LET RIP: TEENAGE SCRAPBOOK (POETRY FILM)
‘My art teacher suggested I go to the Southampton Film Society, where they were playing A Bigger Splash, with David Hockney and his bathing beauties. There was so much tanned male flesh on show. I was 14, had Miss Chuter sussed me out? I identify with this poem Lee, wonderful.'
'How it really brought me back to the 90s - even we had these posters in Carlow in my Gaelic speaking school!'
‘Loved the visuals Lee. As a late 90s/early 00s teenager I had many the scrapbook. Also brilliant depiction of the awful awkward sex education of so many secondary schools.’
‘The internalised homophobia in this piece is so important’
‘Giving people the permission to laugh – can we laugh and engage? Adored the imagery of Grammar School Guy put on the fryer cos workers don’t want his voice in McDonalds. Going out and looking at him and wanting his burger in your baps, that’s the comedy! Grammar school guy is genius writing, almost with a tinge of innocence because it’s never going to happen’
‘The dad bit with the football and homophobia and I couldn’t come out to him is powerful and visceral’
‘I was devastated that you threw the scrapbook away and you took bad jpegs on a shitty phone… …the emotional investment in these five years of the scrapbook now with just photos must be devastating’
‘Feels like you laid out on a page, every single layer! Such a privilege for an audience to be immersed in something mental like that’
LET RIP: TEENAGE SCRAPBOOK is a poetry performance film excavating personal memories of what it was like for me to realise I am gay when I was surrounded by mainstream heteronormative pop culture in 1990s homophobic Britain. It is couched in innuendo and camp history - seeing and not seeing is a protection mechanism within camp and innuendo, one is verbal, and the other is very material and physical.
The words of the poem directly reference images within a scrapbook that I kept when I was a teenager in the 1990s for 5+ years – my personal private archive of images that in many ways helped to shape my understanding of (gay) male desire at a time when I felt too uncomfortable to come out as gay.
This film is a self-reflection of my desire as a gay man when I was a teenager to be seen but not wanting to be seen at the same time. It presents an intimate history of sight (mine), of not seeing yourself (represented in mainstream pop culture) and discovering a part of yourself through seeing. The film taps on a lot of personal and political issues but important is internalised homophobia – can I say that? can I do that? For example, talking about my boy crushes…
The idea of building a queer identity was so different pre-Internet in the years I was making my scrapbook. 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. 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 (in the imagery in the scrapbook) 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. A lot of the imagery in the scrapbook refers to pop music – pictures of pop music stars and their lyrics. Music that you listen to does inform you (particularly so when you are a teenager). For me it was really difficult growing up at that time in the Nineties listening to music about teenage heterosexuals. As a gay guy, I could identify more to Madonna than a heterosexual man yet she’s taking about heterosexual men. I had to imagine schoolgirl teen heartthrob boy bands (Take That, Backstreet Boys etc.) were singing love songs to me as a gay man. There were no Sam Smiths or other openly queer singers that I knew of at the time who were singing directly to a queer object (audience). I remember video recording Pray by Take That on The Chart Show onto VHS in 1993 and playing the few second clip of Jason Orange in his underwear over and over again. My burgeoning homoerotic imagination was on fire but what was fuelling this were images of men intended for a straight female audience.
I now refer to my scrapbook as my Dymaxion Homofile, a play on words of Dymaxion Chronofile, architect Buckminster Fuller's very large scrapbook which he documented his life every 15 minutes from 1920 to 1983. In 1993 when I was 15/16 whilst at high school, my art teacher suggested that I keep a scrapbook of images. Inspired also by my mum's love of collecting postcards and sticking them and collected bits and pieces (train tickets/tourist brochures etc. from holidays into scrapbooks, between 1993-1999, this turned into a 6-year self-guided project! Between 1993-1999, as a teenager, I kept a scrapbook of found imagery, of newspaper and magazine cuttings mainly from magazines for teenagers like Look In and Smash Hits but also of images from National Geographic Magazine and Germany’s Stern, of pieces of printed ephemera from around the world.
