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1 Terry Smith: Parallax

PARALLAX
Terry Smith
2 Terry Smith: Parallax
3 Terry Smith: Parallax
4 Terry Smith: Parallax
Published on the occasion of the exhibition:
Terry Smith: Parallax
John Hansard Gallery
University of Southampton
:: November :o:: :: January :o::
Exhibition curated by David Torp and supported by
Te Henry Moore Foundation.
Published by:
John Hansard Gallery
University of Southampton, Southampton so:, :v,
tel: +(o):, 8o, ::,8 | fax: +(o):, 8o, ::
email: info@hansardgallery.org.uk
www.hansardgallery.org.uk
Publication design: Adrian Hunt
Print: Sharman and Company Ltd, Peterborough
All images courtesy the artist unless otherwise stated.
ISBN: ,8 o8, ,:,:8
:o::, John Hansard Gallery, the artist, photogra-
phers, designer and authors. All rights reserved. No
part of this publication may be used or reproduced in
any manner without prior permission.
Grateful thanks to staf at John Hansard Gallery;
Stephen Foster, Ros Carter, Adrian Hunt, Ronda
Gowland, Val Drayton, Eloise Rose, Liz Jones, Nicky
Anderson, Zoha Zokaei, Louise Abbott, Hannah Collins.
Special thanks also to: Julian Grater, Joel Papps and
Jo Willoughby.
Te artist and John Hansard Gallery would also like
to extend sincere gratitude for the generosity, help and
commitment of the following individuals regarding
their invaluable contribution to the exhibition:
David Torp, Helen Newhouse, Clare Fitzpatrick, Lisa
Blackmore and Maria Elena Ramos. Additional thanks
are also due to: Matt Fitts at Te Block; Sara Smith at
ADi; Lock and Davies; Oxford Exhibition Services.
John Hansard Gallery is part of the University of
Southampton and supported by Arts Council England
I frst worked with David Torp when he showed my
work at the Showroom Gallery in :88 and we have
remained friends and collaborated on projects since
then. His guidance throughout this project and for the
last two decades has been crucial. I am also extremely
happy to be making this show at the John Hansard
Gallery. Stephen Foster has been supportive and en-
couraging throughout and it is a privilege to be part of
his dedicated programme of innovative shows; I could
not have asked for a better platform for this project.
Te whole team at the Hansard have been fantastic; I
have worked particularly closely with Ros Carter and
Adrian Hunt, which has been a real pleasure.
Te project in Caracas was initiated by Lisa
Blackmore and Gerardo Zavarce. Lisa was the produc-
er of Caracol, which was made in March/April :o::.
Her energy and good humour made the whole project
possible. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the sing-
ers who put up with my working process, and to the
stap at the Museo Belles Artes that have supported
my installations and maintained my work over the
years. A special thanks to Maria Elena Ramos, who
has written such an incisive text on the frst project I
undertook in Caracas in :,.
I must also thank Clare Fitzpatrick and Helen Ne-
whouse who support has been essential to the realisa-
tion of this project.
Terry Smith, :o::
Cover: Detail of Slipping, Kings Cross (Leos shadow
teapot in the background), 19952011
Pages 2-3: House Peckham, Untitled, 1995
Terry Smith, Five Columns, Caracas, 1995. Photograph: Ricardo Armas
5 Terry Smith: Parallax
Si Terry Smith llegara a estar varado en una isla
en medio del mar, es el nico artista con mayor
probabilidad de seguir haciendo su trabajo artstico.
Su carcter ingenioso se ve igualado solamente por
su deseo de trabajar con los materiales que tenga a la
mano. A su vez, este deseo de trabajar es impulsado
por su inquietud, que asegura una energa creativa
en continuo desarrollo basado en la experimentacin
y la originalidad. Su tcnica radica en cuestionar
constantemente su propia dinmica de trabajo, como
podemos apreciar en un apunte hecho en una de las
libretas que carga con l todos los das, que suelen
revela sus procesos creativos:
...durante una conversacin una noche en un bar, dije
que nunca me metera en el proceso composicional,
lo cual, en mi mundo, signica que esto sera
precisamente mi prximo paso.

El resultado es un cuerpo de trabajo cuyo alcance es
impresionante, que utiliza una vasta gama de medios,
desde la mancha ms sencilla, pasando por dibujo,
fotografa, escultura, instalacin y video. Adems,
Smith ha trabajado en muchos proyectos colaborativos
dentro de varias disciplinas diferentes. Lo que une
esta obra es la forma en que se rene la idea con su
realizacin. A lo largo de los aos, la obra en s se ha
vuelto cada vez ms sosticada, pues sugiere otro nivel
de seriedad en la aproximacin de Smith. Pero, en
realidad, no es para nada as. Sus primeros trabajos,
por ejemplo, como las intervenciones en edicios
abandonados requieren el mismo rigor que las piezas
de video recientes, en las cuales trabaja con msicos
dentro de grandes edicios.
Dado el compromiso de John Hansard Gallery
con la exploracin del legado del primer arte
conceptual, no existe artista ms apropiado que Smith
como representante de su generacin. Ha sido un
inconformista entre su generacin, cuyo trabajo es,
muchas veces, fugaz, efmero y temporal. Su prctica
comienza con los actos ms sencillos: ver y dibujar, o,
mejor dicho, hacer manchas. Es un artista conceptual
por excelencia, pero tal como seala David orp en
su texto, el trmino artista conceptual se ha vuelto
una etiqueta perezosa para describir muchas obras
contemporneas que llena galeras comerciales y ferias
de arte en todo el mundo, que ignora el radicalismo y
la falta de consideracin comercial de los cuales Smith
imbuye cada obra nueva.
Es muy graticante trabajar con David orp en
esta exposicin. Hemos trabajado juntos en muchas
exposiciones durante las ltimas dos dcadas. l lleva
el mismo perodo trabajando con Terry Smith y no
hay nadie que entiende su obra mejor. Su texto ubica la
obra de Smith dentro de la historia del arte conceptual
de Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Bruce Nauman, entre
otros. Estamos muy agradecidos, adems, por el texto
esclarecedor de Mara Elena Ramos, quien ofrece la
perspectiva de otra cultura, pero una con la cual Smith
ha tenido contacto creciente. Tambin quisiramos
reconocer el apoyo de Helen Newhouse, quien ayud
a Smith en su produccin y su archivo, y a Clare
Fitzpatrick por toda su ayuda con las primeras etapas
de esta exposicin. Agradecemos el apoyo nanciero
de la Henry Moore Foundation porque sin ellos
muchos aspectos de esta exposicin, incluyendo esta
publicacin, no hubiesen sido posibles. Finalmente,
damos gracias enormes a Terry Smith, cuyo
compromiso y determinacin durante este proyecto
han sido inspiradores.
Should Terry Smith ever nd himself marooned on
a desert island he is the one artist most likely to be
able to continue to make art. His resourcefulness is
matched only by his desire to work from whatever
materials come to hand. is in turn is driven by a
restlessness, which ensures a continuously developing
creative energy based upon experimentation and
originality. His technique is to constantly question
his current way of doing things, as can be seen
in a comment in one of the notebooks, his daily
companion and which oen reveal his creative
processes:
in a pub conversation one evening, I said I would
never get involved in the compositional process,
which in my world means that is exactly what I
would do next.
e result is a body of work of remarkable breadth
which utilises a wide variety of media, from the
simplest mark making to drawings, photographs,
sculpture, installations and video lm. In addition he
has worked collaboratively in a number of dierent
disciplines. Smiths oeuvre is united by the way
in which the idea and its realisation are brought
together. e work itself has, over the years, appeared
increasingly sophisticated, giving the appearance of a
dierent level of seriousness of approach. e reality is
far from it and his early work, such as his interventions
into derelict buildings, require the same kind of rigour
as recent video pieces working with musicians and
grand buildings.
Given that the John Hansard Gallery has a
commitment to exploring the legacy of early
conceptual art there could hardly be a more
appropriate artist than Smith. He has been very
much the maverick of his generation, making work
that is oen transient, ephemeral, temporary. His
practice begins with the simplest of acts: of looking
and drawing or, more accurately, mark-making. He
is the ultimate conceptual artist but, as David orp
points out in his essay, the term conceptual artist
has become a lazy shorthand to describe much of the
contemporary work that lls commercial galleries and
art fairs the world over, and ignores the radicalism and
lack of commercial consideration that Smith imbues
within each new piece.
It is extremely gratifying to be working with David
orp on this exhibition. We have worked together
on many exhibitions over the past two decades. He
has been working with Terry Smith over that same
period and no one could understand his work better.
His essay positions Smiths work very much in the
conceptual art history of Joseph Beuys, John Cage,
Bruce Nauman and others. We are grateful also for
the illuminating text of Maria Elena Ramos who gives
a view from another culture, but one that Smith has
been increasingly engaging with. We should here also
acknowledge the support of Helen Newhouse who
has assisted Smith in both production and archiving,
and Clare Fitzpatrick for all her help with the early
stages of the exhibition. We are grateful to e Henry
Moore Foundation for its nancial support, without
which many aspects of this exhibition, including this
publication, would not have been possible. Finally, our
enormous thanks go to Terry Smith himself, whose
commitment and determination throughout the
project have been an inspiration.

