Open Frequency 2010: Aileen Campbell selected by Kristin Mojsiewicz

Open Frequency 2010: Aileen Campbell selected by Kristin Mojsiewicz Aileen Campbell, as gundula janowitz, 2005. Video

Artist and lecturer, Dr Kirstin Mojsiewicz profiles the sound and performance work of Glasgow-based artist Aileen Campbell

Aileen Campbell has an expansive voice. To use the term ‘soprano’ does not say enough. To state that she slides from consonance to dissonance does not express the feelings of vertigo this causes.

She uses her voice to describe or translate specific spaces. However, this does not adequately illustrate the range of her vocal reach. She can mimic the drone of a hairdryer and harmonise with a popcorn machine, but this does not convey the tonal range and pitch she fully inhabits: 'When performing, people experience my pitched voice, that is how I appear as a visual artist. My voice is a locator, discerns space, unites, divides, and is a thing capable of huge descriptive qualities, with a range of accuracy' (Aileen Campbell, Stills Gallery).

Aileen Campbell Warm Up

Aileen Campbell, Warm Up, 2006. Video still

Campbell’s work sits at the intersection of art, performance and sound, and is both formal and informal in structure: a trained painter, a former chorister, and a vocal performer of Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, she slips between states.

It is perhaps odd, then, to regard Campbell as a ‘reluctant performer’ (Interview with the artist, 2008). She undertakes challenging feats while singing – in 'what if I do it like this?' (2006), a series of physical experiments in a given location, Campbell succeeds in performing press-ups as she sings. The breathing produced by physical exertion is completely at odds with the breathing techniques of vocal performance.

As a motif it reoccurs in her practice and as a method it provides the opportunity for the performance to ‘fail’ by standard criteria. Her reinterpretation of the trampolining scene from the 1996 film Shine, 'as jane edwards and geoffrey rush' (2005), re-imagines the protagonist and the accompanying disembodied voice in one body and of one voice. Campbell explores the dislocation between body and voice in cinema, singing Vivaldi as a live, videoed performance with a quartet (MFA show, Tramway, Glasgow, 2005) and trampoline ('As Jane Edwards and Geoffrey Rush' performance with live cinema link, Kill Your Timid Notion, DCA, Dundee, 2008).

In a more subtle way, this is also investigated in the video work, 'as gundula janowitz and edith mathis' (2005), which presents Campbell as both soprano voices singing a Mozart duet. Each ‘part’ is filmed from above as Campbell lies, supine, on a park roundabout. The roundabout on each screen contra-rotates, resembling the spools of a reel-to-reel player. The visual disjunction of these rotating ‘spools’ is sutured whole by the voice and its aural partner. For me this is one of the most engaging of Campbell’s works in its exploration of ‘a split double’: the performer looking for an echo or accompaniment, the acoustic other complementing and completing the sonorous body of the artist.

Campbell uses the acoustic ‘mirroring’ of her voice to test the edges and boundaries of her environment. In 'Mariakapel Rondo' (2003) the voice of the artist is magnified and replayed simultaneously through speakers.

Using an architectural structure shaped like the ‘crown’ of a chapel, Campbell’s head is partially hidden by the suspended acoustic chamber. This temporary cardboard ‘kapel’ acts as a playful amplification of her voice while hiding her eyes from the gaze of the audience.

It is a particularly apposite image for the reluctant performer to present, but also one that captures and contains her voice from soaring into the ether – a way of being ‘with’ her voice as part of 'a plausible body' (Interview with the artist, 2008).

Dr Kristin Mojsiewicz, October 2010

Artist's biography

Aileen Campbell lives and works in Glasgow. She studied BA (Hons) Fine Art at Grays School of Art, Aberdeen (1987-1991) followed by an MFA at Glasgow School of Art (2002-2005) which included a one-year exchange at CalArts, Los Angeles. She has received a number of awards including the Royal Glasgow Institute Painting Award (1996), the Deans Award, CalArts, Los Angeles (2004) and most recently a Creative Scotland Artists Development award (2010).

Campbell’s solo exhibitions have been staged at Gimpel Fils, London (2006), Transmission, Glasgow (2007), Brown Gallery, London (2008), DCA, Dundee (2008), Artis den Bosch, Hertogenbosch (2008) and Tramway, Glasgow (2009).

Selected group exhibitions include Finn Collective, the Glue Factory, Glasgow International (2010); Artists’ Films Screening, Glasgow International at BBC (2010); Running Time, Scottish Artists Films 1960-present, Dean Gallery, Edinburgh (2009); Interplay, Bury St Edmunds Gallery (2009); Communication Suite, curated by Christine Borland, Medical Building, Glasgow University (2008); I love my popcorn machine, solo performance at Big Chill, Eastnor Castle, 2008; In the Manner of Songs and Drones, performance for Nought to Sixty, ICA, London (2008); Build a Room, performance with Neil Davidson, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh (2007); Residency at Cubed3, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (2006); New Works, Aileen Campbell + Ian Balsch, GSS Gallery, Bridgegate, Glasgow (2005) and Chronicle (The Rabble Voice), Glasgow International, Tramway, Glasgow (with publication, 2005).

About Dr Kristin Mojsiewicz

Dr Kristin Mojsiewicz is an artist and lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art, where she teaches on the BA and MFA programmes. Based in Glasgow, she is co-director of Brass Art with collaborators Chara Lewis (Manchester) and Anneké Pettican (Huddersfield).

Brass Art have worked together since 1999, collaboratively producing work, commissioning and curating. They were nominated for the Northern Art Prize in 2007, and recently exhibited at the A Foundation – Liverpool (2010), Concrete and Glass – London (2010), Object Gallery – Sydney (2010), The International 3 – Manchester, (2010, solo) the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2008), Croft Castle commission (2008), Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2008, solo).

Kristin’s video work has been shown in film festivals in: Italy, Germany, Japan, Israel, Brazil, USA, Russia, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and France, and: Arsenals - Riga, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art - Helsinki, Centre for Contemporary Art - Warsaw, Kunsthalle Exnergasse - Vienna, Kölnischer Kunstverien - Cologne.

She works mainly in video, installation, photography and drawing in her own practice, which focuses on the process of re/orientation within any given space. In 2009 she completed a practice-led PhD at Edinburgh College of Art (AHRC funded).

Kristin and Brass Art are represented by the International3, Manchester.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.