Three Transitions (Peter Campus, 1973, USA)

Peter Campus is a pioneering new media and video artist. While I had never seen his most iconic film Three Transitions (1973) before, I was familiar with it due to a still from the film appearing on the cover of Beach Fossils' Clash the Truth album. While the film is undoubtedly meant to be shown as an installation, it is much more accessible than most video art. The film opens with Campus himself walking in front of a wall. He begins cutting the wall, but through the trickery of the camera, it appears that he is cutting through himself and that he is exiting his body from the back. This self-reflexive nature permeates the entire exercise of Three Transitions, and it also establishes the film's dry and deadpan sense of humor.

In the second transition, we have a facial shot of Peter. He begins wiping away his face, which disappears only to reveal another video of his face lined up behind him. It's a distinctive image that is immediately memorable, and this is no doubt the reason why Beach Fossils decided to make it their album art. We can see the metaphor of the exterior versus the interior self, here rendered in a very explicit manner. 

In the third and final transition, Campus lights flame to a paper which shows an image of himself reflected within it. While these techniques of early video art are primitive by the standards of what we can do today, something is charming about them. It is easy to understand why Campus became popular, as his video art is more accessible than many other figures in the field and he also brings a sense of humor to the field that is sorely lacking from many other artists. Worth a watch for cinephiles and art fans.



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