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.’
Ben Bowles, Margate Bookie Film Festival
LEE DISCUSSING SEE ME (2020) at GATEWAY FILM FESTIVAL 2020 FILMMAKER DISCUSSION:
The title of this film is a play on words: seen/scene, unseen/unscene.
This film 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.
This film includes sections of a walk that I made through Soho, London in the Summer of 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. 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.
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. In this ‘new normal’ - what spaces are now open for queer people to perform their visibility and what’s the future of those spaces that I discovered on my walk that are currently closed? Will certain closed spaces now mean that for some queer people, they will become invisible/unseen as their safe spaces have gone?
The film begins with 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. The film begins with 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 (possibly a little tipsy!) 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
Dr Lee Campbell is an artist, experimental filmmaker, curator, lecturer at University of the Arts London and founder of Homo Humour Films, the first of its kind project on contemporary queer male film and moving image practices that explore humour and LGBTQ+ storytelling. His recent moving image work revolves around his personal autobiographical perspective and explores (gay male) identity and desire. Comedy is an integral part of his work. He uses it to engage, disarm, and highlight.
He completed a BA in Painting in 2000, a Masters in Painting in 2007 and received his doctorate PhD in 2016 and was part of the artist studio programme Conditions between 2018-2020. Key performances include Whitstable Biennale 2008 and artist residencies at The Banff Centre, Canada 2012 and Spazju Kreattiv, Malta 2019. In 2009, his performance work was featured in a publication written by Bob and Roberta Smith called Hijack Reality: How to Guide to Organize a Really Top-Notch Art Festival. Between 2007-2011, he regularly performed as part of Testing Grounds.
His recent films have been selected for many international film festivals including Queerbee LGBT Film Festival in London, SPLICE Film Festival, New York, MicroMania Film Festival, MicroActs International Artist Film Festival 2020, and The Gilbert Baker Film Festival, Kansas 2020. Future screenings of his films include HOMOGRAPHY, Brussels, Visions 2020 selected by Hetain Patel, The Nunnery, Bow Arts Trust, London, Porn Film Festival, Vienna, Satyrs and Maenads: the Athens Porn Film Festival, Athens, and Pornfilmfestival, Berlin in 2021. He was awarded a Special Mention at London-Worldwide Comedy Short Film Festival Autumn 2019 and won Semi-Finalist (3rd place winner) at SPLICE Film Festival, New York in 2020.
In 2020 he has been featured in John Hopper’s Inspirational magazine, appeared as a guest speaker for Tim Kirk’s ZERO Q: 20 QUESTIONS WITH INTERESTING PEOPLE FROM THE LGBT COMMUNITY and featured twice already this year on Queerguru.com.
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 has curated Radical Ventriloquism at Kelder, London and presented Homo Humour Films screenings in Miami and Italy (Online).
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.