Peter Campus

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Peter Campus
Born1937 (1937)
EducationOhio State University
Known forVideo art, Photography, Interactive art

Peter Campus (born 1937 in New York, NY), often styled as peter campus,[1] is an American artist and a pioneer of new media and video art, known for his interactive video installations, single-channel video works, and photography. His work is held in the collections of numerous public institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Tate Modern, Museo Reina Sofía, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Walker Art Center, and the Centre Georges Pompidou. The artist works on the south shore of Long Island.

Early life and career[edit]

Born and raised in New York, Campus has an eastern European Jewish family background. His mother was Ukrainian, and his father was a doctor of Romanian descent, born in the U.S. to immigrant parents. Campus' mother died when he was aged seven, an event that dramatically affected the artist's youth and family life.[2] Inspired by several family members who worked in the art world, he developed an early interest in photography, which his father taught him, and painting. Campus cites watching Michael Powell movies as a teenager as an influential experience.[3] He studied experimental psychology with a focus on the development of the senses and cognitive studies at Ohio State University, earning his degree in 1960.[4]

After military service, Campus studied film editing at City College Film Institute and worked in the film industry as a production manager and editor,[5] making documentaries until the early 1970s. During this period he developed an interest in Minimal Art, becoming friends with the sculptor Robert Grosvenor. He worked with Otto Piene and Aldo Tambellini at the Black Gate Theatre in East Village, New York. Charles Ross became a mentor[6] and Campus worked as co-editor on Ross’ Sunlight Dispersion. Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Bruce Nauman, Yvonne Rainer and Joan Jonas were influential figures in his decision to begin making his own art.[7] In 1970, aged 33, Campus purchased his first video equipment.[8]


Campus achieved rapid acclaim in the 1970s for a series of video works that explored issues of identity construction, perception, and subversion of the relationship between the viewer and the work. He had his first solo show in 1972 at Bykert Gallery in New York, and his first solo museum exhibition at the Everson Museum of Art in 1974.[6] In this early period, his works consisted of single-channel videos and interactive closed-circuit television installations.[9] Campus’ first video, Dynamic Field Series (1971), features a camera suspended above the artist, which he moved up and down using a rope pulley as he lay on the floor below. In Double Vision (1971), Campus used two cameras and superimposition, beginning a more formal experimentation with the medium itself—a characteristic that recurs in his work to this day.

Other 1970s video work includes the influential Three Transitions (1973), in which the artist transforms his recorded image in three different sequences, using superimposition and chroma-keying technology.[10] In Third Tape (1976), Campus manipulates a virtual self-image[11] into an abstract self-portrait by filming the performer John Erdman's reflection as he progressively throws a disordered array of small mirror tiles upon a table. Campus says of this work, "This man tries to abstract himself using age-old methods reminiscent of German Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. Art issues of line and plane are dredged up. Perhaps to be subtitled: the war between man and man-made objects."[12]

His interactive closed-circuit video installations include Kiva (1971), Interface (1972), Optical Sockets (1972–73), Anamnesis and Stasis (1973), Shadow Projection and Negative Crossing (1974), mem, dor, cir, and sev (1975), and lus, bys, num, and aen (1976).[13] In A History of Video Art, Chris Meigh-Andrews describes these as works that sought to “deliberately confront the viewer with a self-image that defied or challenged normal expectations. In an important sense, these works were participatory and sculptural in that they invited or even required audience participation.”[14] They employed a wide variety of installation formats, which included close-circuit live feedback television, projection, mirroring, image distortion, and the projection of shadows. Campus’ interactive works have received significant critical attention and a wide range of different critical interpretations.[15] These perspectives include discussion of the complex issues of body identity, reality versus virtuality, self-transformation, presence and absence,[16] the relationship of the viewer to the work of art,[17] passivity and activity in the viewer, existentialism, the uncanny and egology.[18]

Toward the end of the 1970s, Campus began to move away from interactive work toward large scale projection and an investigation of faces and heads as subject matter.[19] Head of a Man with Death on his Mind (1978) is a 12 minute video of the face of a man looking directly into the camera. Both the title of the work and the image itself invite dark inner contemplation. Two further pieces, Man’s Head and Woman’s Head (1979), consisted of stark photo-projections of heads.

Several radical shifts occurred in Campus’ work from 1979 through the 1980s. He stopped working with video entirely, taking up traditional still photography instead. He also moved away from the body and self and began to look outside, to nature and landscape photography.[20] Describing these changes, the artist stated, “For me what was important was not the switch from video to photography, but from the interior to the exterior. The interior examinations became overwhelming…. I got very interested in nature. A lot of it was an escape from what was going on in the city. It was a place where all the things that were bothering me would disappear. Then, very quickly, about 1982, it became the subject of my work.”[21] Photographs from this period feature many images of stones, buildings, bridges, landscapes, trees, and sticks. Campus describes his search in these works as “looking for what I called 'resonance' in what I was feeling” and an effort to “discover timelessness in everyday life.”[22]

In 1988 he started working with computer imaging, producing a series of still works. This renewed Campus' interest in experimentation with the structural characteristics of the digital imaging medium, and he drew from photo-montage, digital drawing and digital image manipulation. Many of these experimental techniques would be carried over into the artist's next body of work, and his return to moving image.

In 1996, Campus began to work with video once again,[17] producing Olivebridge and Mont Désert, working for the first time with digital video and non-linear editing. This marked the beginning of a series of significant new video works throughout the 1990s and 2000s, many presented in multi-screen monitor formations. These include Winter Journal (1997), By Degrees (1998), Video Ergo Sum (1999), Death Threat (2000), Six Movies (2001), and Time’s Friction (2004–2005). These works explore a complex range of personal themes: loss, memory, death, nature and landscape, and the passing of time.[23] Their formal characteristics are marked by Campus’ highly experimental approach to the digital video medium. He uses a range of techniques including multi-layering, superimposition, color inversion, vanishings and appearances, chroma keying, colorization, image mapping, pixelation, and time distortion.

