Peter Campus is a seminal figure in the history of video art. In a distinguished career that spans four decades, he has been crucial in developing the potential of video within a gallery space and he has been a major influence to artists from Bill Viola to Douglas Gordon. This new exhibition, opening on 11 December at BFI Gallery
brings together some of his key works alongside a new commission for the BFI, and a retrospective of his video work in the BFI cinemas.
Born in 1937 in New York , Campus first came to prominence as an artist in the early 70s. His installation work of that time places the visitor in the leading position of activator of the work, challenging the passive role that video (through television) usually brings. This exhibition reunites three significant examples of Campuss close-circuit works, Kiva (1971), Stasis (1973) and mem (1975), together with a six screen work newly commissioned by the BFI, Inflections: changes in light and colour around Ponquogue Bay (2009).
Campuss close-circuit works subvert the viewer/work relationship; it is only when the visitor enters the field of the work that the piece is actually activated. Far from being interactive in the better known sense of the term, these works are fully realised only through the visitors movements within the space; but while visitors observe and explore a different, yet live and highly recognisable portrait of themselves, such physical engagement soon becomes mental and emotional.
Campuss interest in technological experimentation has always been accompanied by a strong concern for composition, as seen in Inflections: changes in light and colour around Ponquogue Bay (2009), the work which the artist has created specifically for the BFI. Static, slowed down videos shot around Ponquogue Bay - on the south shore of Long Island , New York , near where Campus lives - are digitally altered to create abstract landscapes. The resulting hypnotic images are suspended between painting and video, stillness and movement.
Peter Campus received a BS in Experimental Psychology from Ohio State University and then attended the City College Film Institute. Among the many awards he has received are a fellowship from the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and New York University . His close-circuit installations, video works and photography have been widely exhibited internationally in numerous solo shows and are part of major collections such as Whitney Museum of American Art and Kunsthalle , Bremen .