FOREWORD
PREFACIO
Stephen Foster
Stephen Foster is Director of
the John Hansard Gallery
Stephen Foster
6 Terry Smith: Parallax David Thorp
7 Terry Smith: Parallax
In the :os, as other artists in the UK were recover-
ing from the inuences of the generation of British
sculptors that had taken centre stage internationally
or were part of the burgeoning London scene that was
to become the vvns, Terry Smith was already forging
ahead in his own independent way. Smith is one of
the poets of reductive art; a contradictory minimalist
whose Anti-Form conceptions place him in a tribu-
tary of expression that nourishes his individuality.
He makes work from whatever is to hand, from video
installations to sculpture, wall drawings and paintings,
and strongly believes that art has always been about
communication, about understanding and about cour-
age and generosity. e central concern in my work is
the process of experimentation. I am not aligned to any
particular medium, and I work in whatever material is
to hand or which seems the most appropriate.
:

Terry Smith represents a surprisingly uncom-
mon strand in the practice of contemporary art in
the UK. His practice, which has been developing over
twenty-fve years, has its roots in Anti-Form European
and American conceptualism. And, although Smith
studied at Goldsmiths and was working in London
throughout the heyday of the vvns, he was never
seduced by the glamour and high profle achievements
of his contemporaries, preferring to pursue his investi-
gations into the way in which the complexities of ideas,
materials and the everyday can combine to make po-
etic statements, that predate the uidity of an art scene
that has steered clear of any strong uniform trend. To
paraphrase Gerhard Richter, he has no medium, no
style, no continuity and no intention to change.
As he says, Smiths drive as an artist is to experiment.
However, his experimentation is rooted in established
fne art conventions. Smiths practice and his inu-
ences single him out as the most consistent artist of
his generation in the UK to create a body of work,
over a long period of time, that is uncompromising
in its acknowledgment of major artists of the :oth
Century, such as John Cage, Joseph Beuys, Bruce
Nauman. Tese artists, among others, established a
basis from which art can extend into the realm of pure
idea, while at the same time remaining experiential.
Tis approach forms the core of Smiths own, which is
therefore frmly located within an historical trajectory.
His awareness of this not only informs his work but
allows him to create a platform upon which it can be
celebrated.
It is not so long ago that some artists and critics
seemed to think that if art is vehemently asserted as
good by those who make the claim to know what they
are talking about, then ipso facto it is good. But those
artists mentioned above, and many of their contempo-
raries, were more concerned with radicalism than they
were with quality based on a consensus of art estab-
lishment opinions.
Durante los aos , mientras algunos artistas del Re-
ino Unido se recuperaban de las inuencias de la gen-
eracin de escultores britnicos consagrados interna-
cionalmente y otros pertenecan a la escena oreciente
de Londres que luego se convertira en los *, Terry
Smith ya estaba forjando su propio camino independi-
ente. Smith un poeta del arte reductivo: un minimalista
contradictorio cuyas ideas Anti-Formales lo ubican
en un auente expresivo que nutre su individuali-
dad. Trabaja con los materiales que estn disponibles,
haciendo obras que van desde instalaciones de video
hasta esculturas, dibujos y pinturas. Est convencido
que el arte siempre ha sido un asunto de comunicacin,
de comprensin y de valor y generosidad. La inquietud
fundamental de mi trabajo es el proceso de experiment-
acin. No estoy alineado con ningn medio en particular
y trabajo con los materiales que tenga a la mano o con
los que parezcan ms apropiados.

