Close Up

6 October 2022: John Smith: Introspective Programme 1 (1972-76)


In celebration of John Smith’s 50 years of radical filmmaking, and Close-Up present the most extensive survey of his work to date: screening 50 films by Smith, organised into 10 weekly programmes. For the season's full programme visit:

Programme 1 (1972-76)
With John Smith and Stanley Schtinter in conversation

John Smith, 1972, 3 min

Smith’s first 16mm film comprises abstract animation punctuated by found footage, cut to music by The Velvet Underground.

Someone Moving
John Smith, 1972, 5 min

Choreographed actions of a moving figure, broken down into still frames and reanimated in superimposed layers. Soundtrack by Peter Cusack.

The Hut
John Smith, 1973, 5 min

An experiment into visual rhythms that animates still photographs of a decaying building.

John Smith & Lis Rhodes, 1973, 7 min

An exploration of arbitrary meaning involving random combinations of words.

Out the Back
John Smith, 1974, 5 min

An improvisation around the view from an urban window, the first of Smith’s films to be edited in camera.

William and the Cows
John Smith, 1974, 6 min

Slowed down glimpses of life on the island of Sark.

“One of the most surreal films I have ever seen.” – Malcolm Le Grice

John Smith, 1974, 6 min

A study of movement and stasis involving the animation of still photographs.

John Smith, 1975, 7 min

Images from magazines and colour supplements accompany a spoken text taken from Word Associations and Linguistic Theory by Herbert H. Clark. Playing upon ambiguities inherent in the English language, Associations sets language against itself. Image and word work together/against each other to destroy/create meaning.

Leading Light
John Smith, 1975, 11 min

“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

The Girl Chewing Gum
John Smith, 1976, 12 min

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

Screening as part of John Smith: Introspective (1972-2022)