In association with The Modern Institute, LUX Scotland presents a unique off-site screening from experimental performer and filmmaker, Jack Smith, screening his polemic and reactionary work, Normal Love (1963 – 65). The film will be screened on 16mm film in its 1997 restored form, and introduced by LUX Scotland Director Mason Leaver-Yap.
Following the notorious reception of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1962 – 63), Normal Love (1963 – 1965) returned to the lush palettes of his early colour photographs. Here, Smith privileges an abstracted and fantastical pageantry of image and character – a utopian vision filled with mythic creatures, violence and pure sensuous pleasures.
Normal Love seeks to reclaim and re-imagine concepts of what one might consider ‘normal’, casting his characters as shining emblems of inner queerness, diametrically opposed to the average and traditional. Gender, sexuality and desire become mutable and fluid – an ever-shifting performance.
Enacting Smith’s vision was a list of 1960s counterculture friends and performers, including Tony Conrad, Beverly Grant, avant-drag performer Mario Montez, Tiny Tim, Frances Francine, Diane DiPrima and Velvet Underground bassist Angus MacLise. Warhol himself makes an appearance during the film’s climax, alongside a gigantic tiered cake, designed by Claes Oldenburg.
Shot in lush 16mm colour, the film has been read as Smith’s unfinished opus, with Smith’s original screenings occurring as the artist edit and re-cut the work live, spooling it back through the projector in ever expanding and contracting durations. After Smith’s death, friend and collaborator, Jerry Tartaglia used fragments from the ever-evolving footage, Tony Conrad’s score notes, and Smith’s own notes to re-create this version.
Jack Smith (1932 – 1989) was one of the most influential members of the American avant-garde, whose cultural legacy spans queer aesthetics, experimental cinema and performance art. Smith arrived in New York in 1953 and quickly became a central figure of the downtown scene, collaborating frequently with Ken Jacobs, Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol and later Tony Conrad, Penny Arcade, and Mario Montez.
Originally rooted in photography, Smith’s own practice in both film and performance exhibited a dogged resistance to convention and societal norms. Smith’s was a world of lurid colour, queer fantasy and shifting sexuality, exploding from the screen at a time when government and police were cracking down modes of sexual expression in art. Smith died in 1989 after a long battle with AIDS, leaving behind him a controversial and orgiastic body of work which has gone on to inspire subsequent generations of artists, performers and film-makers alike.