Playing games with John Smith

John Smith – How charming simplicity can be

John Smith. It’s really nice to meet him: An averaged height, charming Brit with a low, melodic voice. Likewise he has a sharp, but by no means malicious, worldview – and perspective on reality. He brings joy to the inconsolable and depth to the banal.

John Smith. A visual artist in a film environment. His short films and installations always play with what is there and what is seen – they deal with reality and visibility. Smith is a craftsman, who works with the force of the image, language and silence.

  • "Om", John Smith, DOK Leipzig

Om. A Tibetan monk,  apparently. He chants „Ommm“ and we see that his head is being shaved. In the end he puts down the orange barber cape and a young, smoking skinhead appears. Two different pictures. No fast sequences. But, nevertheless, enormous, narrating and bearing.

What is there and what seems to be there?

The Girl Chewing Gum. A vivid street, filmed for ten minutes. John Smith is giving stage directions, apparently. „The three girls, please move from the right to left side of the street”, „The man, please fold your arms and move backwards”. John Smith directs the life on the street. Or comments? The power of speech and how it confuses us.

What is there and what seems to be there?

Dad’s Stick. In memory of his father. The central picture is a wooden stick which was used by his dad to mix colours – Dad’s Stick. No spoken language, just signs, singsong and sounds. „Even silence can be very loud“ is his comment to that. It is just a memory. Soft, but joyful. Dad’s Stick seems to be huge. But the exhibit in the glass cabinet in the gallery is tiny, compared to the film picture.

What is there and what seems to be there?

John Smith. Silent, subconcious and significant. He does not focus on politics but on that what surrounds us – in our everyday life. Whoever gets involved earns new insights, perceives unseen facettes. John Smith pimps reality and sticks to it. All at the same time.

Simple und charming – John Smith.

Why does John Smith like to play with the expectations of the audience? And what happens if someone is playing with his expectations? We tried it out!


This year DOK Leipzig is showing a Hommage to John Smith.

This is the way to John Smith’s website.

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