Terry Smith representa una vertiente sorpresiva-


mente inusual en la prctica del arte contemporneo
en el Reino Unido. Su trabajo, que lleva veinticinco
aos en desarrollo, se arraiga en el movimiento Anti-
Forma europeo y el conceptualismo norteamericano.
Aunque Smith estudi en Goldsmiths y estuvo traba-
jando en Londres durante el auge de los , nunca se
dej seducir por el glamour y los logros afamados de
sus contemporneos. Preri seguir desarrollando su
investigacin sobre cmo la complejidad de las ideas,
los materiales y lo cotidiano pueden combinarse para
hacer armaciones poticas, que anteceden la uidez
de una escena artstica y que se resisten a adoptar
ninguna tendencia predominante o uniforme. Si para-
fraseamos a Gerhard Richter, no tiene medio, ni estilo,
ni continuidad, y no tiene la intencin de cambiar.
Como comenta Smith, su impulso como artista es la
experimentacin. Sin embargo, esta experimentacin
est arraigada en convenciones plsticas establecidas.
La prctica de Smith y sus inuencias lo distinguen
como uno de los artistas britnicos ms consecuentes
de su generacin quien en un largo perodo de tiempo
ha creado un cuerpo de trabajo que persistentemente
reconoce a artistas fundamentales del siglo veinte,
como lo son John Cage, Joseph Beuys, y Bruce Nau-
man. Estos artistas, entre otros, forjaron una base desde
la cual el arte puede extenderse hacia el reino de la idea
pura, mientras no pierde su carcter experiencial. La
prctica de Smith est rmemente ubicada dentro de
una trayectoria histrica y su consciencia de ello no
solamente nutre su trabajo, sino que le permite crear
una plataforma donde esta trayectoria se celebra.
No hace tanto tiempo, algunos artistas y crticos
parecan pensar que si los que dicen saber del arte ar-
man vehementemente que una obra es buena, entonces
ipso facto lo es. Pero los artistas que mencionamos ar-
riba, y muchos de sus contemporneos, se preocupaban
ms por el radicalismo que por la calidad establecida
TERRY SMITH: PARALLAX
David Thorp
David Thorp is an independent curator
Capital, British Museum, Room 49, 1995
David Thorp
8 Terry Smith: Parallax
Teir radicalism recognised the weaknesses inherent
in the accepted ideas about the art of their day and
Smith has taken it upon himself to continue in that
radical tradition.
Te climate for todays art is conceptual. Despite
the shorthand used by the popular press to describe
most recent art as such, this categorisation delineates
it as that which has a relevance to the current zeitgeist.
When once it was sumcient to evaluate art almost
entirely on its aesthetic value, now that is but one way
of appreciating contemporary art and frequently one
that is canonically marginalised. Te beginnings of a
move away from the primacy of arts aesthetic dimen-
sion goes back to Duchamp and his onspring, the most
prominent of whom make up the inuential post-
Greenberg avant-garde of the 6os and ,os and are the
precursors of todays conceptualist mainstream that
has absorbed the avant-garde. Despite this, and the
fact that at the time there appeared to be no consis-
tent succession of styles as dinerent forms of language
came under critical examination, ffy years on there
is clearly a pervading coherent aesthetic of the period.
Smith works in an aesthetic framework that was es-
tablished by artists who practiced in this era and thus
there is a tense dichotomy between his radical projects
and the use of a formal language that has its origins in
the past.
However, a new relevance has been established for
those artists who have been consistently experiment-
ing with alternatives to market-driven art production.
Te concerns that have absorbed Smith for the past
twenty-fve years, and which have burgeoned into
his mature work, now beneft from broader social
and economic changes. Art practice in the UK has
undergone signifcant shifs of emphasis in the years
following the vvn phenomenon. Te instant gratifca-
tion and shock tactics of some artists and their dealer/
collector friendly, product oriented practice has been
supplanted by concerns with social engagement and a
reappraisal of the dematerialised object. Tis is vividly
demonstrated in Smiths body of work which ranges
from experimental drawing, photography, video and
performance, collaborative working and his alterna-
tive art school, to site specifc objects and ephemeral
interventions. Smiths project for a free art school is
as central to his oeuvre as a collaborative sound and
performance piece, a framed photograph or a oor-
based assemblage.
Smiths acknowledgement of the genus of art in
which he operates is sometimes overtly apparent in the
works themselves. A series of small videos, collectively
entitled Studio Block, were made in the spirit of Nau-
man from whatever came to hand, soon afer Smith
had moved into a new studio afer twelve years of
working on site. One of the small monitors in Parallax
shows a silent video entitled Noise, :oo, an animated
translation of Smiths direct approach to drawing. A
larger fve monitor video work Alight, :oo, stands
nearby. It was shot from Smiths studio window, track-
ing the gradual lighting-up of streetlights as dusk falls.
Alight underscores the poetic poignancy that exists
por un consenso de opiniones del establishment arts-
tico. Su radicalismo reconoca las debilidades innatas
de las ideas recibidas sobre el arte de aquel momento y
Smith ha asumido la tarea de continuar esa tradicin
radical.
El entorno del arte actual es conceptual. A pesar de
que la prensa popular use ese trmino abreviado para
etiquetar a la mayora del arte de hoy, esta categora
lo delimita como aquello que tiene relevancia en el
zeitgeist actual. Antes bastaba con evaluar el arte segn
su valor netamente esttico, pero hoy eso ofrece una
sola manera de apreciar el arte contemporneo, que los
cnones de la crtica actual tienden a marginalizar. Los
comienzos de la distancia que se genera entre el arte y
la primaca de su dimensin esttica remontan a Duch-
amp y sus vstagos, entre quienes los ms prominentes
formaron la inuyente vanguardia pos-Greenbergiana
de los y los , y quienes son los precursores de
la tradicin conceptualista actual que ha absorto a la
vanguardia. No obstante esto y el hecho que en ese mo-
mento no pareca haber una sucesin consecuente de
estilos regida por apreciaciones crticas a los diferentes
lenguajes, cincuenta aos despus existe una esttica
coherente y predominante de esa poca. Smith trabaja
en un marco esttico establecido por los artistas que
estaban trabajando en esa poca y de ah se establece
una tensa dicotoma entre sus proyectos radicales y su
uso de un lenguaje formal cuyos orgenes se hallan en
el pasado.
Sin embargo, aquellos artistas que han estado ex-
perimentando con alternativas a la produccin artstica
impulsada por fuerzas del mercado han alcanzado una
nueva relevancia. Las inquietudes que consumen a
Smith desde hace veinticinco aos, y que se han mani-
festado de forma creciente en su trabajo maduro, ahora
se ven beneciadas por cambios sociales y econmicos
ms amplios. La prctica artstica en el Reino Unido
ha experimentado cambios signicativos desde el
fenmeno de los . La graticacin instantnea y las
tcticas de shock de algunos artistas y sus marchants
o coleccionistas, y las prcticas artsticas que ponan
nfasis sobre el producto, se han visto suplantadas por
inquietudes de relaciones sociales y una revaluacin
del objeto desmaterializado. Son estas inquietudes las
que estn vvidamente presentes en la obra de Smith,
que abarca desde el dibujo experimental, la fotografa,
el video y la performance, trabajos colaborativos y
su escuela alternativa de arte, hasta objetos in situ e
intervenciones efmeras. El proyecto de Smith para
crear una escuela gratis de arte tiene tanta importancia
en su obra como una pieza colaborativa de sonido y
performance, o como una fotografa montada o un
ensamblaje realizado en el piso.
A veces el reconocimiento de Smith del gnero de
arte donde opera se hace explcito en las obras en s.
Una serie de breves videos agrupados bajo el ttulo
Studio Block (Bloque de estudio) se realizaron en el
espritu de Nauman usando cualquier material que
tuviera a mano, luego que Smith su mud a un nuevo
estudio despus de doce aos trabajando in situ. Uno
de los pequeos monitores en Parallax muestra un
David Thorp
9 Terry Smith: Parallax
behind the prosaic veneer of much of Smiths work
as he seeks the most appropriate means to express a
particular subject. Ive Got Nothing To Say, :oo,, refer-
ences Mona Hatoums work from :8, So Much I Want
to Say. In what is a deceptively disparaging manner,
Smith turns this around not in order to appear as self-
enacing but to emphasise his view that in fact there
is nothing to say, in the sense that all words and, by
extension, all personal expression is ultimately mean-
ingless. As with all Smiths work that is concerned with
the position of the artist and his actions, Ive Got Noth-
ing To Say emphasises his isolation. And, of course, in
a typically contrary way, asserts the fact that Smith has
got something to say, but what he does not have is the
assurance and certainty that what he has to say is in
any way signifcant or helpful. Tus its lack of signif-
cance becomes meaningful. Another small video work,
Firework, :oo,, tracks a sparkler, a small hand-held
frework, as its combustible coating burns down. Te
sparkler contains both physical and ephemeral proper-
ties; its purpose only manifests as it destroys itself.
Its combustion is random and prescribed at the same
time. It is impossible to dissociate the physical proper-
ties of the sparkler from the conditions of its percep-
tion but it remains essentially a visual experience.
Te sparks emitted have been translated by Smith into
a series of black and white drawings, a process that is
as lively as the burning sparkler but which results in
exactly the opposite outcome, something static and
fxed. Such tautological contradictions are central to
Smiths attempts to make meaning meaningless.
In another video piece, Fuck Nauman, :oo,, not
part of the Studio Block series, the reference is clear:
two talking heads repeat these two words at an in-
creasingly fast pace. As the recording is edited into
video silente llamado Noise (Ruido), , una traduc-
cin animada de la aproximacin directa de Smith
hacia el dibujo. Alight (Iluminado), , otra obra ms
grande montada en cinco monitores, est cerca. Fue
grabado desde la ventana del estudio de Smith y sigue
la iluminacin paulatina de las lmparas de la calle
mientras cae la noche. Alight subraya la carga potica
que subyace debajo de la supercie prosaica de gran
parte de la obra de Smith, quien busca el medio ms
apropiado para darle expresin a un sujeto dado. Ive
Got Nothing To Say (No tengo nada que decir), ,
hace referencia a So Much I Want to Say (Hay tanto
que quiero decir), la obra de Mona Hatoum de .
Smith invierte el mensaje de una forma aparentemente
desdeosa, pero no lo hace para ser modesto sino para
enfatizar que para l no hay nada que decir y que de
alguna manera toda palabra y, por ende, toda expresin
personal es al n y al cabo un sinsentido. Como es el
caso de todas las obras de Smith que giran en torno a la
posicin del artista y sus acciones, Ive Got Nothing To
Say tambin subraya su enajenamiento. Y, por cierto,
de manera caractersticamente contradictoria, la obra
tambin arma que Smith s tiene algo que decir pero
que no tiene ni la conanza ni la certeza de que lo que
tiene que decir ser en lo absoluto signicativo o til.
En este sentido, su carencia de signicado se torna
signicativa. Otra obra en video, Firework (Fuego arti-
cial), , sigue el proceso de cmo se va quemando la
capa de combustible que cubre una luz de Bengala, un
pequeo fuego articial que se agarra con su mano. La
luz de Bengala conjuga propiedades tanto fsicas como
efmeras; su propsito slo se vuelve aparente mientras
se destruye. Su combustin es simultneamente aza-
rosa y prescrita. Es imposible disociar las propiedades
fsicas de la luz de Bengala de las condiciones de su
Top to bottom:
From the series Sparks, 2006
Firework, 2005
Alight, 2003
David Thorp
10 Terry Smith: Parallax
gradually smaller fragments they dissolve into a stac-
cato rhythm that employs Bruce Naumans techniques,
evoking not only Naumans work but Steve Reichs
rhythmic music as well. is apparently rude dismissal
of Nauman when considered more closely is in fact an
homage and a tting consequence of Studio Block.
I think my education as an artist comes rst and
foremost from looking and reecting on other artists
work. So studying Cezanne, Johns, Cage is my way of
understanding how they have tackled the same prob-
lems. I think you nd artists that you recognize who
have had to deal with the same issues. I have always
felt like a predator, I think all artists are, we forage
and hunt and are usually ruthless in our attacks. I
always make a point of referencing any artists whose
work has had a big eect; so, for example, Slipping
was a very obvious homage to Matta-Clark. I love
technical things, so I will try to see how things were
done.

