John Smith: Small Obsessions
Friday November 16, 2012, 8:00 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents
John Smith: Small Obsessions
John Smith in person from the UK!
At the Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N. Alvarado St. (at Sunset), Los Angeles CA 90026
Tickets: $10 general; $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members.
Filmforum continues bringing renowned experimental film artists from elsewhere this season with an extremely rare visit from the UK of filmmaker John Smith, who last came to Los Angeles in the 1980s! Note the change in location for tonight. These shows are partly a retrospective, and partly the Los Angeles premieres of a number of recent works.
"The films of John Smith create a world from the 'simple' experiences of living, breathing and being a filmmaker or artist in a particular place and time. Smith's often humorous films produced over the last 30 years have inventively documented and probed his immediate surroundings, often not even moving much beyond the front door of his various abodes in a small area of East London. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to describe Smith's films as overly delicate, preciously insular or purely personal assignations that the previous description might suggest as his work sees within the minutiae of familiar surroundings a range of philosophical, aesthetic, technical and quotidian challenges and revelations that extend far beyond the realm of much other comparable cinema. In film after film, Smith explores the cracks within and the tribulations of the world he confronts everyday, taking a closer look at and often transforming (verbally, associatively, just by observing from a different angle) things like a pane of glass, the discolorations of a mouldy ceiling, a hospital water-tower, the archaeology of an ancient toilet, an old shepherd's proverb, or a work he was unhappy with some 20 odd years before. In the process, he makes us look more closely, not just at his films and the cinema generally, but our own surroundings, the everyday world that engulfs us but that we probably routinely dismiss as a suitable subject for contemplation, art and imagination." -- From 'On the Street where You Live: The Films of John Smith' by Adrian Danks, Senses of Cinema, 2003
"The films of John Smith are among the most widely seen and appreciated of the UK avant-garde. Rigorous in structure and highly crafted in making, they extend the logic of language to question the authority of the image and the word. Among the complex features of these films is perhaps an attempt to sidestep, in a knight's move, Brecht's critique of cinema, his "fundamental reproach" that a film is "the result of a production that took place in the absence of an audience". In John Smith's films, the spectator is a producer as well as a consumer of meaning, bound in to the process but simultaneously distanced from the 'naturalness' of the film dream."-- From 'Associations: John Smith and the artists' film in the UK', by A L Rees, 2002
"One of the most talented filmmakers of the postwar generation, he has attracted admirers from way beyond the narrow confines of the Avant Garde. His reputation rests on a quite unique sensibility which has successfully married three traits - humour, documentary and formal ingenuity - into an indissoluble whole."-- Michael O'Pray, Art Monthly, 2002
This is the second of four shows. The first is at USC Cinematheque 108 on Thursday Nov 15; the third is at Filmforum on Sunday Nov 18, and the fourth is at Cal Arts on Tuesday Nov 20.
Special Thanks: Steve Anker, Bérénice Reynaud; David James
Leading Light (1975, 11 mins.)
"John Smith's Leading Light evolves a sense of screen depth and surface through the simple agency of light. The film is shot in a room over a period of a day and records the changes in light through the single window. The image is controlled through the manipulation of aperture, of shutter release, of lens, but the effect is more casual than determined and the spectator is aware primarily of the determining nature of following sunlight." -- Deke Dusinberre, Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film catalogue, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1977
"Leading Light uses the camera-eye to reveal the irregular beauty of a familiar space. When we inhabit a room we are only unevenly aware of the space held in it and the possible forms of vision which reside there. The camera-eye documents and returns our apprehension. Vertov imagined a 'single room' made up of a montage of many different rooms. Smith reverses this aspect of 'creative geography' by showing how many rooms the camera can create from just one." -- A.L. Rees, Unpacking 7 Films, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1980.
The Girl Chewing Gum (1976, 12 mins.)
"In The Girl Chewing Gum a commanding voice over appears to direct the action in a busy London street. As the instructions become more absurd and fantasised, we realize that the supposed director (not the shot) is fictional; he only describes not prescribes the events that take place before him. Smith embraced the 'spectre of narrative' (suppressed by structural film), to play word against picture and chance against order. Sharp and direct, the film anticipates the more elaborate scenarios to come; witty, many-layered, punning, but also seriously and poetically haunted by drama's ineradicable ghost" -- A L Rees, A Directory of British Film & Video Artists, Arts Council of England, 1995
The Black Tower (1985-7, 24 mins.)
