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Colin Campbell

About the artist | Video clips | Printer friendly

Video still from <b>Sackville, I'm Yours...</b> by Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell, Sackville, I'm Yours..., (1972), 5:34 min. excerpt from the 14:40 min. original

Video still from <b>Hollywood and Vine</b> by Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell, Hollywood and Vine, (1977), 7:28 min. excerpt from the 20:00 min. original

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About these works

Sackville, I'm Yours... (1972)
Distributed by Vtape.

Sackville, I'm Yours... is a fifteen-minute masterpiece, one of Colin Campbell's earliest video works. Amusing and understated, it introduces many of the themes and issues that would occupy Campbell throughout his career: the ambivalent identity of the subject, the investigation of sexuality and gender, the glamorous public persona.

We see Campbell-head-and-shoulders in a stark white studio. He introduces himself as Art Star, a famous artist living in Sackville (a small university town in Atlantic Canada), and he is responding to questions (unheard by the audience) of an invisible interviewer. He describes his fabulous lifestyle: tuna casserole with the university president, his own parking spot on campus, friendships with other famous people. He is elegance and composure personified. As a "talking head" Campbell plays with the conventions of television fame, and his unclothed shoulders imply he is revealing all to the probing camera eye: all truth, nothing to hide.

Of course, Sackville was hardly an art centre, and video was hardly an entry to art stardom at the time. Yet Campbell's engaging performance perfectly encapsulates the reality of Canada's art world. In 1972, artists created in isolation, while desiring connection with the entire world. As Bruce W. Ferguson notes, "Sackville, I'm Yours... shows clearly how Campbell has been able to continue to work from outside the dualistic model of modernist painting's forms; from outside the Canadian debate on national identity; from within the debates on gendered subjectivity and politics; from within the distresses of a masculinist culture; from outside the ideological and technological determinations of dominant cultures." (Ferguson 22) As an opening salvo to a long career, Sackville, I'm Yours... set the terms.

Hollywood and Vine (1977)
Distributed by Vtape.

Hollywood and Vine is the final tape in a six-part series, The Woman from Malibu, which marked Campbell's shift from solo performances and improvised text to the fully scripted mode characteristic of his subsequent work. The piece was in part a response to life in southern California, with its strange inhabitants and bizarre realities. The Woman from Malibu was inspired by actual news items, but the character soon took on a life of her own. As Campbell says in an interview with Sue Ditta, "I ended up playing the Woman from Malibu sort of by accident. I didn't know anyone in California, I had no money-it just seemed like a natural to play her. [...] I became quite involved with her. That's why I didn't try to separate her from me in terms of appearance and certainly not in terms of voice." (Ditta 40)

As the piece opens we see Campbell sitting by a TV screen as he becomes the Woman from Malibu with her mascara and earrings, her blond wig and sunglasses. She talks about recent events and her desires for the future, then-ready-she walks out into the desert, alone, searching for pony skeletons, and disappears into the distance. As critic Stuart Marshall has written of this work, "I was unsettled and disturbed; but this play with my emotions, this movement, this shift from the secure place I expected to occupy as a viewing subject was accompanied by a thrill, a sense that the world of representation was being broken up to allow new possibilities to be glimpsed-the possibilities of other dramas, other fictions, other realisms, other subjectivities." (Marshall 24)

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