On Thursday 8th May, I attended a screening and talk at the Whitechapel gallery. This screening was on the same day that The Turner Prize finalists were announced in the press of which Duncan Campbell’s 2013 film It For Others will be shown as part of the Turner Prize exhibition later this year. I came to this film due to my interest in Chris Markers canon of work, and I only came to this work after attending the first British retrospective at his work earlier this year. The screening of It For Others was included in this exhibitions programme of events. Campbell’s film takes Chris Marker & Alain Resnais Statues Also Die (1953) as a jumping point, the focus of their essay film studies historical African art and the effects colonialism has had on how it is perceived. This was controversial at the time of its release and it became banned in France due to its critique of colonialism and was not viewable until the 1960’s. Similarly, one section of It For Others examines the effect upon the Benin sculptures in the British Museum- analysing how they have been removed from their original culture and inserting them into a western art context. In a following segment the film diverges into the study of anthropomorphic advertising, as Campbell collects and films a variety of packing based portraiture.
This film is constructed in an essay format and because of this it is incredibly complex. It For Others combines and layers contrasting images and archive material alongside physical artefacts and the human body. This concluding chapter features a choreographed dance scene by the Michael Clark Company and the dancers appear to be tracing words, shapes and strange equations with their movements on the floor, a calligraphy that spells out ideas from Das Kapital while constantly countering those ideas with a vision of actual living bodies. After the screening of the film, Duncan Campbell was able to provide a question and answer talk, where he outlined how the film came to be conceived and then produced. One aspect of this which I found interesting was a quite substantial amount of the questions focused on the artist role as a white, middle class western man and how he can question ideas surrounding a culture he know little about. Campbell responded to these questions by stating that the film explores that exact predicament. He explained that It For Others focuses on critique of the negative effects of commodity fetishism and another critical element is added when the artist himself comes from the heritage which colonised the cultures represented in both Statues also die and It for others.
Whitechapel Gallery: Duncan Campbell, It For Others (2013)