Colin Campbell lived with rare fluidity and unflashy courage. It was apparent in all aspects of his life -- his videomaking, his novel-writing, even his cooking. Deliberate, never careless, he lived his life very consciously, with generosity, wisdom and wit. He died on October 31, after a valiant battle with cancer,
He was almost preternaturally elegant, soigné, full of grace, with a quiet confidence and a beautiful and empathetic presence. His video personae came from the other end of the spectrum, a parade of self-absorbed social klutzes of varying persuasions. Usually, he cast himself in the starring multi-gendered roles, and would remain on camera throughout -- but without a hint of narcissism.
His unique aptitude for listening -- not just by way of recording amusing dialogue for later use, but more as an opening up to and absorbing the essence of another person -- provided fodder for his presentation of the humorous, the heroic, the histrionic and sometimes the truly harrowing embedded in the everyday.
Colin was, foremost, a storyteller. In art world terms, this often meant a passage in and out of fashion. But Colin never wavered.
His video work has been exhibited internationally in such prestigious venues as the Venice Biennale (1980) and Documenta and is in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery and others.
He taught at Mount Allison University, Sackville, N.B., the Ontario College of Art & Design and, for the past two decades, at the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Toronto, where he played a seminal role in the implementation of a graduate program in visual studies.
Finally, Colin was the kind of friend you wanted. What others might see as flaws and foibles, he would regard as what made you whole and true, unique and special. His friendship gave you confidence. You would wear that hat or take that chance, write that story or make that film. Some of us have expressed fear that we'll flounder in Colin's absence. But, as one amongst us said, we'll find our ways to be OK because of what we learned about ourselves in our relationships with him.
Besides his many adoring friends, Colin leaves behind his partner, George Hawken, his siblings Judy and Greg, his devoted ex-wives and his son, Neil.
There will be a memorial service to celebrate Colin's life on Sunday, December 2, 7 pm, at Latvian House, 491 College.