SEE ME: A WALK THROUGH LONDON'S GAY SOHO 1994 AND 2020 (2022)
** SHORTLISTED FOR OUTSPOKEN PRIZE FOR POETRY BEST FILM 2023 **
** WINNER of BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM for 'SEE ME' (2021) at Ealing Film Festival, London 2022 **
'It is a true collage of sound and image, with an abstract continuity of the cassette/eyes. Although a personal history it is also a social one, but treated in an inventive and multi-layered technique.'
EALING FILM FESTIVAL, NOVEMBER 2022
'a real sense of desolation...elegiac'
‘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’
‘It has certainly been a time for introspection, voluntary or imposed and this odyssey into the past is a stimulating evocation of how identity is formed and celebrated - and lost, albeit temporarily if the human condition's ability to recover its sense of self resumes its familiar position in life.
‘A fine emotive poem about gay identity, Lee. I think everyone has felt their sense of selfhood eroded by lockdown, but it’s no doubt hit the LGBTQ community harder.’
‘Thank for sharing your Soho memories and take on lockdown, Lee.’
‘Authentic and revealing in a very personal way Lee.’
‘Love the sunglasses –pirates! – ‘include exclude’ is very sinister – barrier-like faces with their sunglasses’
‘A lovely haunting quality; a lovely modernity to it whilst still being archival’
‘‘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 and 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. The film also includes drawings and photographs and other artworks from my personal archive as an artist from the last 25 years.
SEE ME 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.
So where do I go now? Sure, we can ‘meet’ online but that is no way comparable to a set of physical bodies the same room. How I miss those days and hope they return soon.
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.
Whilst I reflect upon the past, I am reminded of my troubled relationship to this area/gay culture. As artist Clunie Reid commented upon this work: ‘What is brilliant in the work is that Lee is troubled about it, that gay culture is not straight forward. The drawings with the irony create a kind of troubledness about gay culture and discloses (Lee's) personal relationship to it’
Despite my difficulty with aspects of the gay male community, 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?
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?
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.
Runtime:12 minutes 6 seconds