Dark Water

By Ian Campbell

In August of 1817, a number of people claimed to have seen a “Sea Serpent” in the harbor of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Many scholars, scientists, and historians have attempted to speculatively identify this creature as a species yet unknown to science, and even more skeptics have disparaged the account as a hoax, or the product of provincial naïveté. Yet what really happened that summer, 200 years ago, remains a mystery. The true identity of the Gloucester Sea Serpent remains unknown: irretrievably lost to the passage of time. For my MFA thesis project, I used this enigma of natural history as a “narrative spine” to bind together an idiosyncratic sequence of images, texts, objects, and audio recordings that I presented at Trisolini Gallery this April. This body of work began last summer, when I travelled to Gloucester, Massachusetts to conduct research at the Cape Ann Museum and seek...

Sonic Fiction (Dark Water)


An exercise in absurdity: using a home-made hydrophone to listen under the waves for a sea monster that may or may not have swam into Gloucester harbor almost 200 years ago. Also, perhaps, a meditation on change, loss, and the relentless passage of time. The landscape has shifted several times over since the so-called “Sea Serpent” was last seen here. In Gloucester, MA, I made a number of field recordings that capture a working seaport still in the throes of change as tourism muscles in alongside industrial fishing. A fish packing plant is torn down to make way for a waterfront resort. The sea is emptied of cod, refills itself, and is emptied again. Endlessly the waves pound the shore into sand. These sound recordings are part of my MFA thesis project in progress, Dark Water. They may become part of an audio tour to accompany a series of photos I made Gloucester over the...

The Water Skater

By Ian Campbell

The Water Skater is a short film inspired by Howard Mallison, my grandma’s uncle. The original footage was shot on Super 8, transferred to digital video, and then edited at the Create Space. It will be playing at the Athens International Film and Video Festival on Sunday, April 13, 3pm (in “Memory Games”). A sneak peek is available here, and on vimeo:     All I had to go on when reconstructing the life of Uncle Howard were the biographical fragments passed on by my grandma (in her inimitably elliptical storytelling style), a few photographs, and a bayonet Howard brought back from World War 1. This bayonet, which weaves its way through the film, is a relic: an object dislocated from its original traumatic context. In The Water Skater history is inaccessible but ever present. As the film slowly wraps itself around the take-up reel of the projector, there is the sense that...


By Ian Campbell

This series is part of my ongoing investigation of photographic abstraction. The impetus for this project occurred while I was scanning a bunch of negatives I had shot with a cheap plastic “Instamatic” camera. At the end of each roll of Instamatic 110 film there is a registration hole—a circular punch that serves some function (don’t ask me what) in the development process. The flatbed scanner translates this puncture into a perfectly black circle. This striking formal element contrasts the amorphous, psychedelic color fields created by accidents of light and chemistry on these remnants of film. I chose to treat these “non-images” as found objects of a sort. They certainly resemble something astronomical or cosmological: black holes or black planets, telescopic or microscopic views. These mundane relics may have sublime aspirations which belie their humble origins. The entire series...

The Deep


I am building an introverted ecosystem, where creatures feed on darkness through a process of reverse photosynthesis. I am weaving a food-web of fear. The Deep is an ongoing catalog of unknown creatures. It offers speculative portraits of some of the x million undiscovered species lurking in the deepest crevices of the ocean floor. The Mariana trench is the uncanniest of uncanny valleys: here, the human submarine pilot points her searchlight into the pristine darkness and catches in the beam a fish with strangely human eyes.        

Devil-Jack Diamond-Fish


91st Species. Devil-Jack Diamond-Fish. Litholepis adamantinus. This fish probably never existed, except in folk-lore and the imaginations of a few 19th century pioneer/explorer/artist/naturalists like Constantine Rafinesque, who published a scientific description of the fish in his 1820 catalog of fishes of the Ohio River. According to Rafinesque’s account, the Devil-Jack Diamond-Fish grew to 10 feet in length, weighed as much as 400 lb. and bore scales tough enough to repel lead musket balls. Juxtaposing this fragment of historical/scientific text with a video loop of an underwater pondscape suggests a narrative, and creates a dialogue between ways of knowing: objective/subjective, scientific/mythic, rational/dreamlike. There was a time in American history when the landscape seemed wild, untamed, and endless; a time when animals grew to unnatural size and ferocity, and fish were...

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