Selected by Monica Nunez
Irish-born artist Duncan Campbell is interested in the seductive power of stories. With a nod to Samuel Beckett's humour, his work juxtaposes the inherent promise of storytelling with the breakdown of narrative and the inevitable disintegration of meaning.
Campbell's artistic production spans across several media. He is known for setting up the artist-run radio station 'Radio Tuesday' and his knitted versions of nightclub posters. More recently he has turned to filmmaking - in enigmatic yet compelling works such as 'Falls Burns Malone Fiddles' (2003) and 'o Joan, no...' (2006).
'Fall Burns Malone Fiddles' (2003) pieces together photographs of young working class people and depressed neighbourhoods taken in Belfast during the Troubles. Far from being the iconic representations of violence and political unrest that come to mind, these images make place for everyday existence; the hairstyles, fashions and aspirations of the moment. The soundtrack to this montage was a monologue read in a near-impenetrable Scottish accent by actor Ewen Bremner (perhaps best known as Spud in the film Trainspotting) which combined excerpts of dense sociological theory with a vague stream of consciousness. At a certain point a thin black line starts to unroll across the screen, adding a new layer of elusive, overlapping description.
Duncan Campbell assumes the role of the untrustworthy narrator that reluctantly tells his story. In 'o Joan, no...' (2006) the camera stares at an overpowering darkness interrupted by inexplicable moans, breathing patterns and minimal blinks of light. The film anticipates an action that never materializes, nurturing a dramatic vacuum.
Campbell's preoccupation with human truth and his refusal to adhere to formal or narrative conventions also resonate in his latest project, a documentary about Irish activist Bernadette Devlin (still in progress). The film combines archival material with footage and animation shot by Campbell. The over-layering of documentation and narratives, again, sets the pace and feel of the film. As he explains, 'I want to faithfully represent Devlin, to do justice to her legacy. Yet I am working with mediated images of her and writings about her. What I produce can only ever be a selection of these representations, via my own obsessions and my desire to make winning art of her. I want to broaden the scope of the film to include this space and tension, which is typically excluded or concealed.'
Duncan Campbell completed the MFA at Glasgow School of Art in 1998 and BA Fine Art at the University of Ulster, 1996. He lives and works in Glasgow and is represented by Galerie Luis Campana, Cologne. Solo exhibitions include The Unnamable, Lux at Lounge, London (2006), Something in Nothing, TART Contemporary, San Francisco (2005), Falls Burns Malone Fiddles, Galerie Luis Campana, Cologne (2004) and Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2003).
His work has also been featured in You have not been honest, Museo D'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples (2007), Art Now Lightbox, Tate Britain, London (2006), Archaeology of Today?, Els Hanappe Underground, Athens (2005), Revolution is Not What it Used to Be, S1 Artspace Sheffield (2004), Manifesta 5, European Biennial of Contemporary Art, San Sebastian (2004), Emotion Eins, Frankfurter Kunstverin, Frankfurt am Main (2004), Fresh and Upcoming, a project with Luke Fowler at Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main (2003) and Old Habits Die Hard, Sparwasser HQ Berlin and Norwich Gallery (2003).
Monica Nunez is exhibitions curator at the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.
Duncan Campbell on Open Frequency
(nominated by Sarah Lowndes 2005)