Turner Prize-nominated artist Duncan Campbell returns to home soil as part of GENERATION

Campbell's Venice Biennale film is ambitious mediation on objects, meaning, economic value and art itself

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Duncan Campbell

Photo: Ruth Clark

Following the Common Guild-curated Scottish show at last year’s Venice Biennale, all three artists have solo shows back home in Glasgow as part of GENERATION. Duncan Campbell is the last to show to his home crowd, and this work is the most demanding, involving two films, shown consecutively, which last for about 90 minutes.

It’s a difficult work to dip in to, a bold step for Venice where the art-viewing public are trying to accomplish something akin to a world tour in a couple of days. But the boldness was repaid by the work’s critical reception, which earned Campbell a place on this year’s Turner Prize shortlist.

It’s one of his most complex works to date, beginning as a response to Chris Marker and Alain Resnais’ 1953 essay film Les Statues Meurent Aussi, which reflects on how artefacts from sub-Saharan Africa are turned into objets d’art, losing their original meaning in the process. This is shown in full (in French, though an English text is available) in sequence with Campbell’s own film, It for Others.

His piece echoes Les Statues aesthetically, with its lingering contemplation of tribal artefacts while orchestral music plays in the background. But it also broadens the discussion into a wider contemplation of objects and how we apportion them meaning and value, from a plate of steak and chips to an iconic photograph or a tribal mask. Marker and Resnais’ film itself becomes an object being contemplated.

Part of the film is a collaboration with Michael Clark Dance Company, in which Campbell shoots the dancers from above, concentrating on abstract shapes their bodies make. How does one put a value on that, he seems to ask? Yet, in an art context, it too becomes objectified. Campbell’s film opens questions within questions, an ambitious meditation on objects, meaning, economic value and, therefore, art itself.

The Common Guild, Glasgow, Sat 20 Sep–25 Oct.

Duncan Campbell

Films that look at the representation of people and events, questioning the authority, integrity and intentions behind the information presented.

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