Filmed from the artist’s window during the first English lockdown, Citadel combines short fragments from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speeches relating to coronavirus with views of the London skyline. Recognising the government’s decision to place business interests before public health, it relocates the centre of power from Parliament to the financial district of the City of London. Presenting the city as a site of both horror and aesthetic beauty, the film documents the dramatic effects of changing light conditions upon its architecture. Shifting its focus from the city’s gleaming skyscrapers to the inhabitants of the dense urban housing that lies in their shadow, Citadel contrasts faceless corporate power with the particularities of individual lives.
John Smith was born in Walthamstow, London in 1952. He studied at North-East London Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, after which he became an active member of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op. Inspired in his formative years by conceptual art and structural film, but also fascinated by the immersive power of narrative and the spoken word, he has developed a diverse body of work that subverts the perceived boundaries between documentary, fiction, representation and abstraction. Often rooted in everyday life, his meticulously crafted films playfully explore and expose the language of cinema.
Since 1972, Smith has made over sixty film, video and installation works that have been shown in independent cinemas, art galleries, museums and on television around the world. His films have been awarded major prizes at international film festivals in Oberhausen, Leipzig, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Graz, Geneva, Uppsala, Pamplona, Bordeaux, Lucca, Palermo, Split, Cork, Seoul, Ann Arbor and Chicago. He received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists in 2011, and in 2013 he was the winner of Film London’s Jarman Award. His work is held in the collections of Tate Gallery (UK); Arts Council England; Museum of Modern Art (USA); Muzeum Sztuki, (Poland); Le Plateau (France); Kunstmuseum Magdeburg (Germany) and many other public collections.
John Smith currently lives and works in London.