Artists Space

Reconstructing Performance

September 9, 2018, 4:15pm

This screening takes place at Metrograph and is part of the Jack Smith Film Retrospective program series.

A figure wearing all black clothing, a black hood, heavy eyeshadow, and a fake mustache looks at the floor.
Jack Smith, still from Hamlet in the Rented World (A Fragment), 1970-73. 16mm transferred to video, (sound, color), 27 minutes. [A figure wearing all black clothing, a black hood, heavy eyeshadow, and a fake mustache looks at the floor.]


Midnight at The Plaster Foundation, 1970, video, (sound, black and white), 17 minutes

Hamlet in the Rented World (A Fragment), 1970-73, 16mm transferred to video, (sound, color),
27 minutes

Jack Smith in Cologne, 1974, video, (silent, color), 11 minutes

The Secret of Rented Island, 1977 & 1997, video, (sound, color), 20 minutes

Putting Litter in the Pool, 1977, 16mm transferred to video, (sound, color), 10 minutes

Performance by Jack Smith, dir. Midi Onodera, 1984 & 1992, 16mm, (sound, color), 5 minutes
Total running time: 90 minutes

This screening features documentation and reconstructions of various live performances Smith gave throughout the 1970s. Originally shot on a Sony 3/4” Portapak, Midnight at The Plaster Foundation is the only known sound recording of a Jack Smith performance at his legendary loft-performance space in SoHo, the Plaster Foundation of Atlantis. Following Smith’s eviction from the Plaster Foundation, Smith cast himself in the role of Hamlet in his play and unfinished film Hamlet in the Rented World. Guided by the original scripts, filmmaker and preservationist Jerry Tartaglia reconstructs Smith’s play in a 27-minute assemblage, which features shooting sessions overlaid with audio recordings of Smith’s voice taken during rehearsal readings.

In both his midnight performance at the Plaster Foundation and in Hamlet in the Rented World: A Fragment, Smith rehearses and repeats his lines, often becoming frustrated by the failure of his own delivery. In a video created for the seminal 1997 retrospective at MoMA PS1 Jack Smith: Flaming Creature: His Amazing Life and Times, curator Ed Leffingwell meticulously pairs a sequence of slides of Smith’s performance of Ibsen’s Ghosts entitled The Secret of Rented Island (1977) with the prerecorded audio tape created by Smith as its soundtrack. Other short clips feature Smith preparing for a slideshow in Cologne, Germany, tossing Easter eggs into a pool in front of the Washington Monument, and performing Brassieres of Uranus at the Funnel Experimental Film Theater in Toronto, Canada.

Thank you: Anthology Film Archives, Isaac Alpert, Barbara Gladstone, Claire Henry, J. Hoberman, Ed Leffingwell, Jerry Tartaglia.

Organized by Kathrin Bentele, Stella Cilman, Jay Sanders, and Jamie Stevens.

Presented in collaboration with Metrograph.