JOHN SMITH : SIX FILMS
A selection of work from one of Britain’s most distinguished experimentalists. Smith’s films and videos, made over the past four decades, are puzzles that won’t be solved. When the logic of his structural precision begins to seem familiar, Smith’s dark wit diverts the viewer into unexpected and unruly networks of meaning and absurdity. His explorations of perception and narration open up cinematic possibilities that remain strikingly prescient and relevant in the digital age.
Associations (UK, 1975, 16mm, 7mins)
Images from magazines accompany a spoken text taken from Word Associations and Linguistic Theory by the American psycholinguist Herbert H Clark. Associations sets language against itself. Image and word work together/against each other to destroy/create meaning.
Girl Chewing Gum (UK, 1976, 16mm , 12mins)
A commanding voice over appears to direct the action in a busy London street. Smith takes the piss out of mainstream auteurist ego, but provides proof of the underground ethos: Even with meagre mechanical means, the artist can command the universe.
Om (UK, 1986, 16mm, 4mins)
The structure is stunningly simple and deceptively subtle. We are taken on a journey from one concrete stereotype to its diametric opposite, images transform and juxtapose and invert our interpretation of what we see and hear.
The Black Tower (UK, 1987, 16mm, 26mins)
A man is haunted by a tower which, he believes, is following him around London. A narrative voice-over which takes us from unease to breakdown to mysterious death. The images deliver a series of colour coded puzzles, jokes and puns which pull the viewer into a mind-teasing engagement.
Dungeness (UK, 1987 , 16mm , 4mins)
By selectively framing and alternating monochrome fields within the Dungeness landscape the film creates a series of abstract rhythms.
Citadel (UK, 2020, video, 16mins)
Filmed from the artist’s window during lockdown, ‘Citadel’ combines short fragments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speeches relating to coronavirus with views of the London skyline. Perceiving the city as a site of both horror and aesthetic beauty, the film documents the dramatic effects of changing light conditions upon its architecture.