We’re pleased to present 4 fims by Hackney based artist and filmmaker John Smith: Hackney Marshes; Citadel; Girl Chewing Gum; Steve Hates Fish, followed by a Q&A with director John Smith and curator Tom Hunter.
6pm Sunday the 30th of November 2023
Screening alongside the ‘At Home in Hackney’ photography exhibition, all of the films in this programme celebrate representations of the borough of Hackney on screen, from independent documentaries and short films, to Hollywood blockbusters, all using Hackney as a filming location.
John Smith’s films are renowned for their formal ingenuity, subversive wit and oblique storytelling. Over the past 50 years he has made over 60 film, video and installation works that have been shown in independent cinemas and art galleries around the world and awarded major prizes at many international film festivals. He was the winner of the 2013 Jarman Award and his films are in the collections of Tate Gallery, Arts Council England and MoMA New York, amongst many others. A lifelong Eastender, Smith has lived in Hackney for much of his life and made many films in the area, including all of those in this programme.
The Girl Chewing Gum (12 minutes, 1976)
In The Girl Chewing Gum a commanding voice-over seems to direct the action on a busy street corner near Dalston Junction. But as the instructions become more absurd and fantasised, we realise that things may not be quite what they seem.
“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.” Village Voice
Hackney Marshes (30 minutes, 1977)
Commission by Thames Television, Hackney Marshes is based around interviews with residents of the now demolished tower blocks on the Clapton Park Estate.
“Explicitly challenging all the accepted forms of the TV documentary, John Smith’s important film is extraordinary as the product of a major institution. Importantly, its success demonstrates the necessity for many TV filmmakers to re-think their safe approaches and accepted techniques.” Time Out
Steve Hates Fish (5 minutes, 2015)
Filmed directly from the screen of a smartphone using a language translator app that has been told to translate from French into English, Steve Hates Fish deliberately confuses the software by instructing it to interpret the English signage in a busy London shopping street.
“Shop signs produce surreal and subversive reconfigurations in mistranslations – it is as if Essex Road has come alive but is suffering from Tourette’s.” Art Monthly
Citadel (16 minutes, 2020)
Filmed from Smith’s bedroom window in Richmond Road during the first lockdown, Citadel combines fragments from Boris Johnson’s speeches relating to coronavirus with views of the London skyline. Shifting 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 the particularities of individual lives.
“Typically incisive and playful, Citadel is an urgent film of the Covid era: a subversive city symphony made in confinement, critical of the status quo, responding with wit and humanity to the reigning chaos.” MUBI
‘At Home in Hackney’ is a collaboration between Hackney Museum, East London Photographers Collective and East End Archive. See the exhibition for free at Hackney Museum and Hackney Picturehouse.