Hommage: John Smith – Programme 1

Om    1986, 4 mins.
“This four minute film explores our response to stereotypes –  aural, visual and ideological. We are taken on a journey from one concrete stereotype to its diametric opposite, as images transform and juxtapose to, ultimately, invert our interpretation of what we see and hear.”   Gary Davis

The Girl Chewing Gum    1976, 12 mins.
A commanding voice over appears to direct the action in a busy London street. As the instructions become more absurd and fantasised, we realise that the supposed director (not the shot) is fictional; he only describes – not prescribes – the events that take place before him.
“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.”    Ed Halter

The Black Tower  1985-87, 23 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.  Smith’s assurance and skill as a filmmaker undercuts the notion of the avant-garde as dry, unprofessional and dull and in The Black Tower we have an example of a film which plays with the emotions as well as the language of film.”    Nik Houghton

Blight    1994-96, 14 mins.
(collaboration with composer Jocelyn Pook)
Blight revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. The images in the film record some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, while the soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events, together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people. Taking these actualities as its starting point, Blight exploits the ambiguities of its material to create its own metaphorical fictions. The emotive power of Jocelyn Pook’s music is used in the film to overtly aid this invention, investing mundane images with dramatic significance.

White Hole    2014, 7 mins.
The filmmaker first visited a communist country was when he went to Poland in 1980, not long after Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government was first elected in Britain. He first visited the former East Germany in 1997, eight years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and a few months after Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ government was elected. Recalling these experiences many years later, White Hole questions the idealisation of life in other places and political systems, while remembering a time when we could at least imagine that the grass might be greener on the other side.

unusual Red cardigan    2011, 12 mins.
The filmmaker’s discovery of an overpriced VHS tape of his films on eBay triggers obsessive speculation about the seller’s identity.