Given the diversity and pragmatism of Smiths
approach it is not possible to claim any particular me-
dium or process as central to his work but drawing has
restated itself throughout his career. Just as the asser-
tion mentioned above that good art will out, the same
sentimental attachment exists to the place of draw-
ing in art as the sine qua non of authentic practice. If
anything is central to Smiths conicting practice, it is
his striving for authenticity in the face of his misgiv-
ing that inauthenticity is the condition of art. It may
be that this uncertainty underpins Smiths ambivalent
percepcin, pero la obra lo convierte en una experien-
cia esencialmente visual. Smith traduce las chispas que
emite en una serie de dibujos blancos y negros. Este es
un proceso que es tan vivo como la luz de Bengala que
se quema, pero tiene un resultado totalmente opuesto:
algo esttico y jo. Contradicciones tautolgicas como
stas son fundamentales en la manera en que Smith
trata de convertir el sentido en un sinsentido.
Otra pieza en video Fuck Nauman, , que no for-
ma parte de la serie Studio Block, hace una referencia
evidente: dos personas repiten estas dos palabras cada
vez ms rpido. Mientras la grabacin se edita para
crear fragmentos cada vez ms pequeos, las palabras
se disuelven en un ritmo staccato que emplea tcni-
cas de Bruce Nauman, a la vez que alude a la msica
rtmica de Steve Reich. Cuando se estudia este aparente
rechazo grosero a Nauman con mayor detenimiento,
resulta que es un homenaje y una consecuencia adec-
uada de Studio Block.
Creo que mi educacin como artista se basa,
primero que nada, en ver y pensar el trabajo de otros
artistas. Entonces, estudiar a Cezanne, Johns y Cage
es mi manera de entender cmo han enfrentado los
mismos problemas. Creo que uno consigue artistas
en los cuales te reconoces y que tuvieron que abordar
los mismos temas. Siempre me he sentido como un
predador. Creo que todo artista lo es: forrajeamos y
cazamos, y nuestros ataques suelen ser despiadados.
Siempre hago referencia a artistas cuyos trabajos me
han inuenciado mucho. Por ejemplo Slipping
Above: Slipping, King's Cross
(Homage to Matta-Clark), 19952011
Right: Untitled, 2007
David Thorp
11 Terry Smith: Parallax
attitude to the object. His drawings, while having an
existence beyond the moment in which they are made,
talk back to those short-lived actions to which they
relate. Smith has devised two dierent ways of dealing
with the same event using a methodology that is lo-
cated between the spheres of ideas and concrete reality.
e myth of the value of drawing as something
fundamentally essential to the making of art is taking
a long time to die. Rather than using drawing as a way
of exploring and analysing external phenomena, Smith
recognises that drawing is one means within his gamut
of visual tools and he employs it in dierent ways to
suit various contexts.
His site-specic wall drawings are bas relief sculp-
tural interventions sometimes made in clandestine
circumstances. In , Smith worked on the walls of
houses in Londons East End a few days before they
were due to be demolished. Using a drawing technique
that consisted of exposing and removing wall paper
and plaster, he made a series of images the illusion
of a window and the view through it, a pillar giving
the impression of holding up the wall on which it was
drawn, an incongruous uted column, as well as other
abstract images. Later he drew a series of works in the
same way on the walls of a derelict building that now
houses the South London Gallery extension. Smith
removed not only the plaster but some of the old laths
behind it as well, revealing the horizontal and verti-
cal geometric structure supporting the walls surface.
(Resbalar) fue un homenaje muy evidente a Matta-
Clark. Me encanta lo tcnico as que trato de ver
cmo se hicieron las obras.


Dada la diversidad y el pragmatismo de la aproxi-
macin de Smith, es imposible identicar un medio
o proceso en particular como elemento central en su
obra, pero el dibujo se ha hecho presente reiterada-
mente durante su carrera. Tal como se cree que el arte
bueno siempre saldr adelante, la misma relacin
sentimental existe acerca del puesto que ocupa el
dibujo dentro del campo del arte como el sine qua non
de la prctica autntica. Si algo de fundamental hay
en la prctica conictiva de Smith, es su bsqueda de
autenticidad frente a sus sospechas que el arte carece
de ello y que sa es su condicin. Es posible que esta
incertidumbre sea un factor subyacente en la actitud
ambivalente de Smith en relacin al objeto. A pesar de
que existen ms all del momento de su confeccin,
sus dibujos se relacionan con las acciones veloces que
les dieron su origen. Smith ha ideado dos distintas
maneras de abordar el mismo evento, usando una
metodologa que se halla entre las esferas de las ideas y
la realidad concreta.
El mito acerca del valor del dibujo como aspecto
fundamental en la prctica artstica tarda en morirse.
En vez de usar el dibujo como manera de explorar y
analizar los fenmenos externos, Smith reconoce que
el dibujo es una de sus muchas herramientas visuales
David Thorp
12 Terry Smith: Parallax
Above: Window, Leytonstone, 1994
Right: Ladder Parallax, 19952011
David Thorp
13 Terry Smith: Parallax
In Room of the British Museum, at a point when
it was awaiting refurbishment, Smith carved onto the
wall a huge drawing of an Ionic column, Capital, :,.
Tis motif of the neo-classical building referenced
archaeological uncovering as the drawing exposed the
modifcations and additions made to the building over
time. During :6, before Bankside Power Station was
converted to Tate Modern, Smith gained access to the
site and, using the same technique, produced another
series of wall drawings throughout the building. All of
these works have been destroyed, as the sites on which
they were produced have either been demolished or
renovated. Tis is deliberate; Smith has little inter-
est in the survival of these works. In Slipping, :,,
referred to by Smith in the quotation above, he etched
a square drawing into the oor, ceiling and walls of
an old warehouse in Londons Kings Cross. Te fnal
form of this work is a photo collage. Elsewhere, Smith
imitates the process he uses to form the wall drawings
by scratching images into the surfaces of thick sheets
of paper. Tese images are ofen reminiscent of the
geometric vertical and horizontal structures of the
stud and lath he has exposed behind plaster walls and
work in conversation with the original site-specifc
drawings. But they remain autonomous and, rather
than being plans or designs for works to be carried
out on site, they are the reverse: they follow on from
and are informed by Smiths direct action in the built
environment.
In a planned new video and sound installation,
RAW, that will run for eleven and a half hours, Smith
will work with composer Ian Dearden, with whom
he has collaborated in the past, to create a piece
where process and seemingly unrelated incidents
interlock. RAW is an investigation into memory, real
and imagined experience and explores the possibility
that there is meaning in every action. Smiths earlier
collaboration with Dearden and vocalist Linda Hirst
included fractured and fragmented flm projections
that progressively cohere into recognizable images.
His :oo, work with them, Broken Voices, was based
upon a series of workshops and performances that
originated as a live performance in St Georges Church
in Venice, the hub of Anglican life in the city and a
location Smith, despite his ardent atheism, has used
on several occasions. He used each performance as a
rehearsal, allowing the performers space to improvise
and explore the transient quality of sound. His later
work based on Broken Voices, e Foundling, :oo,
continued his investigation into the fusion between
music, sound, video and place and developed ear-
lier ideas of randomness and chance that Smith had
previously fashioned in the fnal result into a succinct
y lo emplea de distintas maneras segn el contexto.
Sus dibujos sobre paredes in situ son intervenciones
escultricas de bajo relieve que a veces se realizan de
forma clandestina. En , Smith trabaj sobre las
paredes de casas ubicadas en el este de Londres pocos
das antes que stas se iban a derribar. Usando una
tcnica de dibujo que consista en exponer y remover
el papel tapiz y el yeso, hizo una serie de imgenes que
consistan en la ilusin de una ventana con su respec-
tiva vista; un pilar que pareca sostener la pared sobre
la cual fue dibujada; una columna ondulada e incon-
gruente; y otras imgenes abstractas. Ms adelante us
la misma tcnica para dibujar una serie de obras sobre
las paredes de un edicio abandonado que ahora es
la sede de la ampliacin de la South London Gallery.
Smith no solamente removi el yeso, sino que tambin
removi algunos listones que tena atrs para revelar la
estructura geomtrica en sentido horizontal y verti-
cal que sostena la supercie de la pared. En la Sala
del British Museum, antes de una remodelacin que
estaba programada, Smith hizo la obra Capital, ,
al esculpir un inmenso dibujo de una columna jnica
sobre la pared. Este motivo del edicio neo-clsico
fue un guio a la excavacin arqueolgica porque el
dibujo expuso las modicaciones y adiciones que se
hicieron al edicio a lo largo del tiempo. Durante ,
antes que Bankside Power Station (la planta elctrica
de Bankside) se convirti en el museo Tate Modern,
Smith accedi al espacio y, usando la misma tcnica,
produjo otra serie de dibujos sobre paredes dentro
del edicio. Todas estas obras han sido destruidas
porque los espacios donde fueron realizadas han sido
o derribados o renovados. Esto no es casual: a Smith le
interesa poco que sobrevivan estas obras. En Slipping,
, que Smith menciona en la cita arriba, grab un
dibujo cuadrado sobre el piso, el techo y las paredes
de un viejo galpn en la estacin de tren Kings Cross
en Londres. La forma nal de esta obra es un collage
fotogrco. En otros casos, Smith imita el proceso de
los dibujos sobre paredes al rayar las imgenes sobre
la supercie de gruesas hojas de papel. Estas imgenes
suelen recordar las estructuras geomtricas verticales
y horizontales de los listones y tachuelas que Smith
revela detrs de las paredes de yeso, y dialogan con los
dibujos realizados inicialmente in situ. Sin embargo,
se mantienen autnomos y en vez de servir como
planos o diseos para obras que se realizarn in situ,
funcionan al inverso: son una consecuencia que nace
de la accin directa que Smith ejerce sobre el espacio
edicado.
En RAW, una obra nueva de video e instalacin
sonora que durar once horas y media, Smith trabajar
con el compositor Ian Dearden, con quien ha colabo-
David Thorp
14 Terry Smith: Parallax
rado antes, para crear una pieza que une el proceso con
eventos aparente inconexos. RAW es una investigacin
acerca de la memoria y la experiencia real e imaginada,
y explora la posibilidad de que cada accin tenga un
signifcado. La colaboracin anterior de Smith con
Dearden y la vocalista Linda Hirst incluy proyec-
ciones de pelculas fracturadas y fragmentadas que
progresivamente se cohesionaban y se convertan en
imgenes reconocibles. Broken Voices (Voces rotas), la
obra que realiz con Dearden y Hirst en el :oo,, est
basada en una serie de talleres y performances produc-
to de un performance en vivo en la Iglesia de San Jorge
en Venecia, el centro de la vida de los anglicanos de la
ciudad y una locacin que Smith, a pesar de su fervi-
ente atesmo, ha usado en varias ocasiones. Smith us
cada performance como un ensayo para dar a los int-
rpretes el espacio necesario para improvisar y explorar
la calidad fugaz del sonido. e Foundling, :oo, una
obra posterior basada en Broken Voices, continu su
investigacin sobre la fusin entre la msica, el sonido,
el video y el lugar, y desarroll ms los conceptos del
azar y la fortuna que Smith haba moldeado en Broken
Voices para crear una forma narrativa sucinta. Tam-
bin incluy una serie de dibujos que us como parte
de la metodologa de trabajo de la pieza y que podan
usarse como partitura musical. Sin embargo, para RAW
cambiar esta forma de trabajar. Segn Smith:
Quiero examinar el concepto de la narrativa y ver
cmo la informacin, las ideas y la creatividad se
combinan de una manera a veces difcil y aparente-
mente cruda...para explorar cmo diferentes elemen-
tos pueden colisionar
Gran parte del mundo inventado, arte, cine,
televisin, etc. se basa en un complejo ciclo narra-
tivo. La vida real no es para nada as, pero la vida
real tambin es un constructo y nosotros diseamos
la realidad para reejar nuestro deseo de tener una
narrativa.


