Spinach and Eggs (Live Zoom Performance)
Many 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. 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 labeling (giving gay men an identity such as ‘cub’. ‘bear’ etc.) and body shaming, my recent 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 that gay men are expected to conform to, where identity becomes something detached or external and how they can fit into that. 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 label and 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, wolf etc.’ and addresses power relations in queer subcultures and particularly within queer male spaces of conviviality which engage in processes of inclusion and exclusion. It employs protest art, of modes of representation, chanting within ACT UP and queer movements, of political campaign. Reminiscent of early guerrilla protest video art from the 1980s, the performance combines fine art and moving image by including my own drawings of my body. There is so much humor 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
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.
Collage is such a tired word. SPINACH AND EGGS proposes a new way of thinking about collage as a term by creating a bridge between video and performance. What may it mean to remediate, excavate and bring back to life a personal archive of paintings and drawings and mobile phone recording made over the span of 25 years through the medium of moving image and then remediate that remediation through the medium of live performance via Zoom?Innovating the possibilities of media re-use, feeding-back and looping round of text, and the layering of the voices, this multi-layered multimedia sociocreative performance live Zoom performance is a colourful, immersive, textured, organic and disorienting montage of young queer experience told through my own personal autobiography. ‘Never seen anything THAT immersive on Zoom!' one audience member recently commented. The key underlying principles in early video art were the body and the performance object and that was the thing that signified its liveness and differentiated it from the history of cinema /avant-garde film. The parts of the performance presented as a back projection performance comes from the history of video art (Vito Acconci, Valie Export, early Nam June Paik, Robert Morris’ film Mirror etc.) where the camera becomes like a mirror or a viewer that can be controlled. The video being live and able to feedback on itself is similar to my Zoom usage here.. On one hand the work is like a flashback 45 years but now bought into the present due to the now unprecedented familiar use of Zoom as a desktop communication tool in 2020/1 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Zoom attempts to put bodies in a room (at a time) when you can’t have bodies in a room. People have become much more familiar with it to a point of fatigue in terms of amongst other things, how it promotes a disembodied embodiment. In this Zoom explosion, primary importance has been given to the face and the way that we are looking at each other now even to the naming of an app like Facetime (similar model to Zoom just different name) and not as Matthew Noel-Tod, when in conversation about this work, wittlingly remarked, called ‘Backtime’. The face is hugely significant in all this technology so me turning my back is a simple yet powerful reversal of that. Reading me as well as hearing me. A recent viewer suggested that my turned back appears almost demonic. Whilst it could be said to turn one’s back on an audience is a deliberate act to conceal oneself or block the audience, that’s not what is happening here either. A friend commented upon seeing the performance that her favourite part was when I turn around to check if the audience are ‘still there’. The performance really pushes Zoom’s visual aesthetics as a means to frame, act as a visual container and play with different levels of order and chaos through the visual confinement achieved. With my back turned to audience, my back operates like a screen/projection surface, exploiting the fragmented-ness and inaccessible feeling of turning your back to the audience.. Green screen effect employed with a constant repetitive video being played ‘projected’ onto my back gives the impression of text and imagery superimposed over my body, that I am wearing text/imagery like a garment, that of a body that has been layered with fragments of text/images/ history. Sounds that can be heard throughout the performance are textured, glitchy and uncomfortable deliberately to give a sense of layers which in turn gives the painful impression of things (the many bodies that feature) being skinned. My back turned to the camera/to the audience constantly comes in and out of the green screen; my body that keeps getting subsumed and emerging again. Whilst some viewers have comment that they thought I was really controlling the green screen, but I have no control; as the green screen progresses, the body seems to disappear more and more as more and more layers on the surface. Containing so many visual and audio clashes and dizzying sound levels for texture and difference, the layering subsides in places and towards the end and the taunts are heard more clearly. Whilst there are moments throughout the performance where I make everything super clear and then I go back out, this is a performance where the importance and clarity of hearing an understanding is deliberately obscured/ intentionally difficult to decipher; an intentional confusion to suggest that the audience many not understand what's going on. Whilst audiences may or may not pick up on all the many references here, it is intended that they will, at base level, have a sensory/elusive view of the work, as one viewer recently described ‘a block of amazing visual and auditory input’. Whilst it could be said to turn one’s back on an audience is a deliberate act to conceal oneself or block the audience, that’s not what is happening here either. The audience is never sure what is live, what is pre-recorded and what is playback of what has been recorded during the live performance. Pre-recorded sounds playing in the background on iTunes shuffle which I react to there and then in the moment of liveness. Some viewers of documentation of the performance have mentioned that they are completely unaware that they were watching documentation of a live performance. Some have suggested that the writing on my back is happening live too. Whilst the green screen background acts a base, each live iteration containing so many levels of improvisation means that the performance can never be repeated twice. Its duration is important (beyond the initial early iterations of this work at approx.. 5 minutes); through a length(ier) the viewer is shown the complexity of the layers, what’s in them and how they interact, and they are being show that again and again and again and it’s never the same. 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.