In September 1976, video artists Colin Campbell and Lisa Steele packed a Volkswagen station wagon full of equipment and clothes and left Toronto for Southern California. The couple stayed in a small two-story cottage in Venice Beach until their Canada Council grant money ran out in May 1977. In this new environment they saw themselves as “anthropologists studying a very strange culture through its everyday media and manifestations.” Living and working in close proximity, they keenly observed the outside world of sunshine and spectacle to source stories, personas, and other cultural detritus for their respective practices. Processing this material through writing and performance for video, they crafted works like The Woman from Malibu series and The Scientist Tapes, which put into circulation novel forms of love and kinship, subcultural attitudes, and queer styles. Fusing performance and narrative via video, they self-reflexively mined the schism between an “authentic” self and the artifice of a constructed persona, or as Campbell called it “internal” versus “external” fiction. Ironic and intimate, Campbell and Steele’s engagement with mass media and social and psychic life extends the boundaries of identity and desire in a way that continues to resonate forty years later.This exhibition gathers together the pioneering videos that Campbell and Steele made together in Venice Beach for the first time in Southern California, alongside a selection of photos, artists’ books, texts, and ephemera.“I Almost Ran Over Liza Minnelli Today”: Colin Campbell and Lisa Steele in L.A., 1976–77 is guest curated by Jon Davies. The exhibition is organized by the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc.
Colin Campbell was born in Reston, MB, Canada, in 1942, and received his MFA from the Claremont Graduate School. His works include Sackville, I’m Yours(1972), The Woman from Malibu (1976), and Bad Girls (1980). He moved to Toronto in 1973 and taught at the Ontario College of Art and at the University of Toronto. His videos have shown at the Bienal de São Paulo (1977), Venice Biennale (1980), the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other venues. Campbell was also a founding director of Vtape and passed away in 2001.
Lisa Steele was born in Kansas City, MO, in 1947 and immigrated to Canada in 1968; she currently resides in Toronto. Her solo works include the Birthday Suit – with scars and defects (1974), A Very Personal Story (1974), and The Gloria Tapes (1980). Since 1983 she has collaborated exclusively and extensively with Kim Tomczak. Her videos have been shown at Venice Biennale (1980), Kunsthalle Basel, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Long Beach Museum of Art, among other venues. She is also a founding director of Vtape and Professor at the University of Toronto.
Jon Davies is a curator, writer, and PhD candidate in Art History at Stanford University. Between 2008–12 his curated retrospective People Like Us: The Gossip of Colin Campbell toured widely. In 2011–12, he curated the large-scale group exhibition Coming After while Assistant Curator at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto. His book about Paul Morrissey’s film Trash was published in 2009 and he recently co-edited Little Joe issue #5 with Sam Ashby in 2016.
Image: (left) Colin Campbell, Shango Botanica, 1977. Video, 42 minutes (production still). Courtesy of Vtape, Toronto. Image: (right) Colin Campbell, The Woman from Malibu, 1976. Video, 12 minutes (production still). Courtesy of Vtape, Toronto