En su video ms reciente, Caracol, :o::, realizado
en Caracas, Venezuela, Smith organiz una serie de
talleres con estudiantes de canto de la Universidad
Nacional Experimental de las Artes (Ui:v1is). Estos
talleres tuvieron lugar dos veces por semana durante
un mes e introdujeron a los jvenes cantantes a los
conceptos musicales de John Cage, Luciano Berio
y Steve Reich, compositores que no conocan. De
forma similar a RAW, no se realizaron ensayos antes
de grabar el video y el ttulo de la obra Caracol (para
aludir a la forma espiral del edifcio) lo acu el vigi-
lante del edifcio donde se realiz la obra. Estructurada
en tres partes, Caracol culmina cuando el ttulo es
cantado repetidas veces como parte de una mezcla de
diferentes sonidos vocales. Este tipo de accin le llama
la atencin a Smith, quien ha comentado en muchas
ocasiones que no est del todo cmodo con la idea
de la permanencia, porque para l no tiene un equiva-
lente en la vida diaria. Este concepto cotidiano es un
componente clave en aquellos elementos de su obra
que se basan en la colaboracin grupal. Hasta en las
intervenciones que realiza usando objetos, desde sillas
hasta bombillos, Smith siempre ha evitad o el potencial
comercial que sus obras pudieran tener. Pueden re-
construirse o rehacerse, pero siempre terminan siendo
desechadas. En este sentido, el lugar del objeto dentro
de su obra siempre es problemtico desde un punto de
vista curatorial. Smith ha producido objetos pero cada
una de sus obras a gran escala se han perdido o han
sido destruidas. Al fnal, qu queda para mostrar?

narrative form. It also included a series of drawings
that Smith produced as part of the working methodol-
ogy of the piece and which could be used as a musical
score. However, for RAW he is changing this approach
and writes:
I want to examine the concept of narrative and look
at how information, ideas and creativity combine
in a sometimes dicult and apparently unprocessed
way to explore how dierent elements can collide
Much of the invented world, art, lm, television,
etc, is based around a completed narrative cycle. Real
life is not like that, but real life is also a construct and
we design reality to reect our desire for a narrative.


