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Jack Smith on Rented Island

April 7, 2020

Jack Smith on Rented Island, Digital slideshow from 35mm slides, Duration: 5'03", Restoration of ¼ inch audio tapes by Jack Smith courtesy of Jerry Tartaglia

As his promotion for 'What’s Underground About Marshmallows?' describes, pioneering experimental filmmaker Jack Smith (1932 - 1989) felt that the artist-filmmakers of his time were lorded over by a “landlord class who irrationally operate theatres in the style of the passive executive, as just more of the old sacrifice-betrayal context, the continuing betrayal of the socialistic impulse.…” Landlordism, the “fear ritual” of extracting rent each month and a stand-in both for the profiteering of art institutions and the capitalist laws that squash life in general, served as Smith’s recurring arch-enemy. A series of slides taken in the 1970s and 1980s dramatizes this ceaseless requirement to pay, with Smith’s outstretched, envelope-clutching arm struggling through various locations. This anti-rent fixation was a prescient one, given the visible pressures of real estate development on artistic survival and urban life under an increasingly parasitic economy, and the heightened debates over gentrification that are leveled at art spaces themselves today.

- Jay Sanders, 2018

Taking a cue from Jack Smith, we invite you to visit the links below in order to learn more about the fight going on today across New York to institute a statewide rent suspension in light of COVID-19, and how you and your neighbors can get involved.