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About Colin Campbell
In a career spanning thirty years, Colin Campbell was at the forefront of artists' video, continuing throughout to invent a unique and personal form and content for the medium. Trained originally as a sculptor, he responded early to video's invitation to performance, to its ease with sharing secrets, its permission to see oneself from the outside, as an "other." His earliest works investigated the formal properties of camera and screen, and the nature of the gaze, but moved quickly to incorporate windows, mirrors, and new identities as iconic frames for desire and revelation. With his inspired series, The Woman from Malibu (1977), he developed fully crafted scripts for his productions. With Modern Love (1979) and Bad Girls (1980), he worked with numerous friends from the local Toronto arts community for weekly installments at The Cabana Room, a bar made hugely popular in the resulting art scene. Narrative had become his form, as identity and the body had been his point of departure.
Campbell's performance in the hour-long Dangling By Their Mouths (1981) was more ambitious again-creating Anna, a more complex and nuanced character-and with No Voice Over (1986), he turned to international-location shooting while retaining his reliance on gifted amateur acting and improvised sets. In this period Campbell appeared less often onscreen. In the following decade he created Skin (1989), a 16 mm film concerning women and AIDS, and turned to writing novels. His return to performance and the small screen, with Déjà Vu of 1999, was a tour de force, with Campbell recalling not only The Woman from Malibu and Robin (from Bad Girls and Modern Love) but also creating and playing Colleena, their older sister, in "a tape about the anxiety of aging coupled with unsettling revelations from the past...." (Vtape online catalogue). Déjà Vu led to other titles featuring these characters, and the brief, hilarious series culminated in Disheveled Destiny of 2000, a Canadian government Millennium commission through Owens Art Gallery (Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick).
Born in Reston, Manitoba, 1942, Colin Campbell studied at the University of Manitoba (BFA) and Claremont Graduate School in California (MFA), then taught at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, in the late 1960s and early 1970s where he made his first video works. He moved to Toronto in 1973 and taught first at the Ontario College of Art, now the Ontario College of Art and Design, and then, beginning in 1980, in the Department of Fine Art at University of Toronto. Campbell died of cancer in October 2001 and is greatly mourned by friends and colleagues.
Canada's premier video artist and author of over fifty video titles, Campbell was active in the artist-run centre movement in Canada, a founding member (and for many years president) of Vtape independent video distribution. He curated video and performance programs in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Rio de Janeiro, and published texts in FILE and Fuse magazines. He also produced the artist's books The Woman from Malibu (1978) and Modern Love (1979) commissioned by Art Metropole, Toronto. A retrospective exhibition, Colin Campbell, Media Works 1972-1990, was mounted by curator Bruce W. Ferguson for the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1990 and toured nationally the following year. Campbell received the Bell Canada Award in Video Art in 1996.
Colin Campbell represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1980 and at biennial exhibitions in São Paulo in 1977 and Istanbul in 1992, as well as at OKanada in Berlin (Akademie der Künste, 1982) and documenta in Kassel, Germany in 1977. He exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée National d'Art Moderne (Paris), the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum (New York), and at museums and galleries elsewhere in Europe and throughout Canada and the United States. His video and film were included in the television series Ghosts in the Machine (Channel Four Television, London) and Video Art Vidéo (TVOntario) and aired on Vision Television (Toronto). His work has been screened at the Melbourne Film Festival, British Film Institute Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Festival of Festivals (the precursor to Toronto's International Film Festival), the Chicago International Film Festival, and elsewhere. A memorial conference on his work is planned by the University of Toronto, with an accompanying comprehensive publication.