Close Up

10 November 2022: John Smith: Introspective Programme 6 (1998-2003)


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 6 (1998-2003)
With John Smith and Gareth Evans in conversation

The Kiss
John Smith & Ian Bourn, 1999, 5 min

A depiction of the forced development of a hothouse flower. Organic growth is progressively overtaken by a more sinister, mechanical process.

The Waste Land
John Smith, 1999, 5 min

A personal interpretation of the poetry and letters of T.S. Eliot.

John Smith, 1999, 17 min

A portrait of the artist as a not so young man. The filmmaker attempts to enter the digital age by making a new video version of his 1978 film 7P.

“John Smith is not afraid of time. His films continuously show his patience in setting up a visual pun, filming certain angles over several days or months in order to develop our sense of place and flux. Regression makes time a focus of his humour. As he recreates a film he made 21 years earlier, he tapes each of the twelve days of Christmas, getting progressively younger as he replays the chorus of the accompanying song.” – Chris Kennedy

Lost Sound
John Smith & Graeme Miller, 1998-2001, 28 min

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

Worst Case Scenario
John Smith, 2001-03, 18 min

Worst Case Scenario is constructed from a collection of still photographs depicting daily life on a Viennese street corner. Shot over the course of a week from a window overlooking the scene, the film develops themes that focus upon watching and being watched, distance and uneasy proximity. As the static world of the photographs gradually comes to life, the soundtrack introduces another, unseen, space to the viewer and an increasingly improbable chain of events and relationships starts to emerge.

"Smith’s 30 years of eccentric, good-humoured and enlightening radical filmmaking opened up endless possibilities for visual creativity.  His Worst Case Scenario, comprising a stream of movie-like images from rapidly shot camera stills taken on a Vienna street corner, is an exquisite documentation of everyday waiting, eating and road-crossing, with just a whiff of Freud." – Keith Gallasch

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