A colourful spectograph stretches across three walls of a rectangular room with a black couch in the middle.

Charles Campbell's audiovisual exhibition cultivates exchanges and solidarity within Black communities.

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Surrey Art Gallery - 13750 88 Ave

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Charles Campbell’s 45-minute audio recording of senior Black artists and local community members’ breath is the core ambient backdrop of the curated exhibit Black Breath Spectacle. The participants’ breaths vary from rapid to long, shallow to deep and sombre to sonorous inhalations and exhalations. This immersive sound installation is accompanied with a spectrogram that depicts audio waves of the breath recordings woven together in a digital image. The image encodes the sound and experience of the performance. The digital spectrum appears like an abstract triptych painting made up with bright hues of green, yellow, and blue.  

Campbell invites audiences to experience the sound of breath and breathing and to reflect on this intimate performance that echoed the walls at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2021. Twenty Black artists and curators roamed around the Gallery playing the recorded breath in the Gallery halls. Campbell formed this work as a response to Black Lives Matter by “putting the focus on breath rather than death." Campbell invited each participant to imagine being present with a loved person from their past, be they childhood friends or passed relatives.  

Breath is a personal and functional action, and in this exhibit, Campbell emphasizes the depth and meaning of breath, especially when, as a source of life it can become an object of oppression and power.   

Campbell will be developing an archive of Black breath recordings in the form of audio and sculptural installations called the Black Breath Archive in the coming year. The solo exhibition will be displayed at the Gallery in the spring of 2023.    

Learn more about Black Breath Spectacle in our published conversation Charles Campbell and Assistant Curator Suvi Bains.

About the Artist

Charles Campbell is a Jamaican-born multidisciplinary artist, writer, and curator whose practice expands the future imaginaries possible in the wake of colonization. His work has been exhibited widely, including at the Havana Biennial, the Brooklyn Museum and Alice Yard in Port of Spain. Recent exhibitions include Vancouver Special at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Fragments of Epic Memory at the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Other Side of Now at the Perez Art Museum Miami. He currently lives and works on Lekwungen territory, Victoria BC.