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Robert Gordon Campbell

Robert Campbell is a versatile artist known for his contributions to video art, digital media, multimedia performance, installation, and documentary film. His creative journey spans over three decades, during which his work has been showcased in numerous exhibitions, festivals, and galleries across the United States, Europe, and Japan.

Campbell's artistic exploration delves into the intersections of perception, technology, and human experience. He is renowned for his innovative approaches to storytelling and visual expression, often incorporating elements of dance, music, and experimental animation into his work.

As a filmmaker, Campbell has produced documentaries that capture the essence of diverse cultures and landscapes, with his footage even featured on the PBS network's "Journey to Planet Earth" series. His commitment to capturing the essence of humanity and nature through film is evident in his extensive body of work.

In addition to his filmmaking endeavors, Campbell has been actively involved in the art community as a core faculty member of the Art Department at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. Over the years, he has shared his expertise with students, teaching a wide range of courses in video art, new media, documentary, animation, and digital imaging.

Throughout his career, Campbell's work has received critical acclaim and recognition, including awards and nominations at prestigious film festivals and exhibitions. His dedication to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression continues to inspire audiences worldwide, making him a prominent figure in the contemporary art scene.

Your film Study No. 294 was the big winner in the Best Musical Experimental Video category at Experimental Brasil 2024.


1-Congratulations on winning the award for Best Experimental Music Video with "Study No. 294"! Can you share with us the inspiration behind the film and how the collaboration with the Tom Baker Triptet came about?

I have been collaborating with my friend and colleague (at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, where we both teach) Dr. Tom Baker since 2019 on various projects. He is a remarkable composer who incorporates traditional instruments and electronic tools in some very cool ways. We began working on a performance piece shortly before the pandemic started involving an interface between MAX-MSP (audio) and Isadora (video) and projection mapping onto a sculptural set. Study No. 294 is our third collaboration.

2-Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background in filmmaking and your journey to creating "Study No. 294"?

I’m an educator and experimental video and new media artist. I studied electronic music, film and video at CalArts in southern California where I met and worked with video art pioneer Ed Emshwiller and electronic composer Morton Subotnick, and later worked with video artists Bill Viola, Gary Hill and Steina Vasulka before landing a teaching position at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. I’ve been creating multi-channel video installations for years, and began doing single-channel work compositing green screened actors and dancers into animated photographic environments in 2012. In 2016 I began exploring generative third party plug-ins for Adobe After Effects, and several works emerged from that experimentation, leading to a curiosity about what I was seeing in the emergent field of AI diffusion model image generation with Midjourney and Dalle.

3-"Study No. 294" was created with the assistance of artificial intelligence. What sparked your interest in incorporating AI into your creative process, and what were some of the challenges and opportunities you encountered while working with this technology?

I began experimenting with AI in 2022 after a colleague began posting some really

interesting non-photographic abstract images, and I soon realized that I could parlay my interests in generative plugins inside the Adobe Suite with AI tools, and approach that interface essentially as I would a new set of generative plugins. I’ve been working with AI diffusion models as another step in a circuitous and iterative generative process between AI, Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

4-The use of AI in creative fields like filmmaking is becoming increasingly prevalent. In what ways do you believe AI enhances or challenges the traditional creative process, particularly in the realm of experimental music videos?

The AI tools I’ve been experimenting with are somewhat unwieldy and produce many unexpected results, especially when the text prompts deviate from mere description into more poetic expressions. As the diffusion models get more “realistic” in terms of their ability to produce more defined and photo-real images that mimic traditional film and photography, I find that the unexpected and weird results I used to get with earlier generations of the software appear less often.


5-"Study No. 294" features a jazz soundtrack performed by the Tom Baker Triptet. How did you approach integrating the music with the visual elements of the film, and what do you feel the jazz genre brings to the overall viewing experience?

The track I used, Crystalline Thunderstorm, was an improvisation recorded in 2018 by Engine Records as part of the Tom Baker Triptet’s Slowly Away album. So I edited the video to the soundtrack, integrating the visual elements as best I could with the music. Much of Tom’s music strikes me as cinematic, and the sustained energy of this particular track presented a challenge to my usual preference for minimal and understated soundtracks.


6-As an artist, how do you navigate the intersection between technology, music, and visual storytelling in your work, and what do you hope viewers take away from the fusion of these elements in "Study No. 294"?

I don’t consider my new media work as visual storytelling in the traditional sense, but rather an expressive visual component that is integrated with and aspires to the condition of music.


7-Beyond "Study No. 294," you have a diverse body of work spanning various genres and styles. What themes or ideas consistently inspire and drive your creative process as a filmmaker?

I tend to be endlessly experimenting with forms of cinema outside the confines of traditional narrative, which is a form I love to watch and study, but am not inspired to emulate. Much of my work seems to evoke the things I think about and am concerned about: issues of sustainability, peaceful coexistence and love of life tempered by the growing number of existential threats to the lifeforms of the planet.


8-Can you share any insights into your creative process, from conceptualization to execution, and how it may differ when working on experimental projects like "Study No. 294" compared to more traditional filmmaking endeavors?

There is not much a priori concept development, but more of a conceptual development along the way resulting from experimentation. As someone once said (and I paraphrase here), if you can get yourself out of the way while working on a project, the work has the chance to make itself. Much like the documentary form, which starts out as some sort of probe or a question, the finished film is the result of seeking and learning stuff along the way, and could not have been envisioned without following that process. I probably only use a very small percentage of the imagery I generate using AI tools in projects like this.

9-As an experimental filmmaker, how do you approach pushing the boundaries of conventional storytelling and visual aesthetics, and what role do you believe experimentation plays in the evolution of the art form?

In a modernist way, I’m usually looking for ways to create something I haven’t seen before, even though I may use material that is referential to works that have come before. I’m especially inspired by painting, and study that form for compositional and other formal



10-Collaboration seems to be a recurring theme in your work, whether it's with musicians, other filmmakers, or technology. How do you approach collaboration, and what do you feel it adds to the creative process?

I approach collaboration with dancers, musicians, actors and other visual artists in the spirit of play, where there are no bad ideas initially, everyone has a voice, and having a good time working together is the only rule. Ideas exist- they aren't necessarily “owned”. It’s best to share them. Working with AI is a strange and new experience, where the sense of collaboration seeps in as one explores the software, the diffusion models. I have found that it can be somewhat uncanny and dreamlike at times.


11-Finally, what future projects are you excited about, and are there any new directions or mediums you're eager to explore in your filmmaking journey?

I’m currently working on a longer pictorial piece (with elements of AI-assisted imagery) with a group of dancers, many of whom are graduates of the Cornish Dance Department. The composer I’m working with for this project is Jarrad Powell, a friend and colleague I have been collaborating with for many years.

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