John Smith: An Interview

Video Data Bank

2014 | | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Collection: Interviews, Single Titles

Tags: Diary, European Film/Video, Experimental Film, Film or Videomaking, Humor, Language, VDB Interviews

John Smith, throughout his 40-year career, has approached the moving image from film, video and installations, generating a tremendous body of work that’s as diverse in its topics as it is in its methods. Weaving between early structuralist film and more personal, diaristic, documentary approaches to the places in which he lived, most notably London, his output is both broad and varied. This dialogue, conducted with VDB Director Abina Manning, spans the whole of his artistic production but particular time in the interview is spent on his early years, before his status as an artist was cemented.

Trying his hands at photography and design, Smith even found himself working as a light-projectionist for Rock shows at local universities. It was here, using multiple projection channels and different media, that he developed a fondness for the juxtaposition of images, both on formal and content-based levels. He attributes this work of alternation and superimposition as the beginnings of his interest in the moving image. From here, he would go on to work in film at first, and then video. Once settled on single channel media, he found that the only way to pursue the work of juxtaposition – which he sees as necessary correlate to subversion – was through manipulation of context, rather than the image itself. Taking meaning itself a subject for his films, cast against the back drop of his life in London, Smith became famous for creating work that was simultaneously intimate, funny, and yet critical of the language and tools of film as a medium.

— Nicolas Holt, 2016

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