This is one of two touring programmes of the work of the hugely-influential filmmaker John Smith. This programme brings together much of Smith's work from the early 1990s onwards, including the critically-acclaimed Blight and an episode of his recent Hotel Diaries series. These programmes coincide with LUX’s release of the critically-acclaimed DVD boxed set of Smith's work.
Information for venues
The programme is available as a Digibeta, a Quicktime file (h.264 or Apple Pro Res codec) or a DVD. The screening fee is £200 (+VAT) for this programme, or £300 for both of the touring programmes (excluding shipping and handling).
Gargantuan, UK, 1992, 1 min
'To master the one minute time-span requires considerable discipline and few pieces if any had been shaped as genuine miniatures, most having the appearance of being extracts from larger works. The notable exception was John Smith's Gargantuan which was not only the right length for the idea but actually incorporated a triple pun on the word ˜minute". Nicky Hamlyn 'One Minute TV 1992', Vertigo magazine.
'A wonderfully witty example of how to conduct pillow talk with a small amphibian.' - Elaine Paterson, Time Out.
Blight, UK, 1994-1996, 14 mins
Blight was made in collaboration with the composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, using images and sounds of demolition and road building in conjunction with the spoken words of local residents. But although the film is constructed from images and sounds of real events, Blight exploits the ambiguities of its material to produce new meanings and metaphors, fictionalizing reality through framing and editing strategies. The emotive power of music is used in the film to overtly aid this invention.
The Kiss, (made with Ian Bourn) UK, 1999, 5 mins
'A particularly beautiful lily seems to grow before our eyes, gradually changing shape; what sounds like breathing on the sound track gives it an almost human presence. Suddenly the sound and movement stop as a glass plate, invisible until now, cracks -- and it seems we've been watching, in Smith's words, "the forced development of a hothouse flower." The effect is not only iconoclastic in the word's original sense -- image breaking -- but causes the viewer to question the degree of artifice in all "nature" today. The glass shattering converts what had appeared to be a transparent window into a barrier, reminding us of the camera lens, projection apparatus, and video screen. And because the flower and its transformation were so engaging, the shattering shatters our involvement and evokes the way in which every image we see is filtered through an individual's consciousness, a consciousness foregrounded by the video's end.' Fred Camper, from 'Pushed to the Limit - Films and Videos by John Smith', 'Chicago Reader' magazine, 2001. Awards: 3rd Prize, 'L'Immagine Leggera' Palermo International Video Art, Film & Media Festival, Sicily, 2000.
Lost Sound, (made with Graeme Miller) UK, 1998-2001, 28 mins
'The theme of fragmentation and decay is taken up by my favorite work here, the video Lost Sound (2001), made in collaboration with sound artist Graeme Miller. Divided into short sections titled by location, Lost Sound shows discarded audiotapes around London - strands clinging to a fence, trapped in the crevices of a tree trunk, intertwined with weeds. The sound track combines the voices and songs on the found audiotapes with ambient sounds recorded on location. Visually the audiotapes tell us almost nothing; they must be 'decoded' by the equipment that put them on the sound track. But we come to see that the signs, cars, and pedestrians in the videotape pose similar 'decoding' problems: what do they mean, where do they come from, who are they? A city that at first seems comprehensible is revealed as a layering of mysteries; we know no more about the passing humans from their images than we do about what's on the crumpled tapes. Each section charts a different relationship between tape and urban scene, taking the viewer on a little unpredictable journey. Finally, as happens so often in Smith's work, the representational structure itself seems to break down. Titles and images are flipped left to right, undermining the readability of words, and men loading boxes onto a truck are seen in a repeated loop, foregrounding the arbitrariness of cinematic time as well as commenting on the repetitiousness of manual labor. Lost in an indecipherable maze whose rules change constantly, we see the city as a network of unpredictably shifting relationships and come to doubt even the sounds encoded in the tape fragments.' Fred Camper, from 'Pushed to the Limit - Films and Videos by John Smith', "Chicago Reader" magazine, 2001.
Worst Case Scenario, UK, 2001-3, 18 mins
Worst Case Scenario starts out as a series of still photographs depicting daily life on a Viennese street corner. The film re-orders and manipulates a selection of these images, and as it progresses the static world slowly and subtly comes to life. As Sigmund Freud casts his long shadow across the city, an increasingly improbable chain of events and relationships starts to emerge.
'This new work by John Smith looks down onto a busy Viennese intersection and a corner bakery. Constructed from hundreds of still images, it presents situations in a stilted motion, often with sinister undertones. Through this technique we're made aware of our intrinsic capacity for creating continuity, and fragments of narrative, from potentially (no doubt actually) unconnected events.' Mark Webber. London Film Festival catalogue.
Throwing Stones, 2004, Switzerland, 2004, 11 mins (part of the Hotel Diaries series 2001-8)
As the camera looks out through a barred window and the clock strikes four in a Swiss city, the death of Yasser Arafat provides the starting point for a journey back in time. Throwing Stones is the third video in the "Hotel Diaries" series, a collection of late night recordings made in European hotel rooms which relate personal experiences to contemporary world events. Works in the series include Frozen War (Ireland, 2001), Museum Piece (Germany, 2004), Throwing Stones (Switzerland, 2004), B & B (England, 2005), Pyramids/Skunk (The Netherlands 2006/7), Dirty Pictures (Palestine 2007) and Six Years Later (Ireland 2007).
"These deceptively unassuming works consist of single takes from the point of view of Smith's camcorder as he explores the nocturnal spaces of hotels he is staying in and delivers monologues on his thoughts and observations. At once politically concerned and very funny, these brilliantly structured ramblings connect the observations of his surroundings with the horror of world events in consistently surprising ways." Maximilian Le Cain, Film Ireland Magazine