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Midnight at the Plaster Foundation

Jack Smith
USA 1971 / 20’

From the winter of 1970 until his eviction 18 months later, Jack Smith staged midnight performances at his duplex loft, the Plaster Foundation of Atlantis. The performance area was a fantastic accumulation of junk, including a simulated lagoon. Although varying wildly from night to night, the show generally involved listening to music, waiting for performers to finish dressing, and watching the slow burial and exhumation of artifacts. The actors typically seemed confused, reading from the script whose pages were passed around the stage and responding to Smith’s onstage direction.

Although the Plaster Foundation served as the studio for No President as was documented in numerous Smith shooting sessions, the recovered videotape, referred to as Midnight at the Plaster Foundation (likely shot in 1971), is the only known record of a performance piece, which may be Gas Station of the Cross Religious Spectacular. The show is unusually disastrous. Even before the image has stabilized, Smith can be heard ordering the crew to restore some toppled debris and angrily yelling instructions to his assistant Abbe Stubenhaus. After a while, the artist takes center stage but this solo performance soon breaks down. Smith waves walks off camera, complaining and muttering, a proud failure.

J. Hoberman / Live Film! Jack Smith!


Jack Smith

the father of the Cinema of Transgression and the initiator of camp and thrash trends, has, since the 1950s, been creating anarchist films and performances inspired by Hollywood B movies. In his productions, transvestites and drag-queens radically manifested their sexuality. Smith made his movies purposefully violate all the principles of zero-style cinema. They inspired later generations of cinematic outcasts and experimenters. Smith was born in Ohio in 1932 and moved to New York in the 1950s. He began using film no longer independently but as a component of performances. His Midnight Performances often started as late as 2 a.m. and lasted several hours. In many of his LIVE FILM performances, Smith completely reedited the film material, integrating excerpts, slides, text, and music. After Smith's death as a result of AIDS in 1989, Jim Hoberman and Penny Arcade founded the "Plaster Foundation", which commissioned Jerry Tartaglia to restore his films.

Filmography

1950–1966 Porządne istoty / Respectable Creatues (short)

1960 Przestymulowany / Overstimulated (short)

1962 Taśma klejąca / Scotch Tape (short)

1963 Płonące istoty / Flaming Creatures

1963 Normalna miłość / Normal Love

1963 Żółta sekwencja / The Yellow Sequence (short)

1967 Ziele z wyspy Technikolor / Reefers of the Technicolor Island / Jungle Island (short)

1967–1970 (1998) Byłam panem Yvonne De Carlo / I Was a Male Yvonne De Carlo (short)

1968 Bez prezydenta / No President

1969 Piosenka do wynajęcia / Song for Rent (short)

1970 Ujęcia bez tytułu / Untitled Film Rushes

1971 Północ w Plaster Foundation / Midnight at the Plaster Foundation (short)

1978 Sinbad z Bagdadu / Sinbad of Baghdad (short)

1979 Oszołomy / Hot Air Specialists (short)

Cast & Crew

director Jack Smith
screenplay Jack Smith
cinematography Jack Smith
editing Jack Smith
cast Jack Smith
producer Jack Smith
sales Gladstone Gallery
source of print Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst
language English
colouration b&w