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Lifting my mother for as long as I can (2008)

ArtistCampbell Patterson
Production Date2008
Mediumsingle channel video, standard definition (SD), 4:3, colour, stereo sound, 19” LCD monitor
Size2min 7sec
DepartmentNew Zealand Art
Accession Date07 Nov 2011
Accession No2011/24/3
Credit LineAuckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Chartwell Collection, purchased 2011


Campbell Patterson has committed to documenting a short performance in which he lifts his mother for as long as he is able every year on her birthday. Each video is dated according to the year it was made, and the series began in 2006. Thus far, the performance is set in his mother’s home, in front of the same set of curtains. In the six years since he began the work, both he and his mother have changed in subtle ways physically, as has their relationship to the performance changed. In the beginning where there were looks of confusion, serious concentration and bemusement now there is a mixture of concentration, physical fatigue and playful sport to the work. "Lifting my mother for as long as I can" is one of Campbell Patterson’s most exhibited works. Because of its enduring nature, it carries with it a cultish enthusiasm – from the boyish origins to the serious nature of Campbell’s artistic pursuit. Patterson has focused on a particular kind of video performance since art school, in which he makes essentially private performances captured only by his digital video cam. Campbell has said, even when he needs another person involved in his work for practical reasons he might ask them to wear a blindfold. The medium of video is therefore often of secondary importance to his performative action, displayed with a rough, improvisational feel. The videos are seldom edited, but serve to reveal the immediacy of the relationship, in the same way that viewers are used to watching user-generated content on now ubiquitous sites such as YouTube. The performances themselves resemble spontaneous responses to his environment, and the objects immediately within reach. They often function in slapstick commentary on the bravado of performative actions in art history. Rather than submitting to heroic actions, or acts of extreme endurance, Patterson competes within his domestic environment – to do press-ups on soap, or make a circuit through his bathroom window, light a fire in his toilet; or they reveal personal ‘skills’ or boyhood tricks which are part of a character portrait of the artist.