and paintings produced over the course of over 15-20 years present a personal narrative, a personal archive. This produces various levels of fragmentation, jarring and visual versus verbal interruption. Shards of colour (light illuminations) literally ‘rip into’ the black and white imagery symbolising the awakenings that I came upon in my queer youth both emotionally, mentally and sexually. Whilst what is presented 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: George Michael, late night tv, bad porn. Whilst slogans speak of me looking more at George Michael than listening to his music, fancying my (male) geography teacher, watching bad (straight) porn etc. speak of my experience, when watching the film with a friend recently. he started having all these flashbacks of stealing his mum’s catalogues and thinking about the (female) geography teacher that he had this crush on.
The ripping signifies another fleshy layer seeping underneath and being revealed, another set of imagery or text coming through. Creative green screen usage in films has been around forever and could be said to feel retro but in Let Rip green screen is used to create textural surfaces and review history. But to think more about the act of ripping within the scrapbook appearance of this film, it may act as means of releasing/revealing something, revealing deeper truths, of ‘unscrapping’. Repetition of the first rip gives the film a rhythm. Indeed, there is something very musical in my usage of sounds and repeated phrases. Varying sound levels of the ripping also give texture and difference.
It could also be argued that in the way that I am ripping I am trying to uncover something, but I never really expose. You can see/feel that the work has been made/shot in a domestic space i.e. the window shadows – a specific response to the parameters of its making. The collage of drawings, paintings and photographs I have made is like a teenage bedroom wall (a semi-private space) but a subversion of it. It speaks to my bedroom walls as a teenager in the 1990s covered with posters and ephemera of male celebrities when I first discovered I was gay and when I dare not tell anyone I found men attractive. This very private bedroom activity now made very public. The returning motif of this wall of eyes and texts feels like a space that is incredibly proximate – the work’s vulnerability – a slow disclosing of a very personal, proximate and intimate narrative feels like a space of slowly letting people in but the rip has this violence of things being disclosed or unwillingly disclosed revealed / things ripped open (maybe without my consent).
In terms of visuality, the desire and look is always behind the camera, but in Let Rip, I am behind the screen of materials being ripped; I am at once the subject and then the object/ the one in control behind the camera and also in the object position in the cinema set up. I put myself in both those positions, there is nothing passive about the image behind the screen.
Project Type:Experimental, Short
Runtime:7 minutes 52 seconds
Completion Date:October 1, 2019
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
Queerbee LGBTQ Film Festival
Porn Film FestivalVienna
April 24, 2020
Homo HumourMiami, Edgezones, PerforMIA 2020
February 15, 2020
Vesuvius International Film Festival
May 31, 2020
SPLICE Film Fest
June 20, 2020
Semi-Finalist Winner (3rd place)
Gilbert Baker FIlm Festival
September 13, 2020
Porn Film Festival, BerlinBerlin
October 23, 2020
Darkroom Film and AV FestivalLondon
September 25, 2020
ART200 International Queer Film FestivalBucharest
October 26, 2020
Southampton Film WeekSouthampton
November 16, 2020
Fisheye Film Festival
April 22, 2021
April 11, 2021
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
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.
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 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.