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Steve Hates Fish

John Smith

UK, 2015
4 minutes, 42 seconds, Colour, Stereo, 16:9
Original format: HD video
Available formats: DCP / HD Digital file / BluRay

Filmed directly from the screen of a smartphone using a language translator app that has been told to translate from French into English Steve Hates Fish interprets the signage and architecture in a busy London shopping street. In an environment overloaded with information the signs run riot as the confused and restless software does its best to fulfil its task.

“Smith has long engaged with the concept of misunderstanding – be it ideological, political, linguistic, or misunderstanding that arises from subjective narration, filmic devices, and our relationship to the media that shape our view of the world. Smith’s latest video, Steve Hates Fish is an exploration in manufactured misunderstanding. By deliberately confusing the popular ‘Word Lens’ translator app for smartphones, which translates text in real time using the phone’s camera, Smith recasts the shop signs in his local neighbourhood as a bazaar of dada-ist plays-on-words. The jumpy, often useless jumble of words onscreen inspires a kind of empathy. Watching the app search its memory for a corresponding translation is somehow not far from the futility of trying to make heads or tails of signage in a country where one does not speak the language.” Patrick Armstrong

“… the tone now shifts to subversive humour, where the everyday is not what it seems. It is probably the funniest film he has made to date and definitely worth standing on a blustery street corner to experience. … Shop signs produce surreal and subversive reconfigurations in mistranslations – it is as if Essex Road has come alive but is suffering from Tourette’s. I will never be able to walk past North London’s favourite fishmonger Steve Hatt again without recalling the shop sign ‘Fish Steve Hates’.” Sophia Phoca, Art Monthly

An alternative version of this work (without titles, for seamless looping) is available for gallery installation.