For his latest video piece Caracol, :o::, made
in Caracas, Venezuela, Smith organised a series of
workshops with singing students from the Universidad
Nacional Experimental de las Artes (Uinv1i). Tese
took place twice a week for one month and introduced
the young singers to the musical ideas of John Cage,
Luciano Berio and Steve Reich composers with
whom they were not familiar. Conceptually similar to
RAW, no rehearsals took place before the video was
shot and the title of the work Caracol (meaning spiral
or snails shell) was coined by the security guard in the
building in which it was flmed. Structured in three
parts, Caracol culminates with the title sung repeat-
edly as part of a mlange of vocal sound. Tis kind of
action is very appealing to Smith, who has ofen stated
that he is not entirely comfortable with the idea of
permanence, lacking as it does, in his view, an accu-
rate equivalent in daily life. Tis quotidian concept is
a key component in those elements of his work that
are based upon group collaboration. Even with his
interventions with objects, from chairs to light bulbs,
he has consistently avoided the commercial potential
that the works may have. Tey may be reconstructed
and remade but always fnally discarded. Tus the
place of the object in his overall output as an artist is
problematic from a curatorial point of view. Smith has
produced objects but all his large-scale works have
either been lost or destroyed. In the end what is there
to display?
:. From an unpublished interview with the artist, :o::
:. Interview with the artist, October :o::
,. From the artists notes for RAW.
:. Entrevista indita con el artista, :o::
*Nota: vv: son siglas usadas para hacer referencia a los Young
British Artists (jvenes artistas britnicos).
:. Entrevista con el artista, Octubre :o::.
. De los apuntes del artista sobre RAW.
Above: Vocalists rehearsing at Universidad
Nacional Experimental de las Artes, 2011
Right: Caracol, 2011
Photographs: Lisa Blackmore
David Thorp
15 Terry Smith: Parallax David Thorp
16 Terry Smith: Parallax
THE CASE OF CARACAS AND
TERRY SMITHS PHANTOM COLUMNS
EL CURIOSO CASO DE CARACAS Y
LAS COLUMNAS FANTASMAS DE TERRY SMITH
Maria Elena Ramos
In :,, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas present-
ed an exhibition entitled Intervenciones en el espacio
(Interventions in Space). During the nineties, the mu-
seum had undergone a number of spatial, conceptual
and symbolic recoveries, following serious crises that
in the seventies had seen it stripped of its neo-classical
building, its entire and valuable collection of Venezu-
elan art and much of its self-esteem. Tose of us who
were working at the museum where I was director
during the nineties lived amidst the to-ing and fro-ing
of the builders and the theoretical reections about
recovering an institution with a broad-ranging profle
that, since ::,, had been a pioneer in museology in
Venezuela. Te daily feedback from the physical con-
struction and the mental construct gave rise to, among
other projects, the curatorial concept of Intervenciones
en el espacio, in which I invited eleven international
artists to take part. Te artists not only learnt both
about the history of the museum in the twentieth cen-
tury, but also about the many possibilities onered by
the buildings seven oors. Each artist chose a specifc
site to work on. Te artists were: Lawrence Carroll
(Australia), Ernst Caramelle, Brigitte Kowanz (Aus-
tria), Luis Camnitzer (Uruguay), Gonzalo Daz (Chile),
Dan Graham, Joseph Kosuth (Usn), Terry Smith (Unit-
ed Kingdom), Buky Schwartz, Micha Ullman (Israel),
and Vctor Lucena (Venezuela).
Tere were three types of protagonists that formed
the core of the project: the museums heritage build-
ing and the ups and downs it had undergone over
previous decades; the site specifc way of producing
contemporary works that, in this case, consisted in
interventions into an emblematic piece of architecture;
and each artists own creative process. While the build-
ing provided the focus for their dinerent works, their
eleven proposals encompassed great diversity. Tus,
there were video installations with ethical and politi-
cal implications (Schwartz); sceptical criticism of the
sacredness of museums (Camnitzer) and, as a comple-
ment, a revaluation of the museum as a contempo-
rary temple (Lucena); glass pavilions that reected or
duplicated the specular and transparent nature of the
museum (Graham), a focus on the topography the
height of the new mvn building in relation to the peaks
of America (Kosuth); visual emphasis on the walls and
internal spaces that are dimcult to perceive (Caramelle),
installations alluding to the builders working there
(Carroll); artwork as burial in the gardens (Ullman),
or as continuity between natural and artifcial light
on the upper ramps (Kowanz); and emphasis on the
adjoining space between the museum and the building
it had lost, which was handed over to the Galera de
En :, se present en el Museo de Bellas Artes de
Caracas la exposicin Intervenciones en el espacio. El
museo haba sido objeto, durante los primeros noventa,
de una serie de recuperaciones espaciales, conceptu-
ales, simblicas- luego de haber sufrido severas crisis
que, a mediados de los setenta, le haban hecho perder
la sede neoclsica de su edifcio principal, toda su
valiosa coleccin de arte nacional, y buena parte de
su propia autoestima. Quienes integrbamos el equipo
humano del museo que dirig en los noventa vivamos
entre la prctica cotidiana de los obreros trabajando
y la refexin terica sobre el sentido de recuperar
una institucin de perfl universal que, desde ::,,
haba sido pionera en la museologa de Venezuela. De
aquella retroalimentacin diaria entre construccin
fsica y constructo mental naci, entre otros proyectos,
la curadura de Intervenciones en el espacio, para la
cual invit once artistas internacionales que vinieron
a conocer tanto la historia del museo en el Siglo xx
como las mltiples posibilidades de los siete niveles de
su sede. Cada uno eligi el sitio especfco que deseaba
intervenir. Los artistas fueron: Lawrence Carroll (Aus-
tralia), Ernst Caramelle, Brigitte Kowanz (Austria),
Luis Camnitzer (Uruguay), Gonzalo Daz (Chile), Dan
Graham, Joseph Kosuth (iU:), Terry Smith (Inglat-
erra), Buky Schwartz, Micha Ullman (Israel), Vctor
Lucena (Venezuela).
Tres tipos de protagonismo centraron el proyecto:
la sede patrimonial del museo y sus avatares de las
ltimas dcadas; el modo site-specic de produccin
de obras contemporneas que intervenan, en este
caso, una arquitectura emblemtica; y la particularidad
creadora de cada invitado, pues si el edifcio centraba
sus distintas obras, sus once propuestas se abran a la
diversidad. As encontramos videoinstalaciones de
sugerencia tica y poltica (Schwartz), crtica escp-
tica a la sacralidad de lo museolgico (Camnitzer) y,
complementariamente, revaluacin del museo como
templo del mundo contemporneo (Lucena), pabel-
lones de vidrio que refejan o duplican la especularidad
y transparencia del museo (Graham), nfasis en la
topografa la altura del nuevo edifcio del mv: puesta
en relacin a las altas cumbres de Amrica (Kosuth),
nfasis visual en muros y lugares internos de percep-
cin difcil (Caramelle), instalaciones que aluden a
los obreros trabajando (Carroll), la obra como enter-
ramiento en los jardines (Ullman) o como continuidad
entre luz natural y luz artifcial en las rampas ms altas
(Kowanz), insistencia en la contigidad espacial entre
el museo y su edifcio perdido, ahora sede de la Galera
de Arte Nacional, el museo vecino (Daz, Smith).
Maria Elena Ramos was formerly Director
of the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas
and is an independent curator and writer
Above (left to right):
Dan Graham, Two Way Mirror Glass Pavilion, 1995
Joseph Kosuth, Humboldts Range, 1995
Ernst Caramelle, Untitled, 1995
Lawrence Carroll, Untitled, 1995
Brigitte Kowanz, Luz es lo, que se ve, 1995
Photographs: Ricardo Armas
Opposite:
Terry Smith, work in progress, Five Columns, 1995
Photograph: Francis Horn
All images courtesy Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas
(aerial view below)
Maria Elena Ramos
17 Terry Smith: Parallax
Arte Nacional (Daz, Smith).
e curatorial task involved in selecting the artists
concluded when during a trip to London in I met
Terry Smith, who was exhibiting at e Adam Gallery.
He was the only artist whose work would be based
on deconstruction, an issue that I found particularly
interesting in a curatorial project like this. In his
intervention, Smith did not only work with the idea
of deconstructing the surface of the wall (removing
the wall, scratching it, and leaving the imprint of the
artwork behind it), but he also worked with the idea of
deconstructing meaning and, simultaneously, with a
kind of reconstruction by revealing other layers, other
times and other materials. He thus exposed the links
between the two buildings dierent eras of con-
struction, changes in the buildings assignment to one
institution or another, loss of space
I wanted to do something that linked the two build-
ings. e idea was to make a series of columns designed
in the old style and move them like ghosts into the new
building. Phantom columns oating without a base or
capital. I also wanted them to be like scratches on the
wall. Almost like a cat scratching the door, to signal a
desire to exit.


To deploy his main work, Smith chose the corridor
that separated and simultaneously linked the two
El trabajo curatorial de seleccin de artistas se cerr
cuando en mi visita a Londres, en Febrero , conoc
a Terry Smith, quien expona en Adam Gallery. Fue el
nico artista que trabajara por deconstruccin, asunto
que me interesaba especialmente en una curadura
como esta. En su intervencin, Smith no slo tra-
baj con la idea de deconstruir la supercie del muro
(remover la pared, raspar, mientras como huella iba
quedando la obra) sino tambin con la idea de decon-
struccin del signicado y, a la vez, con cierto modo de
reconstruccin: por la revelacin de otras capas, otros
tiempos, otros materiales. Mostraba as nexos entre
ambas edicaciones -diversas pocas de construccin,
cambios de adscripcin, prdidas espaciales
De all la idea de hacer una serie de columnas disea
das a la antigua, y trasladarlas como espectros al nuevo
edicio. Columnas fantasmas, otando sin base o capitel,
como rasguos sobre la pared, como un gato que araa
la puerta en seal de que desea salir.


Para el despliegue de su obra principal eligi el
corredor que separa y a la vez comunica las dos ar-
quitecturas: Me fascinaba la idea de que el pasillo fuera
un puente entre los dos museos.