"In The Black Tower we enter the world of a man haunted by a tower which, he believes, is following him around London. While the character of the central protagonist is indicated only by a narrative voice-over which takes us from unease to breakdown to mysterious death, the images, meticulously controlled and articulated, deliver a series of colour coded puzzles, jokes and puns which pull the viewer into a mind-teasing engagement." -- Nik Houghton, Independent Media, 1988
"A number of diverse filmic forms documentary, abstraction, psychodrama and surrealist reverie are convincingly bound together by the narrator's retelling of his descent into madness. Indeed, in its ability both to contain these various forms, and to create a plausible mimetic world, the film is an eloquent statement on the persuasive power of narrative, aided by the equal power of the voice-over." -- Nicky Hamlyn, Film Art Phenomena, British Film Institute, 2003
Lost Sound (collaboration with Graeme Miller) (1998-2001, 28 mins.) Los Angeles Premiere!
Lost Sound documents fragments of discarded audio-tape found on the streets of a small area of East London, combining the sound retrieved from each piece of tape with images of the place where it was found. The work explores the potential of chance, creating portraits of particular places by building formal, narrative and musical connections between images and sounds linked by the random discovery of the tape samples.
"Visually the audio-tapes tell us almost nothing; they must be 'decoded' by the equipment that put them on the soundtrack. 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 tape." -- Fred Camper, Pushed to the Limit Films and Videos by John Smith, Chicago Reader magazine, September 2001
Unusual Red Cardigan (2011, 13 mins.) Los Angeles Premiere!
The discovery of a VHS tape of the artist's films for sale on eBay triggers obsessive speculation about the seller's identity.
John Smith was born in Walthamstow, East London in 1952 and studied film at the Royal College of Art. Inspired by conceptual art and the structural materialist ideas that dominated British artists' filmmaking during his formative years, but also fascinated by the immersive power of narrative and the spoken word, he has developed a body of work which deftly subverts the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction. Drawing upon the raw material of everyday life, Smith's meticulously crafted films rework and transform reality, playfully exploring and exposing the language of cinema.
Since 1972 John Smith has made over fifty film, video and installation works that have been shown in cinemas, art galleries and on television around the world and awarded major prizes at many international film festivals.
His solo exhibitions include Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2012), Turner Contemporary, Margate (2012), Weserburg Museum for Modern Art, Bremen (2012), Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden (2011), PEER Gallery, London (2011), Pallas Projects, Dublin (2011), Royal College of Art Galleries, London (2010), Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2010), Sala Diaz Gallery, Texas (2010), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2006), Kunstmuseum Magdeburg (2005), Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool (2003) and Pearl Gallery, London (2003). Major group shows include 'Image Counter Image', Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012), 'Has The Film Already Started?', Tate Britain (2011-12), Berlin Biennial (2010), 'The Talent Show', Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and MoMA PS1, New York (2010), Venice Biennale (2007), 'A Century of Artists' Film in Britain', Tate Britain (2004), 'Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-75', Whitechapel Gallery, London (2000) and 'The British Art Show', UK touring exhibition (1984). John Smith regularly presents his work in person and in recent years it has been profiled through retrospectives at film festivals in Oberhausen, Tampere, St. Petersburg, La Rochelle, Mexico City, Uppsala, Cork, Bristol, Hull and Glasgow.
John Smith lives and works in London. He teaches part-time at the University of East London where he is Professor of Fine Art. He is represented by Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin. http://www.johnsmithfilms.com
Filmforum's screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the Metabolic Studio; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
Coming Soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:
Nov 18 John Smith, from the UK
Dec 2 - Empty Quarter, with Alain LeTourneau and Pam Minty in person from Portland
Dec 5 Gunvor Nelson in person from Sweden, last Los Angeles appearance!
Dec 9 Ann Arbor Film Festival 50th Anniversary Tour
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2012 is our 37th year
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Echo Park Film Center (View)
1200 N Alvarado St. (@ Sunset Blvd.)
Los Angeles, CA 90026
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