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Experimental Film and Video Archive
  Experimental Film and Video
Friday, August 26, 7pm $2
Woodland Pattern Experimental Film/Video Series
Presented by the UWM Department of Film

The Hotel Diaries of John Smith
also: some related disorientations and displacements

The Woodland Pattern Experimental Film/Video Series will present the recently completed trilogy of Hotel Diaries by London artist John Smith. Smith's Hotel Diaries is a three-part collection of late night recordings made in foreign hotel rooms which relate personal experiences to contemporary world events.

Testifying to today's available uneasiness, these diaries—wry, first-person performances with a video camera—remain limited to the confines of a hotel, the soundtrack Smith's ruminations prompted and troubled by, among other things, the bombings in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and the death of Yasser Arafat.

Presented with the three diaries will be three other works of Smith, one 16mm film and two videos, that each explore their media's capacity for representing time and describing space. Simple—even deadpan—visual observations, these works, through slight formal manipulations and characteristic, and at times dark, humor, nevertheless work to undermine and gradually disorient the viewer from any complacency with the image.
"The films of John Smith conduct a serious investigation into the combination of sound and image, but with a sense of humor that reaches out beyond the traditional avant-garde audience. His films move between narrative and absurdity, constantly undermining the traditional relationship between the visual and the aural. By blurring the perceived boundaries of experimental film, fiction, and documentary, Smith never delivers what he has led the spectator to expect."
-Mark Webber, Leeds International Film Festival catalog 2000

"The popularity of John Smith's films can be explained by his wry sense of humor, his play on language, and the elegance of his visual style. His understated humor thinly conceals a darker layer of meaning in his films. John Smith's skill as both narrator and composer of visual narratives leaves us discomforted even as we smile."
-Catherine Elwes, UK/Canadian Video Exchange 2000

Frozen War (video, 11 min., 2002)
A spontaneous response to the bombing of Afghanistan triggered by a disorientating experience in an Irish hotel room. "Shot early in the morning, just after the U.S. and Britain started bombing Afghanistan, it's narrated by Smith, who describes how he worried about a blown-up transmitter when he found only a static face on TV. The slow pace and rambling form become apt correlatives for Smith's own confusion."
-Fred Camper, Chicago Reader

Celestial Navigation (16mm, color/sound, 10 min., 1980)
"Filmed in the course of one day on a beach the film uses pan and tilt movements to follow the shadow of a spade and retain its vertical position in the frame. As in other of John Smith's films, there are elements which can be intellectually measured as variances and towards a deciphering of the construction of the film, but these are not keys to the viewing of the work and the films are in no way puzzles to be reconstructed in the mind after viewing."
-Michael Maziere, John Smith's Films: Reading the Visible, Undercut 10/11.

Museum Piece (video, 12min, 23 sec., 2004)
While the Iraq war continues, a day's sightseeing and the features of a German hotel provoke a stream of thoughts about events large and small.

The Kiss (made with Ian Bourn, video, 5 min., 1999)
A depiction of the forced development of a hothouse flower. Organic growth is progressively overtaken by a more sinister mechanical process.

"The makers manage very convincingly to wrong-foot the viewer in just five minutes in this minimalist, lyrical film about a blossoming flower."
-International Film Festival Rotterdam 2000

"A film of a disarming seeming simplicity which enigmatically prompts reflections on its meaning and its use of media."
-International Jury, L'Immagine Leggera Festival, Sicily 2000 (winner of 3rd prize).

Throwing Stones (video, 10min., 55 sec., 2004)
As the camera looks out through a barred window and the clock strikes four in a Swiss city, the death of Yasser Arafat provides the starting point for a journey back in time.

Worst Case Scenario (video, 18min., 2003)
"This new work by John Smith looks down onto a busy Viennese intersection and a corner bakery. Constructed from hundreds of still images, it presents situations in a stilted motion, often with sinister undertones. Through this technique we're made aware of our intrinsic capacity for creating continuity, and fragments of narrative, from potentially (no doubt actually) unconnected events."
-Mark Webber, London Film Festival program 2003



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