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Peter Campus: Opticks - BFI Southbank Gallery

Exhibition preview

A NEW exhibition, Peter Campus: Opticks, will be on display at the BFI Southbank Gallery from December 11, 2009 to February 14, 2010.

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 been a major influence to artists from Bill Viola to Douglas Gordon.

This new exhibition 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 Campus’ 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).

Campus’ 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 visitor’s 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.

Campus’ 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, 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 in Conversation – December 11, 6:10pm, NFT3. Tickets £5.

To explore Peter Campus’s oeuvre and the ideas behind his BFI show, the artist will be in conversation with Elisabetta Fabrizi, BFI Head of Exhibitions.

Peter Campus Screenings

Programmes of Peter Campus’ video works will be screened at BFI Southbank in December and January. Tickets £5.

Admission: Free.

Times: Tuesday to Sunday (and Bank Holiday Mondays): 11am to 8pm.

BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XT

Tel: 020 7633 0274 (daily information), 020 7928 3232 (box office)