Hundreds of images collaged together over many pages that now exist digitally, as the original physical scrapbook has been destroyed. In my mid-late teens, I realised that I was gay. Before the breakthrough moment of me reading Gay Times in my late teens (stealing copies of Gay Times and smuggling them into my bedroom without my parents seeing), the way that I accessed images of guys that I fancied would be through imagery in mainstream (straight) pop culture, often through music magazines like Smash Hits where I fancied pin-ups designed for a teenage girl audience. And not just in teen magazines but through images of (straight) men on TV and in all kinds of other printed media. When I was able to catch a glimpse of a gay man on TV, I did not often identify with him. Normally presented as overtly camp, I fancied a more ‘straight-acting’ guy and therefore was drawn to straight men. Inspired by Crawford Barton’s home movies which documented his life as a child and then into adulthood with his male partner, LET RIP: TEENAGE SCRAPNOOK revisits my teenage scrapbook through the lens of my (now adult) queer eye. In Reel in the Closet (2015), the narrator talks about Barton’s home movies that he made over many decades and says ‘they’re (Barton and his male partner) interested in the same things as everybody else but at the same time there’s a definite queer eye behind the camera’. What can I learn about myself by revisiting the scrapbook? How did these scrapbook images (unbeknownst to me at the time) speak of me exploring my (homo)sexuality as a teenager?
In 2019, I re-excavated my personal archive of drawings, paintings and photographs made over the span of 25 years by making a series of collages which not only had the same textural quality of my teenage scrapbook but also the corkboards of images in my bedroom where I lived as a teenager (images were first ripped out of magazines and then placed onto corkboards in my bedroom and then after a month or so of living with the images, I would select which ones would go into my scrapbook). None of these images would be too edgy (provocative/pornographic) as the scrapbook would form part of my college studies and edgier images (i.e., images of men in their underwear or who I particularly fancied would be stored under my bed so I could look at them late at night once my parents were asleep).
Exploring the power of re-quoting myself by having motifs that are recontextualised, this film re-employs the action and sonic motif of ripping as in Let Rip: A Personal History of Seeing.. (2019).
Each word or each phrase within the poem incorporates different parts of the scrapbook imagery and the content of the poem reflect upon how I understand the significance of that imagery now as an out gay man in my forties. Like layers of a painting, each page of the scrapbook imagery forms one layer juxtaposed with other pages/ layers of memory that collectively salvage and monumentalise what could otherwise be the detritus of my life.
The rips and tears and the turned-up edges of the scrapbook printed material now as digitised images appear flat on the computer screen. Green-screen processes are again employed to achieve seductive surfaces to beckon the viewer to want to see them in real life thus making the reality of viewing the now-destroyed physical scrapbook in the flesh even more desirable.
What would it be for me to take that advice from my teacher today – take a book and collage some images into it? Would I repeat the process that I did? Would the process stop after two weeks? Or ten minutes? Would the imagery be different – I didn’t know fully what I was doing then (in terms of selecting and ‘curating’ the imagery from magazine to corkboard to scrapbook) but it seems so obvious now. In some ways, I feel no different as a person looking at the scrapbook today than when I made it all those years ago but in other ways, it’s almost like looking at another person and zone of feeling (hiding/closeting my homosexuality) that I am never going to revisit, that my teenage self is completely ‘other’ to me now. I feel that I am looking at these images as an outsider now. This just proves that even though we feel we know ourselves at a particular point in time, we are always reassessing everything. That’s a very human quality in the work – it exposes our vulnerabilities but there also a lot of humour in the work as a means to communicate with the viewer.
Extending Mike Mashon’s idea that ‘there’s something very real and very visceral about a person shooting a very personal film’ (in Reel in the Closet by Stu Maddox, 2015), the pages of my scrapbook in the film appear animated to give the impression of them ripping with subsequent pages coming through. But not so much ripping but more smudging out. On the one hand I am building the image and on the other hand ripping out the image – this is being seen from the image being built up whereas all the other times (in other films like Let Rip: A Personal History…). I am destroying the image.
Using the images digitally, you know that the images are not being destroyed (by ripping the materials (the paper) physically). The viewer knows that the image is being smudged/wiped out but the image is still there because of technology (the image still exists digitally). But when it’s the paper being ripped, the image is gone. There is an irrevocable harm. But as the image is digital I know that I can bring it back.
Project Type:Experimental, Short
Runtime:15 minutes 11 seconds
Completion Date:January 2, 2022
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
May 1, 2022
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.