We visited the ‘Forward Escape into the Past’ exhibition at M Museum Leuven together with its creator, Jim Campers. Documenting how accurate the social criticism from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s still is today, Jim isn’t only a photographer; his work goes way deeper than some pretty pictures. His exhibition is all about research and it plays an essential part in the way he approaches his subjects.
Text by Laura-Andréa Callewaert
Photos shot by Eva Teetaert in Jim’s atelier
What are you working on at the moment?
I have two projects which I’ve been working on for the past five years. Now we brought them together in M Museum where I have my own exhibition space. The first project is called ‘Let’s kill the moonlight’ in which I used Theodore Kaczynski’s manifesto ‘Industrial Society and Its Future’ as a starting point. Theodore was known as a very intelligent man, who graduated from Harvard when he was only 20 years old, and who all of the sudden turned against the industrialization of Western civilization. He decided to go live in the woods in Montana where he wrote the manifesto. In his manifesto, he talks about the Industrial Revolution and how its consequences have been a disaster for human race. This isn’t the subject of my project, but the starting point for me to create the work. I see a connection to the counterculture period that took place during end of the ‘60’s, beginning of the 70’s. Where people started to go back to the basics, wanted to go back to a primitive society. And that’s the focus of my first project.
Why not stick to the simple idea of something instead of making it so difficult?
Is that something you feel too? That limitation because of our modern society?
When I read Kaczynski’s manifesto there are a lot of ideas I find interesting, like the fact that nowadays everyone wants to make everything so complex. Why not stick to the simple idea of something instead of making it so difficult? I have a lot of work where I document people who DIY very complex ideas into something that’s more simplified. Self-sufficient living and starting a community from scratch are very important themes in the exhibition. I want to show the audience that we can move forward by going back to the basics. That’s also the title of my exhibition: ‘Forward Escape into the Past’.
We see different kinds of work in the room. Can you explain why you chose to do it this way?
I have pictures on the wall like landscapes and portraits, and the room is filled with hemp bricks which create new spaces and connections. I got inspired to mix these things up because of ‘Whole Earth Catalog’, which was a very influential magazine in that counterculture period. The subjects were often very contradictory actually: there was a spread, for example, that explained how you could build your own cabin in the woods, and next to that article there would be a feature on how to use a computer. Those manuals are also a very big part of my work. But once you started to see the bigger picture of the magazine it becomes very interesting. And that’s the way I like to work too. I spend most of the time researching and by making connections through the things I learn in my research I try to turn it into work.
‘Intranaut’ is inspired by the phases you go through when you eat psychedelic mushrooms
What is the second project focussing on?
During the counterculture that I address in my first project people used to experiment a lot with psychedelic drugs. That is something that triggered my interest. By researching all of this I decided to start a second project exclusively around this subject called ‘Intranaut’. It is inspired by the book ‘Food of the Gods’ by Terence McKenna, who talks about the phases you go through when you eat psychedelic mushrooms. In the first phase you see things and contours more clearly. The second phase activates a sexual drift, and the third phase brings you to a spiritual and hallucinating state of mind. He is convinced that the missing link of evolution is stimulated by those three phases of the mushrooms. That they caused a tripling in our brain volume and that’s why we developed so quickly. I’ve never taken the mushrooms myself but maybe I will try them one day (laughs).
Jim’s exhibition is free for Subbacultcha members in July. It runs until 9 September at M Museum Leuven. You can become a member here.
Afterwards it’s moving to Amsterdam, from 15 September till 13 October at de Brakke Grond. RIOT published Jim’s first artist book for the occasion of.