Art form: Sculpture and print media.
Influences: The acknowledgment that the best that anyone can do is ultimately futile.
WorkSpace: A studio through the School of Art and Design at UIUC and small gallery out of his flat.
Dream collaboration: Three artificial intelligences programed to simulate Marshal McLuhan, Chris Marker, and Robert Smithson, respectively.
Recommended movie: Martyrs (2008), or Robocop (1987).
Favorite spot in C-U: The art gallery Outhaus.
Thoughts on art scene in C-U: “There are a lot of great artists here but the scene has a lot of problems due to the transitory nature of the art students and it’s proximity to Chicago.”
Where to see his work: visualdesolation.tumblr.com, yourpastispartprison.com and theopgenorth.tumblr.com.
Smile Politely: When and how did you decide to become an artist?
Chris Smith: As a young boy I tricked myself into thinking that I was good at art plus my family was very encouraging about making art. Then in high school I had a very supportive art teacher, so I kept pursuing art and an arts education in college.
SP: What or who are your influences?
Smith: I’m inspired by the acknowledgment that the best that anyone can do is ultimately futile. All we have is hopeless struggle. This hopelessness gives me validation and paradoxically hope in the project of asserting my attempts at making meaning out of my experiences.
SP: Who would you like to collaborate with and why?
Smith: I would choose three artificial intelligences programed to simulate Marshal McLuhan, Chris Marker, and Robert Smithson, respectively. The fun for me would be the task of locating the flaws that are the nature of the medium of their resurrection. This will also be a key plot device used in a romantic comedy that we will collaboratively write and star in. It goes like this: I reanimate Marshal McLuhan, Chris Marker, and Robert Smithson to help me get a date for my high school prom.
Image courtesy of the artist. Installation shot from A Load, Especially a Heavy One, by Eli Craven at The Opgenorth.
SP: Favorite movie recommendations?
Smith: Martyrs (2008), or Robocop (1987). Martyrs makes me think about what we choose not to see, especially people from the colonial countries, and how easy it is for us to avoid the suffering and horror we are implicit in propagating. Robocop is a classic, but I love it because the fascist backdrop that the film inhabits is never directly addressed or altered. Also, I just saw Pontypool (2008), a zombie film where the virus is transmitted through language which is reason enough to watch it.
SP: What is your favorite art spot in C-U?
Smith: The art gallery Outhaus. We need more art spaces like the Outhaus. All the factions of our humble art scene can rally there. Plus Katie and Bert are really great to work with. I just had an exhibition there called An All New You. I presented an ongoing project of mine where I collect peoples bad thoughts through a telephone landline and onto a cassette tape answering machine. I then take those tapes and seal them in concrete. I never listen to the tapes and the answering machine is kept in a locked and sound proofed box. The exhibition provided information on the service and how people can participate. It also included a “grounding exercise” which was administered by a low frequency sine wave played through a subwoofer placed adjacent to a reflective sheet of mylar. When the sine wave sounds it causes the mylar to violently vibrate and ripple. The sound is very loud which helped keep people in their bodies while we discussed the most corrosive and negative content of our minds.
Image courtesy of the artist. Installation shot from “An All New You,” Outhaus.