Otras dos intervenciones por deconstruccin realiz
Smith en los muros del Taller Infantil del museo, que
da su fachada al Jardn de Esculturas. Y con distinto
Maria Elena Ramos
18 Terry Smith: Parallax
procedimiento esta vez por demolicin del sentido-
present el audiowork Perhaps, (Quizs), tomando
como referencia visual una obra del arte venezolano
del Siglo xix (que haba pertenecido antiguamente al
mv: y haba pasado en los setenta a la coleccin de la
Galera de Arte Nacional) y sobre esta imagen mont
una narracin a la manera de las soap operas, produc-
iendo un quiebre, por el absurdo, entre la imagen que
el pblico vea y el relato que escuchaba a travs de los
auriculares. Ya haba trabajado modos similares de de-
construccin del sentido en su audiowork sobre Pica-
sso, e subversive tape: a History Lesson (Tate Gallery
de Londres) donde el mensaje verbal haca creer que el
Picasso original era una falsifcacin. Smith se pregun-
taba entonces en qu medida poda cambiar una obra
si la informacin sobre ella fuera pura invencin. Y
haba sido an ms radical en la intervencin InHouse,
audiowork presentado en un edifcio de Londres donde
cre la fccin entre amenazante y jocosa de inmi-
nente demolicin, en la que el pblico, temeroso, era
invitado a suspender la creencia en lo que ve y a sentir
la habitacin y verla de otro modo.
,

La obra de las columnas rasguadas en el pasillo
que comunicaba la antigua y la nueva sede del Museo
de Bellas Artes de Caracas, fue creada en Noviembre de
:, con la expresa intencin de no-durar. Y el acuerdo
entre artista, curadora y museo fue que, cuando pared
u obra dieran seales de deterioro, se eliminara con un
peculiar ritual: l volvera a Caracas, entintara la pared
y, con su propio cuerpo y con los cuerpos de varios
estudiantes de arte que presionaran los grandes pape-
les sobre el muro, se produciran amplias estampas, que
seran donadas al museo y a la escuela de artes. Se in-
corporara as una peculiar forma de arte del cuerpo
en lo que sera la etapa fnal del proceso. Era un plan
redondo para una obra efmera que dejara de todos
modos una huella, gracias a ese grabado corporal.
Pero la realidad fue otra: la obra dur ms de lo
previsto porque el equipo del museo fue restaurando el
friso cada vez que daba seales de deterioro. Fui parte
tanto del plan inicial, con la curadura, como del entu-
siasmo posterior, pues desde :, en que se inaugur
hasta :oo:, cuando dej la direccin del mv:, la obra
se haba ido autonomizando, ganndose su derecho a
la existencia, pero, ms an, a la duracin. Se iniciaba
entonces lo que aos despus he llamado el caso
Caracas en la obra de Terry Smith, de peculiar inters
para el arte contemporneo pues la propuesta efmera
se convirti en durable, ms all de la voluntad original
del artista. Y un caso de inters ms general para el arte
de cualquier poca, porque la obra encontr destinos
imprevistos luego de salir de la mano de su creador,
al haberse convertido en seal emblemtica para el
pblico y en smbolo entraable para el colectivo que
la cuidaba. Entraable, s, porque Terry toc fbras
que haban quedado muy sensibles luego del drama
de separacin en los setenta, y logr, con sus colum-
nas fantasmales, convocar vivazmente lo pasado en lo
presente, haciendo vibrar sentido y memoria en sus
deconstrucciones reveladoras.
En Enero de :oo: se dio en Venezuela lo que el
presidente Chvez llam la revolucin cultural. Su
primer signo fue la salida, en un mismo da, de die-
ciocho presidentes de las instituciones culturales ms
relevantes del Estado venezolano, el mv: entre ellas.
Luego de mi salida, el equipo sigui cuidando con el
mismo inters esta intervencin, que fue hacindose
cada vez ms duradera. Desde la revolucin cultural
del :oo:, y con sucesivas agresiones gubernamentales a
la institucionalidad del pas durante la primera dcada
del nuevo siglo, la obra adquiri adems una nueva
dimensin poltica, imprevista, a la que se agreg luego
el pugilato entre los recientes funcionarios guberna-
mentales que queran eliminarla y los muselogos
que luchaban por conservarla. Era ste un modo ms
directo de lo poltico, que iba ms all del sesgo intelec-
tual, slo sutilmente poltico, que le haba dado Terry
al momento de crearla, cuando haba tomado como
tema de su obra la crisis espacial e institucional de los
aos setenta. Durante la primera dcada del siglo xxi,
y con una dirigencia autoritaria en la nueva Venezuela,
buildings: e idea that the corridor was a bridge
between the two museums was fascinating.
:

Smith made two further interventions via decon-
struction on the walls of the museums Taller Infantil
(Childrens Workshop), which faces onto the Sculpture
Garden. Additionally, using a dinerent procedure
in which he demolished meaning, he presented the
audiowork Perhaps, triggered by nineteenth century
Venezuelan painting (which originally belonged to the
mvn and in the seventies was transferred to the Galera
de Arte Nacionals collection), which he overlaid a
soap-opera-style narrative, thus producing a rupture,
via absurdity, between the image the public was seeing
and the story they heard through the earphones. He
had previously used a similar technique to deconstruct
meaning in his as yet unrealised audiowork on Picasso
e subversive tape: a History Lesson (proposed for Te
Tate Gallery, London) where the verbal message made
the listener think the original Picasso was a fake. Smith
wondered to what extent he could change a work of art
if the information about it was completely made up.
He had been even more radical in the intervention In-
House, in another proposed audiowork for a house in
London where he created a simultaneously threatening
and funny fctional story that the house was about to
collapse beneath your feet, [where] the wary public are
invited to suspend belief in what they see and to feel
the room and to see it in another way.

Te scratched columns in the corridor linking the


old and new site of the Museo de Bellas Artes in Ca-
racas was created in November :, with the express
intention that it would not last. Te artist, curator
and museum agreed that when the wall or the work
showed signs of deterioration, it would be removed
amid a peculiar ritual: Smith would return to Cara-
cas, stain the wall with ink and would use his body
and some art students bodies to press large sheets of
paper up against the wall in order to produce a set of
prints that would be donated to the museum and the
art school. A peculiar form of body art would thus
be incorporated in what would be the fnal stage of the
process. It was a ftting plan for an ephemeral piece
that would nevertheless leave its imprint through the
body engraving.
But what actually happened was quite dinerent: the
work lasted longer than imagined because the museum
team restored the frieze every time it showed signs
of deteriorating. I was part of the original plan, as
curator, and was also involved in the ensuing enthu-
siasm, because from :, until :oo:, when my time
as director of the mvn ended, the work had become
increasingly autonomous, earning its own right to life
but, even more so, its right to last. Tat was the start
of what would be referred to some years later as the
Case of Caracas in relation to Terry Smiths work,
which is a particularly interesting case for the feld of
contemporary art because the ephemeral piece became
durable, outliving the artists original desire. In fact, it
is an interesting case for art in general from any time
given that the work encountered an unforeseen fate af-
ter it lef its creators hands since it turned into an em-
blem for the public and a deep-rooted symbol for the
group of people who cared for it. Deep-rooted because
Terry touched chords that had remained sensitive fol-
lowing the separation drama of the seventies and his
ghostly columns managed to vividly evoke the past in
the present, making meaning and memory resonate in
his revealing deconstructions.
January of :oo: in Venezuela saw the onset of
what president Hugo Chvez termed cultural revolu-
tion, whose frst manifestation was the simultaneous
dismissal of eighteen presidents of the most important
Venezuelan state cultural institutions, which included
the mvn. Afer I lef, the museums personnel contin-
ued to look afer Terrys work, which became even
more long lasting. Since the cultural revolution of
:oo: and the governments ensuing attacks on the
countrys institutions throughout the frst decade of
the new millennium, the work took on a new, and un-
foreseen, political dimension, which was subsequently
followed by the conict between recently appointed
Top to bottom:
Window, 1995
Door, 1995
Perhaps, 1995
Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas
Maria Elena Ramos
19 Terry Smith: Parallax
el poder haba ido invadiendo ms palmariamente
todos los terrenos, tambin el de los museos. La pared
de Terry, sealando una demolicin, adquira cada vez
mayor coherencia y sentido. Un sentido inquietante
para algunos
Milagros Rodrguez, quien fuera miembro del
equipo del museo, dijo en :
La obra se haba transformado en un smbolo de resist-
encia para los empleados del . Las visitas guiadas
empezaban en las columnas reales del viejo edicio y
continuaban a travs de las columnas deconstruidas de
Terry. Todos tratamos de conservarla y la mostrbamos
con orgullo. Pero el ministro Farruco Sesto, y algunos
miembros principales de su equipo, simplemente odia-
ban la pieza. Y cada vez que ellos o Chvez- iban a
un acto haba que taparla con papel y poner un cnico
cartelito que deca obra en restauracin.
Vale sealar aqu un doble dis-gusto de las autori-
dades: no les gusta lo que ciertas obras representan,
pero tampoco les gustan cuando no son, simple-
mente, impermeables a ellos- algunos lenguajes ms
conceptuales del arte contemporneo.
En Octubre de Terry Smith vino a Caracas,
invitado por las autoridades del Ministerio de Cultura
para eliminar su obra. Procedi al retiro de una pieza
que haba realizado para ser efmera, sorprendido de
que hubiese durado ms de aos, algo que jams
haba experimentado en su trayectoria. Al estar previs-
ta originalmente para no durar, las autoridades tenan
adems argumento legal para eliminarla, indiferentes a
la sobrevivencia posterior o al valor que haba ganado
la obra en el afecto de pblico y muselogos. Pero
el mismo artista (despus de su un-doing, como l lo
llama, o del borrn, como lo llaman en el museo, o de
la demolicin de la deconstruccin, como yo llam a ese
proceso de ) reexionara en un foro pblico en
Marzo .

