Language

2007
Final Thoughts, Series One

I just got this tattoo — you can see it's still healing, the edges are raised like some sort of fancy business card — to mark the completion of this, Series One of my on-going project, Final Thoughts. So, on one wrist, facing fistward, a skull and, on the other, still tender and healing, a ghost. Let them be the mascots for the series, little cartoony avatars.

2017
Ephraim Asili "Fluid Frontiers"

Fluid Frontiers is the fifth and final film in the series entitled The Diaspora Suite, exploring Asili’s personal relationship to the African Diaspora. Shot along the Detroit River, Fluid Frontiers explores the relationship between concepts of resistance and liberation, exemplified by the Underground Railroad, Broadside Press, and artworks of local Detroit Artists.

2006
Forever Live: The Case of K. Gun

This installation is based on the re-enactment of Franz Kafka’s allegory "Before the Law", interpreted live over a telephone line by Katharine Gun. Gun was a translator (specializing in Chinese to English translations), working with the British secret service, who chose to leak information compromising the U.S. and U.K. governments in their push for a U.N. resolution for the invasion of Iraq.

1995
the free space of the commodity

"In the free space of the commodity, I digitally took apart moving image sequences and re-animated them into an encoded montage to create a metaphor of experience where the viewer feels like a fiber optic cable has been hard-wired into their consciousness — a look where the image is simultaneously visible and invisible. My hope was to create a work that re-presented information as a kind of subliminal narrative that critiqued the currently popular technotopian rhetoric."

— Les LeVeque

1992
Gargantuan

“To master the one-minute time span requires considerable discipline, and few pieces, if any, had been shaped as genuine miniatures—most having the appearance of being extracts from larger works. The notable exception was John Smith’s Gargantuan, which was not only the right length for the idea, but actually incorporated a triple pun on the word ‘minute.’”

— Nicky Hamlyn, “One Minute TV 1992”, Vertigo (Spring 1993)

"A wonderfully witty example of how to conduct pillow talk with a small amphibian."

— Elaine Paterson, Time Out London

2014
Kendell Geers: An Interview

In this 2014 interview, South African artist Kendell Geers (b. 1968) discusses the function of magic, myth, and memory in his work. Beginning at childhood, Geers charts the path he has taken in his understanding of his own biography as a site of resistance. This interest in the use of personal biography culminated in 1993 with his decision to change his date of birth to May 1968 as a way to reference both the May 1968 student protests, and the fact that 1993 was the first year that South Africa had participated in the Venice Biennale since 1968.

1976
The Girl Chewing Gum

“In The Girl Chewing Gum a commanding voiceover appears to direct the action in a busy London street. As the instructions become more absurd and fantasized, we realize that the supposed director (not the shot) is fictional; he only describes—not prescribes—the events that take place before him. Smith embraced the ‘spectre of narrative’ (suppressed by structural film) to play word against picture and chance against order.

2007
A Heretic's Primer on Love & Exertion

Identically dressed, and with sibling-like resemblance, performance artists Trevor Martin and Kym Olsen shift between spoken word and athletic dance choreography in a collection of 29 scenes. Set in various locations--including a gymnasium, an abandoned hospital, and a trailer park circus--Martin and Olsen slip between a ventriloquist and his dummy, a seducer and his surrogate, a doctor and his patient, and synchronized dance partners. The film examines a complex social psychology--questioning the colonization of the human body for various political, medical and religious agendas.

1999
How Far is There: Part Two of Hearts and Helicopters

There are times when concurrent multiple realities of place demand at least an attempt to determine who in fact has, and where is, this place in the sun. Hearts and Helicopters occurs at that moment in the lives of four people.

This title is also available on Lawrence Weiner: Hearts and Helicopters - A Trilogy.

2004
How to Fix the World

Adapted from psychologist A.R. Luria’s research in the Islamic outskirts of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, How to Fix the World brings to life Luria's conversations with Central Asian farmers learning how to read and write under the unfamiliar principles of Socialism.

Colorful digital animations based on Max Penson's photographs of collective farmers play against a backdrop of landscape images shot in Uzbekistan in 2004.

1995
INFORMATION GLADLY GIVEN BUT SAFETY REQUIRES AVOIDING...

I borrowed this absurd phrase from a sign posted on the conductor’s booth in the Washington, D.C. subway. The language of civil service here borders on unintentional parody, with its blankly polite tone and bureaucratic single-mindedness. I.G.G.B.S.R.A.U.C. revisits my 1992 tape Nation, and features a dense chorus of faces and voices. These strangers ask us to consider the question, 'Who is the public?'
Tom Kalin

1992
Internationale Bed and Breakfast

When everyone has forgotten the romantic refrains of the Internationale sung in different languages, Pablito, a blue front Amazon parrot, capable of living to 100 years old, will remember. He rings bells and is learning to whistle, hum and sing the Internationale in French, Spanish and German.

1991
Involuntary Conversion

A chilling and revealing look at bureaucratic techno-speak, Finley provides a course in “official” media rhetoric, presenting terms and decoding for the audience (i.e. "soft target = city”, “involuntary conversion = crash”) against a slow-motion collage of military imagery. This intensely visual video illustrates how the urban environment has become the site of tactical language, rendering our daily lives in a science-fiction state of constant fear. The visual elements create a rhythm of threat that is punctuated by high altitude shots of military jets.

2015

Logging and approximating a relationship between audio recordings of the artist and his father, and videos gathered of the landscapes they both separately traversed. The initial distance between the logger and the recordings, of recollections and of songs, new and traditional, narrows while the images become an expanding semblance of filial affect. Jáaji is a near translation for directly addressing a father in the Hočak language.

1991
John Cage Performs James Joyce

An extremely rare documentation of a private performance of John Cage, one of the leading avant-garde composers of the 20th century, who created "Writing for the Fifth Time through Finnegan's Wake" using I-Ching chance operation: Chinese fortune telling.  Here Cage performs in front of a video camera operated by Takahiko iimura, while he transforms the text of a modern literature classic by James Joyce into Cagian music in three ways: reading, singing and whispering.