Language

Om
1986
Om

A film about haircuts, clothes, and image/sound relationships.

"This four-minute film explores our response to stereotypes—aural, visual and ideological. Smith signals these stereotypes to the viewer through a chiefly associational system, which deftly manipulates the path of our expectations. The structure is stunningly simple and deceptively subtle. We are taken on a journey from one concrete stereotype to its diametric opposite, as images transform and juxtapose to, ultimately, invert our interpretation of what we see and hear."

—Gary Davis

2011

In this diptych, Yi-Ching Chen plays the lowest possible sound on her tuba and Magenheimer's own electronically synthesized voice sings a letter that Ada Byron, the world's first computer programmer, wrote to her mother. In the letter she describes what it felt like to discover the extraordinary power of her own vast intellect.

Text excerpted from a letter Ada Byron wrote to her mother.

1974
Open Book

Acconci's open mouth is framed by the camera in an extreme close-up, bringing the viewer uncomfortably close. A desperate sense of strained urgency comes across as Acconci gasps, "I'll accept you, I won't shut down, I won't shut you out.... Im open to you, I'm open to everything.... This is not a trap, we can go inside, yes, come inside...." Acconci continues to plead in this way for the length of the tape, his mouth held unnaturally wide open. The pathological psychology of such enforced openness betrays a desperate struggle to accept and be accepted by others.

1976
Out of the Body Travel

A "young woman who finds herself surrounded by the relics of Western culture" is the subject of Richard Foreman's formal tableaux. The narration centers on a young woman's struggle to find a relation between her body and her self as mediated by language. The text is a poetry of formal relations that carries personal and historical implications, including the desires of the woman paradoxically voiced by a male narrator. The title suggests the vivid virtuality of dreaming; scenes repeatedly refer to both reading and sleeping.

1997
Partially Buried Continued

Partially Buried Continued is a meditation on ways in which one’s associations to history, location, and genealogy become tangled in a subjective web which makes it complicated to separate history from fiction.

1995
Performance / Myself (Or Video Identity)

This compilation is produced with "myself" as the sole object, as well as the material of the performance (except two videos with Akiko iimura).  The videos are not just documents of the performances, but works of video-art made specifically for utilizing the video system, including the camera and monitor, as part of the performances.  The collection also questions the identity of oneself in video, having tense relationships between words and images, and asks who is "I" and what "I" means.

DVD includes:

Self Identity, 1972, 1:00 excerpted

2017

VDB TV: Decades
1980s: Problematizing Pleasure / Punk Theory

An original program for VDB TV: Decades curated by Steve Reinke.

1993
The Pure

Using footage from a trip to the Orient, images of objects, products, the city and nature, Rankin investigates society's reverance for the "exotic" and the "pure" as manifested in tourism, Communism, Coca-Cola, Las Vegas, the Civil War, Hollywood, and photography. Examining the common idealisation of things distant in time or space, The Pure didactically reflects upon our societal penchant for categorization that begins with childhood games and is reflected in the way our culture organizes itself and the world around it.

1999
Regression

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 one of his old films.

"The award of the Short Film Festival goes to a video in which the reflection of artistic work becomes a form itself. John Smith manages to give us a self-ironic humorous experiment about art and time."

—Prize of the International Short Film Festival, Oberhausen 2000

This title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.

1972

"A major influence for generating ideas for me was not what I could contrive on my desktop, but being open and receptive to “accident”. For instance, one evening in 1972 while typing a syllabus for a class on my old Smith Corona typewriter, I happened to see on the TV a documentary by Leni Riefenstahl. German troops were marching, and I found that I could duplicate the “ta ta tum, ta ta tum, ta ta tum tum tum” of the drumbeat by typing “mar mar march mar mar march.“ Had not the broadcast of this film taken place while I was typing, I would never have thought of this concept.

2014

Steve Reinke has long been lauded for his irreverent, philosophical, and often acerbic works, which typically adopt the form of personal essays to wryly bend and reread wide-ranging topics, from pop culture, to sex, to theories of visual perception and beyond. Reinke’s video, included in the 2014 Biennial, Rib Gets in the Way, is narrated in the first person by Reinke, and addresses mortality, the body, the archive, and the embodiment of a life’s work.

1975
Riley, Roily, River

The seemingly groundless debate as to whether a river is "riley" or "roily" can be interpreted as an example of language's descriptive failure. A shouting match over how to describe the river has no effect; the face of nature continues unchanged. Riley, Roily, River graphically illustrates the gap of meaning that exists between the natural, empirical world and the language we use to describe it.

1995
Schlafbau

Taking its title from a poem by Paul Celan (translated as “sleeping den”), this montage is the result of a script that reconfigures over two hundred lines of English subtitles, lifted from films ranging from Battleship Potemkin and Persona, to The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. The disconcerting soliloquy on love and insomnolence is deliberately attempted in the original French, German, Russian, Italian, and Swedish.

2016
See a Dog, Hear a Dog

Taking its title from a sound design maxim and using it as a conceit to grasp the desire for connection, See A Dog, Hear A Dog probes the limits and possibilities of communication. In this liminal cinematic space, the fear of conscious machines is matched with a desire to connect with nonhuman entities. Algorithms collaborate and improvise. Dogs obey/disobey human commands, displaying their own artistry and agency in the process. Technology, from domesticated animals to algorithmic music to chat rooms, reflects human desires but has its own inventiveness.

2016

In Steve Reinke’s latest provocation, the words of author Hervé Guibert are made flesh through a montage of “human events” that work to collapse the boundaries between the private and public, the perverse and the prosaic.