LET RIP: TEENAGE SCRAPBOOK (LIVE PERFORMANCE)
Performed at Theatre Deli, London, September 2021
LET RIP: TEENAGE SCRAPBOOK is a poetry performance 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.
It 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.
This work was first performed as a work in progress at Theatre Delicatessen in 2021. It included live performance with me in the space as the performer, a soundtrack playing in the background including recorded piece of me speaking and moving imagery projection. Creating an internal psychological space for the audience members to witness, two sets of cameras/projectors were set up, one directly opposite me and one placed upside down meaning that the audience could see me constantly circling back on myself, making loops. The effect creates a projection that is difficult to work out; I go one way but on screen I go the other. From previous iterations of this work on Zoom and now into reality, into the physical space, reversing the screen created a disruption that emphasises the disconnection between physical and screen life. Having all that backwards of what was going on, the movement made that disconnection really clear, underlining that somehow we have become so used to understanding everything through a screen.
The performance began by me putting down pieces of paper onto the floor. These were photocopies of the scrapbook. The audience start to question why I am putting photocopies with images printed on them on the floor so they can’t see them. I put them down so precisely but every time I move they keep moving, I tread on them etc. There is a real delicacy in the way I tread and place them. This preciseness creates a weird discombobulating tension - I am creating a mess of paper on the floor but I do so really precisely.
I make the audience wait; they can see that there are pictures underneath as I was put the photocopies down white side (back) up. I place the photocopy image face down so the audience may catch a glimpse of the image as I placed it down but all they could see as I build up layers of the paper on the floor, was a sea of white paper sheets. One audience member later remarked she loved that moment when the audience realise ‘oh you’ve got to cover the floor to see the projection’
The audience could literally see me in the teenage scrapbook, me physically in the space, engaging with the material that the words/the language sits above that, me crawling around looking under those pieces of paper, turning them over and then not, looking for something and then not, hiding under the covers/under the photocopies, evoking some many metaphors. So physical, visceral, non-rational, material.
At moments in the performance, the audience could see me rip onscreen and see me rip physically at the same time. Key anecdotes of live spoken word interrupted the psychological flow where they stopped/interrupted my recorded voice. I break the fourth wall and speak directly. I set up a tension between language and weird non-language behaviour which in the start the audience can’t really hear what I am saying as it goes through moments of being unclear then there’s moments of being clear, being rational with the clear spoken word moments of me speaking directly (not via recording) which isn’t rational obviously as there are all kinds of slips and gaps but there are words that the audience can hear but it’s layered with camp and innuendo whilst I am going through this strange visceral performance where I am crawling around on the floor.
Whilst the audience think that the performance ends with a quick nasty rip (there are some moments of this I’d rather forget … rip/skip) and I throw two photocopies down and walk off the stage, I come back into the space and then go back and look at other pages to rediscover.
Completion Date:October 30, 2021
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.