Currently reading : Jack Smith and the Ugliness of Capitalism discussion at SPACE

Jack Smith and the Ugliness of Capitalism discussion at SPACE

6 December 2013

Author : reba

A discussion chaired by Daniel Neofetou with Dan Barrow, Rebecca Bligh, Adam Christensen, Karolina Szpyrko, Jonathon Vaughan, and John Walter at SPACE Gallery in East London taking place this Sunday. This event is also free.


“I know how just a thing like the ugly design of kitchen sinks destroyed my childhood… ’cause I had to fight with my sister all the time over who had to do the dishes. It was the ugliness, the ugliness of capitalism, making it impossible for anybody to live a life that isn’t made ugly.”
– Jack Smith

If Jack Smith is discussed today, it is almost invariably in reference to his 1963 film Flaming Creatures, a queer masterpiece which some would argue still retains its power to rupture the petrified facade of bourgeois complacency. However, towards the end of his life, Smith became ambivalent towards the film. While Flaming Creatures is often championed for its ambiguity, Smith himself came to bemoan this, posing that an artwork’s meaning is constituted by its concrete effects, and that the concrete effects of Flaming Creatures had been the economic gain of others. In the face of this he turned later in his life towards didactically political performance, in an attempt to attack capitalism and espouse anarchist-socialist notions in a manner which could not be misconstrued or misappropriated.

One such performance took place at Cologne Zoo in 1974, and documentation of it is currently being exhibited at SPACE. In this roundtable, the panelists will discuss what is lost and what is gained in the shift from a non-rhetorical political art to a more discursive mode of expression and more specifically the relevance today of the ideas which Smith sought to express: Ideas denouncing a pervasive capitalism, but also towards a society without governance or landlordism, wherein things would not be designed as according to pre-given rules ascribed by authority and manufacturers, and people would freely exchange their unwanted things with others’.


This talk accompanies the exhibition at SPACE Jack Smith: Cologne, 1974 which brings together photographs by Gwenn Thomas and a film by Birgit Hein, both documenting a performance by Jack Smith.

Find out more about this exhibition and talk here which runs until the 15th of December

(both images)

Jack Smith

Gladstone Gallery

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