Campus has continued to work with video and video installations. Campus' 21st century works reference both the history of film and painting, with the artist digitally manipulating his videos on a granular, pixel-by-pixel level.[24] Commonly featured are seascapes and life in coastal communities located around eastern Long Island, Massachusetts, and the French Atlantic coast—a continuation of Campus' longstanding search for personal harmony in nature.[25] Other important influences in recent years are the advance of 4K technology, which has further enabled the artist's experimentation with the video format,[26] and the cinematic concept of the "sequence," or the order that images appear in.[27] Major gallery exhibitions from the past decade include Calling for Shantih (2010), dredgers (2014), circa 1980 (2017), and pause (2018) at Cristin Tierney Gallery and Now and Then (2012) at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery.

In 2017, a survey exhibition of the artist's work, entitled video ergo sum, opened at the Jeu de Paume in Paris. Curated by Anne-Marie Duguet and featuring Campus' work from 1971 to the present, video ergo sum included a new four-channel video installation commissioned by the museum, Convergence d'images vers le port.[27] video ergo sum has traveled to Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Sevilla, Spain (2017); Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos - Culturgest in Lisbon, Portugal (2018); The Bronx Museum of the Arts in Bronx, NY (2019); and Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest University, SECCA, and Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC (2019).

Academic career[edit]

Campus taught at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1982. From 1983 to 2014, Campus was a Clinical Associate Professor of Art and Art Education and Artist in Residence at NYU Steinhardt.


Awards that Campus has earned include: a Guggenheim Fellowship (1975), Massachusetts Institute of Technology Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (1976–79), a National Endowment of the Arts grant (1976), and a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (1979). In 1974 he was the Artist in Residence at the Television Laboratory, WNET-TV, New York, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts.[28]

Selected public collections[edit]

Campus' work is held in several institutional collections, including:

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Inside the Artist's Studio, Princeton Architectural Press, 2015. (ISBN 978-1616893040)


  1. ^ "Capitalization of Personal Names". Chicago Manual of Style (16 ed.). Chicago University Press. 2010. p. 388.
  2. ^ "Peter Campus by John Hanhardt - BOMB Magazine". Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  3. ^ Herzogenrath & Nierhoff (2003) Peter Campus, Analog + Digital Video 1970-2003, Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany: p. 146.
  4. ^ Herzogenrath in Herzogenrath & Nierhoff (2003) Peter Campus, Analog + Digital Video 1970-2003, Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany: pp. 12-25.
  5. ^ Mathilde Roman (2017). "Conversation with Peter Campus, Patchogue, July 2016". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. pp. 166–168.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b campus, peter (2005). "My first work". In Richer, Francesca; Rosenzweig, Michael (eds.). No. 1 First Works by 362 Artists. New York/Los Angeles: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.
  7. ^ Anne-Marie Duguet (2017). "Slight Discrepancies. Persistent Images". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 54.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Peter Campus". Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  9. ^ BFI details "Peter Campus | BFI". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2010-11-04.. Retrieved 04/11/2010
  10. ^ Anne-Marie Duguet (2017). "Slight Discrepancies. Persistent Images". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 56.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ Anne-Marie Duguet (2017). "Slight Discrepancies. Persistent Images". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 58.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ Electronic Arts Intermix
  13. ^ peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. 2017.
  14. ^ Meigh Andrews (2006) A History of Video Art, Berg, Oxford, New York p.253
  15. ^ Kurtz 1973, Ross 1974, Krauss 1976, Rubin, Tannenbaum 1987, Herzogenrath, Nierhoff, Smith 2003, Meigh Andrews 2006
  16. ^ Herzogenrath, Wulf (2003). "External Images as Internal Portraits". In Herzogenrath, Wulf; Nierhoff, Barbara (eds.). Peter Campus: Analog + Digital Video + Foto 1970-2003. Bremen, Germany: Kunsthalle Bremen.
  17. ^ a b "Peter Campus: When America fails to recognise one of its own geniuses | Judith Benhamou-Huet Reports". Judith Benhamou-Huet Reports. 2017-03-12. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  18. ^ Jacinto Lageira (2017). "To be perceived as alter ego". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. pp. 138–140.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  19. ^ Anne-Marie Duguet (2017). "Slight Discrepancies. Persistent Images". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 68.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  20. ^ "Peter Campus by John Hanhardt - BOMB Magazine". Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  21. ^ Interview with John Hanhardt 1999, Archived 2010-09-01 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 04/10/2010
  22. ^ Peter Campus, zit. nach Kat. Ausst. Monchengladbach 1990, S. 20 f.
  23. ^ John Hanhardt (1996). "Notes on the Art of Peter Campus". Peter Campus: new video works olivebridge, mont désert and digital photographs. New York: The Bohen Foundation.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  24. ^ Anne-Marie Duguet (2017). "Slight Discrepancies. Persistent Images". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 80.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  25. ^ Mathilde Roman (2017). "Conversation with Peter Campus, Patchogue, July 2016". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 180.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  26. ^ Anne-Marie Duguet (2018). "Slight Discrepancies. Persistent Images". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 88.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  27. ^ a b Chris Meigh-Andrews (2017). "Peter Campus: convergence d'images vers le port". peter campus: video ergo sum. Paris: Jeu de Paume / Anarchive. p. 104.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  28. ^ Peter Campus: closed circuit video, seven drawings. Syracuse, NY: Everson Museum of Art. 1974.