SEE ME: A WALK THROUGH LONDON'S GAY (UN)SEEN (2020)
SEE ME: A WALK THROUGH LONDON'S GAY (UN)SEEN (2020)
'a real sense of desolation...elegiac'
‘‘a very original way to document lockdown … a very personal film. The mixed media works very well. I dread to think how long it took for you to splice in the music from your comps!’
Ben Bowles, Margate Bookie Film Festival
This film weaves across sound, image, time, rhythm and place. Its title is a play on words: seen/scene, unseen/unscene.
This film is made up of a number of layers both sound and visual layered on top of one another, talking to and informing each other. It is made using digital transfer versions of c90 tape compilations I made between 1992-1995, juxtaposed with moving image footage of me in 2018 and 2020 and a typeface font graphic ‘See Me’ that I designed in 2005. The c90 cassette on screen is the cassette compilation that I still have from 1994. 1994 frames the film in time as the age before widescreen TV.
SEE ME: A WALK THROUGH LONDON'S GAY (UN)SEEN (2020) was made during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in London in July 2020. This film includes sections of a walk that I made through Soho, London. As I walk, I listen on headphones to the compilation music tapes that I made when I first came to this area as a teenager in the 1990s. I reflect upon the difference between me in 1994 and me in 2020 and how my relationship to this area of London has changed, may no longer have the same appeal as it did in 1994 or a different kind of appeal in 2020. A friend once commented that I have a particular voice from a particular point in London queer history. My voice and my accent evidence my life so clearly – a specific voice that gives me a specific identity to a specific place.
As I walk down the streets that were so important in shaping my life as a young gay man living in London, I revisit the gay bars and pubs that have been my safe spaces for the last twenty years and more, spaces that are now closed. In this ‘new normal,’ what spaces are available for queer people to perform their visibility? What is the future of those spaces that I discovered on my walk that are currently closed? Will the queer people that once inhabited these spaces become invisible/unseen as their safe spaces have disappeared?
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.
The film includes me walking down Oxford Street to Poland Street to The Kings Arms where I first discovered that bears and cubs don’t just live in the forest. As a hairy slightly stocky gay man, I felt at home amongst men who looked like me, whose bodies were like mine. So where do I go now? Sure, we can ‘meet’ online but that is no way comparable to a set of bodies physically present in the same room. How I miss those days and hope they return soon.
When SEE ME was recently screened at the Westminster LGBT Forum (January 2021), the organiser referred to area that I am walking around during the film during lockdown as ‘dystopia’.
Project Type:Experimental, Short
Runtime:6 minutes 8 seconds
Completion Date:August 23, 2020
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
Gateway Film FestivalPeterborough (Online)
October 16, 2020
Vesuvius International Monthly Film Fest
October 29, 2020
London ArtHouse Film FestivalLondon
December 19, 2020
you are here: the journal of creative geography
Screener Short FilmsLondon
June 17, 2021
Retro Avant Garde Film Festival NYC, 2021New York City
November 14, 2021
Best Psychedelic Fantasy Winner
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.
Lee’s 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 already been selected to screen in these prestigious events/festivals: Beyond Words curated by Gabriel Sosa, Fountain Street Gallery, Boston USA, Micromania Film Festival and The Football Art Prize, UK-touring exhibition to Touchstones Rochdale, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
RECENT SELECTED AWARDS:
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
I am a Londoner who makes experimental films and performance poetry about being gay and working class using barbaric wit and humour’. I create performance poetry and experimental film as a form of autoethnographic storytelling/sharing of personal narratives often raw, often painful but always generous and authentic.
I 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.