'LOST FOR WORDS' (2011) at South Hill Park UK and Belgrade, Serbia
Review by Corinne Felgate
Review by Corinne Felgate
Lee Campbell's 'Lost for Words' brought the evening to a close, utilising performance as a means of closure in itself. The audience re-enters after a short interval to find Campbell and his co-performer exquisitely framed in the space with an expanse of wooden floor and white walls behind them. They sit opposite one another on chairs in the stock academic student-lecturer set up. 'Lost for Words' takes its structure directly from academic process, the discussion of an idea, the resulting power struggle, the making of the work and the evaluation of the process. In true Campbell style this conservative structure makes for anything but a conservative performance. Campbell and his student (Matthew) explore all the cringe-worthy power struggles that the roles of academia generate, but their delivery is like Educating Rita - on speed. Together the pair spin a soliloquy of cliché's, both beautiful and banal.Campbell is all too familiar with the world of art academia, as both a lecturer and PhD student. The performance is heavily psychoanalytical, and though I would pay good money to see Campbell hauled up with his PhD supervisor in a shrink's office, 'Lost for Words' provides a hearty slice of juicy voyeurism on that very scenario. In between the self-reflection and introspection of academia lies real Campbell gold. A few minutes in, he takes his audience on a rhythmic descent into a Dada boot camp. Before they know it audience members are circumnavigating the room with clear plastic cups pressed to their ears marching to Campbell's maniacal drum - all aboard space station Campbell.There are several picture perfect moments when the two performers bound into the room in a dyspraxic nightmare, fusing binary opposites and corresponding actions. Left and right are heard as one succinct sound as the two gesticulate in contradicting directions. Campbell plays the peasant and the philosopher, and in beautiful Schrodinger's cat moments plays god, allowing multiple truths to exist in the same moment.
'Lost for Words' is a performative articulation of Guy Debord's society of the spectacle. Reality is replaced by representation. Campbell seamlessly transfers theory into art, he creates visual articulations of tautologies, he teaches, and he teases. This piece has a library of theory behind it, but the real triumph of this work, continues to be Campbell's unharnessable and innate ability to direct his audience towards moments of cinematic perfection.
The audience find themselves 'connected' to a stranger up to 30 feet away with only a plastic cup and string as a means of communication and in this, the beautiful futility of human existence shines though; this is a magic moment.
Campbell is ultimately a painter who layers life. His pieces are portraits of humanity, where the good the bad and the ugly gel to make his audience nostalgic for now, where failure is celebrated and everyone exploited. Campbell is currently heavily focused on concepts of liminality, and this luminal state is exactly what he creates; neither a painting nor a performance, 'Lost for Words' is a work on canvas that combusts the very second it is complete.