Melanie Smith (b. Poole, United Kingdom, 1965) dismantles and ruptures art history in order to generate new associations, stories and questions in the contemporary spectator. Her work alternates and mixes films, photographs, sculptures, assemblages, performances, and installations. And painting runs through all of it. Painting understood as process, as an invisible unifying thread, and also as object of deconstruction.
In 1989, after graduating with a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Reading, Melanie Smith travelled to Mexico, where she has lived and worked ever since. European and Latin American realities collide in her work, generating a sensuous play of contrasts, tinged with irony, through which she exposes the contradictions of the modern project, colonialism, industrialisation, and neoliberalism. The colours, the shapes, the sounds, the bustle, and the folklore of Mexico City engage in an artistic dialogue with Smith's minimalist background and Anglo-Saxon cultural baggage.
In this podcast, Melanie Smith talks about her encounter with Mexico, her relationship with painting, and the risks of so-called political art, which can end up being as dogmatic as the behaviour it supposedly condemns. She also reflects on satire and absurdity as tools of subversion and on the need to break down artistic frameworks and surfaces in order to create new realities. And she discusses some of her most significant works, including ‘Spiral City’, ‘Farce and Artifice’, and ‘Aztec Stadium’.
00:00 You can’t stay still in my work
04:07 Painting as a thought process
05:54 Working with other people
07:00 Mexico... why did I go there?
10:42 Dismantling Minimalism
12:58 The experience of color and the inoperativeness of art
15:36 'Spiral City'. Urban grid and abstraction
18:47 'Aztec Stadium'. Chaos and Modernity
25:12 If we define the sign too much, then we just mimic
28:00 Humor as a political gesture
32:05 'Farce and artifice'. Estrangement and awkwardness
36:48 Deconstructing the stage, breaking down the surface: 'Parres' and 'Xilitla'
42:46 Modernism grew up through Colonialism
43:46 'Bulto'. Post-colonialism and phantasmagoric identities