SPINACH AND EGGS (2021) Video poem by Lee Campbell
‘Smash the fads, rip the mags, and break out those daddy bellies! ' OUTSTREAM FILM FESTIVAL
‘Gatekeeping of the stereotypes that exist within the LGBT community in terms how films dealing with LGBT representation show how queer people are meant to be/perform/behave/label themselves and put themselves in a box’
‘We want to make people think and Lee’s films do just that. He provides a unique perspective and even though his films aren’t explicit, they make you think about the body and about queer sexuality and about how society manipulates our perspective on both. Most of our customers are students and academics who want to learn more about the body, sexuality and society. We also have people who have never thought about different methods of sexual expression. We provide them with different depictions of the body and sexuality, both for education and artistic enjoyment. And Lee does it in such an artistic way!’ Adrineh, Arthouse Vienna
'We loved the themes running through your poem touching on masculinity and the self-discovery of sexuality.. We loved the pieces when we viewed them and their ability to tackle issues faced in the gay community. We feel that many of our readers will find these works relatable and hopefully, this can open up a dialogue to challenge body shaming and other issues in our community.’ Queerlings
‘If you want to get sold'. Oof heavy, love it’
'Very bruising, the scene is a foreign country, they do things differently there... this is brilliant Lee'
‘Love the sunglasses –pirates! – ‘include exclude’ is very sinister – barrier-like faces with their sunglasses’
'Interesting reflective critique as gay male art. Genius'
‘Intercreative with history.. love the resistance too- the energy of the 90s ‘
‘Wow, Lee. Vulnerability exported there. Fatphobia is insidious’
‘Feeling the gut punch. Sharp audio/images/language’
Man you’re on fire!!! (Quite literally in places 🔥) You’re literally taking the lecture performance to a whole new level! I love the bravery and honesty and the whole looking/eye thing - your power with it, it’s power over individuals (as in its all about how we look). You’re also a bloody good poet!!
I watched your performance at 5 last night via the link you sent, enjoyed it, intense and uncomfortable at times. That pub was my regular haunt in the mid 80s. My experience of "the community" is playing The Invisible Man these days.’
I enjoyed the mixture of the poetic imagery and the juxtaposition in the anger of the voice The anger pierced the imagery. I was thinking about rhyming slang where the meaning is underneath, if you see what I mean
‘Very intense/emotional/angry performance’
I love that you do writing which isn't delivered in poetry voice (which always feels kind of devotional and romantic to me, and sometimes it is not the time for devotion and romance, but angry and fucked-up-ness), anger, weirdness, play.’
‘I lived in Chelsea NYC in the 90s which was an epicentre of that kind of gay vanity. There was a lot of conversation about the Chelsea boy mentality that came up in your performance Lee’
As Deborah Findlater has suggested, ‘For many marginalised people, the gaze comes with a set of difficulties and issues. Bodies judged, watched, surveilled and projected on.’ Many gay men go to great lengths to achieve one and to achieve a certain overall body type. I am never going to fit into (gay) society’s ideals in terms of body image. Becoming more and more increasingly aware as a gay man of ideals of body image that the gay male community puts on itself (FIT, FAT, FIT, FAT, FIT, FAT). Reminiscent of early guerrilla protest video art from the 1980s, SPINACH AND EGGS employs protest art, of modes of representation /chanting (NO BODY SHAME, NO BODY SHAME) within ACT UP and queer movements, of political campaign, including my own drawings of my own body,, and visual techniques used throughout Marlon Riggs' VOICES UNITED (1989). The narrative poetry highlights identity labelling and stereotyping within the gay male community, a subculture that can be very elitist and ends up reproducing the violence that it claims to be escaping. The imagery that you can see on screen are part of my personal archive of artworks (paintings/photographs/short films/drawings etc.) as an artist from the last 25 years. SPINACH AND EGGS was made with sound and moving image recordings I made on a Sony Ericsson Cybershoot K800i mobile phone between 2005-2006, magazine imagery and photographic stills and moving image recordings made between 2011-2019 on various iPhones including performance for camera. As well as pencil drawings that I made of my body/ self-portraits in 2019. There is so much humour in this work to critique and at times parody, for example, the line, ‘Mr Spinach and Eggs, stick your rules and regs in the hole at the back of the top of my legs!’ Using humour to address really complex issues here related to mental health because of increasing body image demands in the gay community and within society at large. I am the performer. A shadow of my disembodied fist performing moving up and down repeatedly; the fist is the spoken language of violence, of my anger/frustration.
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’
The spaces that young queer people are creating for themselves are animated by a constant sense of self-policing, saying the right thing, being politically correct, body image ideals; feeling quite oppressed themselves. The gay male community is very controlling about what you should look like and how you should behave - why is that community stereotyping themselves? A niched community that is then even more niched. Certain subsets of gay subculture promote themselves as generating inclusive spaces whilst containing aspects that discriminate. Disenchanted with the antagonisms in the gay male community particularly towards labelling (giving gay men an identity such as ‘cub’. ‘bear’ etc.) and body shaming, my recent film, poetry and performance work seeks to bring about re-enchantment with the community I am part of as a gay man but at times which I feel excluded from.
SPINACH AND EGGS reflects on the kinds of role gay men are expected to conform to, where identity becomes something detached or external and how they can fit into that. It explores the idea of being codified by a set of occularcentric taxonomic principles that are meant to determine who you are as a person and how you function in a relationship.
Inspired by my experience of being amongst ‘cubs’ and ‘bears’ in the Kings Arms pub in London, this performance is in actual fact a ‘two fingers up’ to body shaming and labels by saying clearly: ‘Accept me or f*ck off!’. What function does stereotyping or strict boundaries to certain kinds of labels serve? Maybe it’s about being seen. If I can say that I am ‘this’ very definite thing. I can be seen through this kind of role whereas otherwise… We always think there’s a certain kind of playfulness with these roles, but its boundaries are policed so rigidly. SPINACH AND EGGS uses gay slang ‘bear, cub' and addresses power relations in queer subcultures and particularly within queer male spaces of conviviality which engage in processes of inclusion and exclusion.
SPINACH AND EGGS is not just intended for queer men, it is a call for action for all men, regardless of their identity and sexuality. All men, are under so much pressure to have the ‘body beautiful’ made famous in classical Renaissance art. These ideals are not real. They are made up and dictates that that every man aspires to them.
Project Type:Experimental, Short
Runtime:5 minutes 38 seconds
Completion Date:February 20, 2021
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
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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.