People Like Us: The Gossip of Colin Campbell

Pioneering Canadian artist Colin Campbell (b. 1942 Reston, Manitoba; d. 2001 Toronto, Ontario) used video as a cheap and accessible medium for storytelling. His homespun tapes are a perverse collage of tall tales, rumours, conversations and daydreams—all gleaned from his everyday life. Making art was no sublime act of creation but merely what friends and lovers did together in the art community developing in Toronto in the seventies and eighties. Ironic, irreverent and ambiguous, always attuned to the playful shifting of genders and desires, Campbell’s tapes chart how identity is performed and circulated in the social world. Art historian Gavin Butt has suggested, “gossiping is a form of social activity which produces and maintains the filiations of artistic community.” Disregarding the boundary between truth and artifice, Campbell’s life and art practice derived both inspiration and form through gossip. The characters he created and inhabited—and those he coaxed out of his many collaborators—confide secrets and stories to us, crafting elaborate and compelling mythologies around them. Through videotape, he gossiped with and about his real social circle and created a new one, fictional personas such as Art Star, the Woman from Malibu and Robin who became tangibly real once their tapes were watched, loved (or hated) and talked about. By the time Campbell passed away, his personas were left bereft of a body but they continue to float freely in our collective consciousness to this day. People Like Us: The Gossip of Colin Campbell surveys the artist’s illustrious video career from early tapes like True/False (1972) to his final work, Que Sera Sera (2001). It is the first major exhibition of his work since his death in 2001.

Exhibition Guide

Catalogue (see Writing page for more details)

Tour (originated at Oakville Galleries, ON):

Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, ON: November 14, 2011–January 29, 2012

OBORO, Montréal, QC: November 13–December 18, 2010

Owens Art Gallery, Sackville, NB: September 17–October 31, 2010

Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, Halifax, NS: June 12–August 1, 2010

Photos from the opening at Oakville Galleries, Friday, December 5, 2008:


Panel discussion at the Carleton University Art Gallery with (l–r) Lisa Steele, me, Peggy Gale, and moderator Penny McCann (recording available here):


Canadian Art

Toronto Star


Le Devoir