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
Southampton Pride / City EyeSouthampton
August 26, 2022
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.
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
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.