George Smits

VENUE: Filmhuis Cavia

on Thursday 21 April 2016

at: 21:00-22:00

George Smits (Antwerp, 1944-1997) was a versatile musician and artist. He was a household name in the Antwerp underground art scene since the mid-60s. His practice included a multitude in forms of expression; comics, screen prints, paintings, films, installations, radio shows and handmade instruments among others. He was a member of Ferre Grignard's band, where he played harmonica and guitaer. Smits preferably described himself as a beatnik. 



"Dynamics and evolution are the only constants in my pursuits. The question mark is the leader. Each question brings an answer that raises new questions." In the ICC (International Cultural Centre) in Antwerp the visual artist and singer George Smits in 1981 presented a performance that focused on his concept of ‘Isomopolis’ (or ‘Polystyrenopolis’ in English): an amalgam of sculptures that produce acoustic vibrations and retain them for a long period of time. The artist had started this project in the 1970s, and he created ever more impressive sculptures with polystyrene and strings. They came in all sorts of sizes and types: tightly stretched or spiral-shaped strings, piano strings, strings attached to bamboo or to objects made of polystyrene foam.

In ‘Isomopolis; Performance met klanksculpturen’ (‘Isomopolis; Performance with Sound Sculptures’), Toet (as many of his Antwerp friends used to call the late George Smits) engages in an interaction with a series of his recent sculptures. He carefully hammers on a spiral-shaped metal object, and then treats his ready-made instrument with rubber bands. This results in drones that deeply and intensely resonate. On the walls and scattered over the floor Smits installed round shapes cut from polystyrene; they are equipped with strings that crisscross the space. Humbly, meticulously, the artist plucks his idiosyncratic instruments, producing an impressive—sometimes distressing and paranoid—sound that evokes a wide range of emotions and transcends all cultural and musical references.

After working with polystyrene, Smits evolved in the early nineties with his sound sculptures to electronic sampling and combining them with voice and guitar. He had a weekly show on Antwerp's Radio Centraal: ‘Zbolk Night Radio’. In 1994 he wrote about his music: “How far can one go building acoustic instruments from scrap, playing them and putting it on tape, composing songs with the sampled sounds on low budget digital equipment, mixing the songs with the original sounds, live, on a weekly local radio broadcast, without someone saying: "you’re out of tune, out of time, you freak out, you’re fired.”



George Smits was a creative all-rounder: apart from visual works of art (paintings and sculptures), he also created experimental music, and he also designed installations for which he invented his own instruments. In Belgium, Smits was a pioneer of audio art, as well as one of the first artists who worked with 8 mm film and video. ‘The Colour Company presents a collection of films by... (1970-1973)’ is a collection of early works made with Super 8 mm film and a hand-held camera. Some of these works document the artistic practice and life of the artist—his friends and acquaintances frequently feature in the films. But above all, the films express wonder at the medium itself. 

Smits carries out a thorough investigation into the different colours of the light spectrum. He meticulously moves mirrors at different angles, which yields various colour results: the complete sunbeam is white, while a tilted mirror breaks the beam resulting in the successive colours of the rainbow. Further in the work, he conjures up rainbows working with a self-made installation consisting of a slide projector, various prisms and perforated slides.

At Filmhuis Cavia the silent film will be accompanied by a selection of sounds from the CD releases "Toet" and "Zbolk Night Radio".

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The screening of "Isomopolis" and "The Colour Company presents a collection of films by..." is made possible with the help of ARGOS centre for art and media, Brussels and Joanna Smits.

Video for George Smits

Soundcloud for George Smits