A mirror reflects the face of a man with his back to the viewer. Hand raised and lips parted, he is making up his right eye. Next to him, a television shows footage of a highway shot from a moving car.

Colin Campbell

(Reston, Manitoba, 1942 – Toronto 2001)

 

Hollywood and Vine

1977

Videotape, black and white, 18 min on Betacam SP sub-master

Purchased in 1978

National Gallery of Canada, 28344

© Estate of Colin Campbell


The video Hollywood and Vine erodes the boundaries of masculinity and femininity. In the excerpt presented, the artist stands with his back to the camera, which captures the reflection of his face in a mirror. He puts on makeup, earrings and a blond wig, gradually becoming the Woman from Malibu, an alter ego he developed in California in 1976 and 1977. By demonstrating the process of his transformation, Campbell depicts gender as a series of artifices, rather than as an innate condition. The character’s monologue, constructed from snippets of conversations, ranges between absurd and tragic. 


A pioneer of video art in Canada, Colin Campbell began exploiting this medium in the early 1970s, when the use of video in the visual arts was still very marginal. Starring in almost all of his works, Campbell staged himself in drag to bring multiple personae to life. His importance in the history of Canadian art extends to educational endeavours, as the founder of the Visual Studies Program at the University of Toronto and a founding member of Vtape, a leading distributor of Canadian video art. Campbell’s humorous works foster new understanding of identities and desires.

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