“I Almost Ran Over Liza Minnelli Today”: Colin Campbell and Lisa Steele in L.A., 1976–77

Colin Campbell, production still from the video The Woman from Malibu, 1976. Courtesy of Vtape, Toronto.

Colin Campbell, production still from the video The Woman from Malibu, 1976. Courtesy of Vtape, Toronto.

Colin Campbell, production still from the video The Temperature in Lima, 1976. Courtesy of Vtape, Toronto.

Colin Campbell, production still from the video The Temperature in Lima, 1976. Courtesy of Vtape, Toronto.

Colin Campbell, production still from the video Shango Botanica, 1977. Courtesy of Vtape, Toronto.

Upcoming

Colin Campbell and Lisa Steele

Curator
Jon Davies

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-storey cottage in Venice Beach until their Canada Council for the Arts 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, alongside a selection of photographs, artists’ books, texts, and ephemera.

The exhibition was first presented by the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. at the ONE Gallery, West Hollywood.

Biography

Lisa Steele

Lisa Steele was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1947 and immigrated to Canada in 1968; she currently resides in Toronto. Her solo works include Birthday Suit – with scars and defects (1974), A Very Personal Story (1974), and The Gloria Tapes (1980). Since 1983 she has collaborated…

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Biography

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell was born in Reston, Manitoba, in 1942 and received his MFA from the Claremont Graduate School in 1969. His works include Sackville, I’m Yours… (1972), The Woman from Malibu (1976), and Bad Girls (1980). He moved to Toronto in 1973…

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Biography

Jon Davies

Jon Davies is a Montreal-born 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 across Canada…

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