New York, February 1963. Jack Smith (Columbus, 1932 - New York, 1989), Tony Conrad (Concord, 1940), and Henry Flynt (Greensboro, 1940) protest outside the Met, MoMA and Lincoln Center carrying signs that read: “Demolish Serious Culture! Demolish Art Museums! Demolish Concert Halls!” “Making art was never supposed to be easy. It really has to be very boring. It must become very, very boring.”
According to the maxim that Jack Smith proposed as a kind of therapy for boredom in the face of official art, Kill Time - See a Movie presents a retrospective of the films by this visionary artist whose influence reverberates in the movies of Ken Jacobs (New York, 1933) (his early collaborator), George (New York, 1942 - San Francisco, 2011) and Mike Kuchar (New York, 1942), Andy Warhol (New York, 1928 -1987) and John Waters (Baltimore, 1946), in the stagework of Richard Foreman, Charles Ludlam, Cady Noland and The Cockettes - a theatrical/performance group active in San Francisco in the late 1960s and early 70s, the glam rock of The New York Dolls and installations and sculptures by Karen Kilimnik and Isa Genzken.
Perhaps unknowingly, Smith helped to define the notion of camp identified in the 60s by Susan Sontag (New York, 1933 - 2004), one of his early admirers. Camp comes from a decidedly queer position, from artists who reject the straight world as boring, predictable and, as Smith would say, ‘pasty,’ and in standing outside of that world, they open up a new space of freedom not bound by convention. Although one of his films is titled Normal Love, Smith is an artist for whom the idea of anything ‘normal’ is appalling. His early work prefigures the post-Stonewall era culture, women’s liberation, gay rights, protests against the war in Vietnam and the general state of disaffection that hung over America at the end of the 60s.
In his work, there are myriad references to the films, music and soundtracks of his youth and his films transport us to the 30s and 40s, to Josef von Sternberg (Vienna, 1894 - Hollywood, 1969) and to Smith’s muse, Maria Montez. Smith’s aesthetic demands not only the awe of his audience, but asks them in a sense to time travel to the world he conjures out of thin air, whether in his films or performance events.