SEE ME: A WALK THROUGH LONDON'S GAY (UN)SEEN (2020)

SEE ME: A WALK THROUGH LONDON'S GAY (UN)SEEN (2020)

‘The layering, the eyes, the holes of the cassette tape, just like a painting. Just by walking on the street you can make a film’

'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’.

  • Lee Campbell
    Director
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short
  • Runtime:
    6 minutes 8 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 23, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Gateway Film Festival
    Peterborough (Online)
    United Kingdom
    October 16, 2020
    UK Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Vesuvius International Monthly Film Fest

    Italy
    October 29, 2020
    OFFICIAL SELECTION
  • London ArtHouse Film Festival
    London
    United Kingdom
    December 19, 2020
    Official Selection
  • you are here: the journal of creative geography

    Official Selection
  • Screener Short Films
    London
    June 17, 2021
    Honorable Mention
  • Retro Avant Garde Film Festival NYC, 2021
    New York City
    United States
    November 14, 2021
    Best Psychedelic Fantasy Winner
Director Biography - Lee Campbell

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

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Director Statement

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.