Kate MacGarry presents a continuous screening of two films by John Smith, Citadel (2020) and Who Are We? (2016). The films are accompanied by two prints, The Diary of a Prime Minister (2020) and Crackers (2017).
Filmed from Smith's window during lockdown, Citadel (2020, 16 minutes) combines short fragments from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's speeches relating to coronavirus with views of the London skyline. Recognising the British government's decision to place business interests before public health, the film relocates the centre of power from Parliament to the financial district of the City of London. Perceiving the city as a site of both horror and aesthetic beauty, the work documents the dramatic effects of changing light conditions upon its architecture. As it shifts its focus from the city's gleaming skyscrapers to the inhabitants of the dense urban housing that lies in their shadow, Citadel contrasts faceless corporate power with individual lived experience. The film was commissioned by the Steirischer Herbst '20 Festival in Graz, Austria.
Who Are We? (2016, 4 minutes) is a re-working of material from a BBC television Question Time debate transmitted a few weeks before the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union. 'The most provocative of the bunch is John Smith's Who Are We? ... It's a heavily edited and remixed edition of 'Question Time', but by highlighting those in the audience with attitudes ranging from nationalistic to xenophobic, Smith's short film shows the now normalised extremism within our society and our political discourse.' Scott Wilson, Common Space website, April 2017
John Smith was born in Walthamstow, London in 1952. He lives and works in London. Smith studied at North-East London Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, after which he became an active member of the London Filmmakers Co-op. Inspired in his formative years by conceptual art and structural film, but also fascinated by the immersive power of narrative and the spoken word, he has developed an extensive body of work that subverts the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction. Often rooted in everyday life, his meticulously crafted films playfully explore and expose the language of cinema.
Since 1972 Smith has made over sixty film, video and installation works that have been shown in galleries and independent cinemas around the world and awarded major prizes at many international film festivals. He received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists in 2011 and in 2013 he was the winner of Film London's Jarman Award. His solo exhibitions include Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover; Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Centre d'Art Contemporain de Noisy- le-Sec, Paris; Kunstmuseum Magdeburg; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Weserburg Museum for Modern Art, Bremen; Uppsala Art Museum and Royal College of Art Galleries, London. Smith's work is included in numerous public collections including Tate, Arts Council, MoMA New York, FRAC Île de France, Kunstmuseum Magdeburg and Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz. S.O.S is his second exhibition at the gallery following his first solo exhibition at Kate MacGarry in 2016.
Press release courtesy Kate MacGarry.