Terry pone por escrito lo esencial de sus


palabras en ese da:
Estaba muy contento de estar de regreso en Caracas
y de ver mi obra de nuevo. Era como visitar a un viejo
amigo. Me sorprendi mucho ver el nivel de cario que
los empleados del museo le tenan a la obra y me con-
movi mucho eso. Pero obviamente hubo presin para
borrar la obra. No sent que tena derecho a quejarme
government workers who wanted to remove it and the
museum workers who fought to preserve it. is was
a most immediate expression of its political aspect,
which went beyond the intellectual, and subtly politi-
cal, edge that Terry had given the work when he made
it, when he adopted the spatial and institutional crisis
of the seventies as the premise for his work. During
the rst decade of the twenty-rst century, and with
an authoritarian administration in the new Venezuela,
power was increasingly invading all areas of life, and
the museums were no exception. Terrys wall, which
signalled a demolition, acquired ever more coherence
and meaning. A meaning that for some was worrying
Milagros Rodrguez, who worked at the museum,
said in :
e work had become a symbol of resistance among
the employees. Guided visits started at the real
columns of the old building and continued through
Terrys deconstructed columns. We all tried to preserve
the work and showed to visitors it with pride. But
[culture] minister Farruco Sesto, and some of the key
members of his team, simply hated the work. Every
time they or Chvez came to an event we had to
cover the wall up with paper and put a cynical little
sign on it that said work undergoing restoration.
It is worth pointing out the authorities are doubly
disgusted: they do not like what certain works rep-
resent and neither do they like the more conceptual
languages in contemporary art, which they are unable
to absorb.
In October Terry Smith returned to Caracas
aer the Ministry of Culture invited him to take down
his work. He proceeded to remove a work he had made
to be ephemeral, surprised that it had lasted over f-
teen years. is was a rst in Terrys career. Given that
originally it had been made not to last, the authorities
also had a legal argument to justify removing it and
were not concerned about it surviving or the value the
work had acquired among the public and the museum
community. However, the artist himself (aer the un-
doing, as he calls it, or the obliteration, as the people at
the museum call it, or the demolition of deconstruction,
as I called the process) reected at a public talk in
March .


Maria Elena Ramos
20 Terry Smith: Parallax
Terry has summarised in writing the key ideas of what
he said that day:
I was very happy to be back to Caracas and to see
my work again. It was like visiting an old friend. I was
really amazed how much aection the work seemed
to have with the museum sta and I was very moved
by that. But there was obviously a pressure to have the
work disappear. I did not feel I had the right to com-
plain, so I stayed an extra day to examine the wall and
begin its destruction. I thought it was important that I
struck the rst blow.
But later on reection, I was not so happy with my
decision. I began to think about whose work it was. I
had no sentimental attachment to the work, but I felt
very moved and attached to the people at the museum
who cared so much for it. I realised that the work
was not mine. And that it had been an error of mine,
perhaps even a presumption that I had the nal word
on it. e work belongs to those who care for it. So, at
the discussion I wanted to make a public apology for
my actions.
It is a dicult situation for artists to defend their
work. Well, I nd it dicult. But when a work enters
the world and the public domain I think it stops be-
ing the artists work and becomes everyones work, so
when that happens, as it did to me in Caracas I found
it actually quite liberating. Making shows has always
been for me about the people I meet, and I am proud
of my work at the because it allowed me to meet
some great people.
Ultimately, as fate would ironically have it, we
found out that once the work had been taken down
there was actually a column that had survived under-
neath the drywall. at little detail made me smile,
Milagros Rodrguez said. You cant block the sun out
with your nger and I remembered a book by Milan
Kundera, where a party member is disgraced and was
erased from an important photo but a cap that he had
lent the ruling leader on the day of the photo was still in
it. I think that image, the image of what is lef over and
which gives an account of what happened the docu-
ment, the column, the cap is stronger than any Farruco.
Even though the deconstructed columns in the cor-
ridor between the two buildings no longer exist, even
though the work went from temporary to long lasting
to then ultimately succumb to its ephemeral nature, it
did leave its imprint in the written and visual docu-
ments, in the number that is the legal record of the
work in the collection. Above all, it lef its aura in the
spirit of many people involved in the cultural scene in
Caracas. And, even afer it was erased, it continues to
leave behind it ideas about complex relationships be-
tween museums, power, and memory in contemporary
Venezuela. Terry Smiths Curious Case of Caracas
continues to reveal relations in a more simple and
essential way between art and life as it happens.
:. Terry Smith. In conversation with Mara Elena Ramos.
In the book Intervenciones en el espacio. Interventions
in Space. Dilogos en el MBA. Museo de Bellas Artes,
Caracas, :8. p. :66
:. Op. Cit.. p. :6,
. Op. Cit.. p. :,8
. Public talk at Perifrico Caracas / Arte Contemporneo.
Wednesday oth March.
as que me qued un da ms para examinar la pared
y comenzar su destruccin. Me pareci importante que
fuese yo quien le diera el primer golpe.
Pero luego de pensarlo, no estuve tan contento
con mi decisin. Empec a preguntarme a quin le
perteneca la obra. No senta apego a la obra pero me
senta muy conmovido y apegado a la gente del museo
que la haba cuidado tanto. Me di cuenta que la obra
no me perteneca y ese haba sido mi error, tal vez era
hasta presumido de mi parte tener la palabra nal. La
obra le pertenece a la gente que la cuida as que quise
disculparme pblicamente por lo que haba hecho.
Es difcil para los artistas defender nuestro trabajo.
Bueno, a m me resulta difcil. Pero cuando una obra
se hace parte del mundo y del dominio pblico creo que
deja de pertenecer al artista y pasa a ser de todos, as
que cuando eso pasa, como me pas a m en Caracas,
fue una experiencia liberadora. Para m, hacer exposi-
ciones siempre ha tratado de conocer a gente nueva y
me siento orgulloso de mi obra en el MBA porque me
permiti conocer a unas personas maravillosas.
Al fnal, ironas del destino, supimos que, una vez
eliminada la obra, debajo del drywal sobrevivi una
columna. Ese detalle me hizo sonreir dice Milagros
Rodrguez. No se puede tapar el sol con un dedo, y
record un libro de Milan Kundera, donde un miembro
del partido cae en desgracia y es borrado de una foto
importante, pero queda un gorrito suyo, que l le haba
prestado al mximo dirigente el da de la foto. Esa
imagen, la del resto que da cuenta de lo que ocurri el
documento, la columna, el gorrito me parece de una
fuerza superior a cualquier Farruco.
Aunque ya no existan las columnas deconstruidas
en el pasadizo entre los dos edifcios, aunque la obra
pasara de temporal a duradera para asumir fnalmente
su condicin efmera, qued su huella: en los docu-
mentos escritos y visuales, en un nmero de registro
legal dentro de la coleccin. Pero, sobre todo, qued su
aura en el espritu de muchos que hacen vida cultural
en Caracas. Y, an despus de su borramiento, con-
tina dejando ideas sobre las complejas relaciones
entre los museos, el poder y la memoria en la Venezu-
ela contempornea. El caso Caracas de Terry Smith
sigue revelando relaciones ms simple y esencial-
mente entre el arte y la vida sucediendo.

:. Terry Smith. En conversacin con Mara Elena Ramos. En
el libro Intervenciones en el espacio. Interventions in Space.
Dialogues in the MBA. Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, :8.
Pg. :,:
:. Terry Smith. Misma publicacin. Pg. :,o
,. Terry Smith. Misma publicacin. Pg. :o,
. Foro pblico en Perifrico Caracas / Arte Contemporneo.
Mircoles ,o de Marzo.
Above: Five Columns, 1995
Right: Terry Smith working in the foyer of
Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas
Photographs: Ricardo Armas
Maria Elena Ramos
21 Terry Smith: Parallax Maria Elena Ramos
22 Terry Smith: Parallax
23 Terry Smith: Parallax
24 Terry Smith: Parallax
9 780854 329328 >
ISBN 9780854329328