The clip and the record covers are obviously commenting on the state of rock television. The democratisation of the medium is well underway; “ordinary” people are the stars of this age. It is clear that Smit has included this field in her investigation. The record covers give us a glimpse into the life of this celebrity, a life in which joy and sorrow are also present, just as in the lives of ordinary people.
There is no doubt that Smit is interested in the position into which our visual culture has gradually manoeuvred itself – the democratisation of the concept of fame and the fact that women always want to match up to the “ideal” image in order to please men. The strange thing is that again and again the image they create of themselves becomes the standard for the men who look at the women and judge them. Western culture has thus ended up in a curious loop. Smit offers resistance to this phenomenon: she looks back. For example, in the record cover “Now” we see this happening explicitly. When we look at the picture what we see in particular is an eye, magnified by a magnifying glass. The eye is looking at us – and whether we want to look or not, our attention is immediately drawn to that eye. But all we see is an eye which reflects our gaze. The other record covers also contain subversive elements. There is more going on than we see at first glance.
Looking and being looked at have always played an important role in Smit’s work. In addition to the installation Poppy Dolls there are also several other works by Pépé Smit on display in the gallery. For example, a dark photograph hangs on a tiled wall like a bathroom mirror. The picture is not immediately visible. As soon as we approach the photograph to take a closer look there is a flash of light. We catch a glimpse of the picture. It is the artist who is taking a picture of us, the viewers. It is as though she is shooting through her own head with the flash. She herself says that this is about the feeling that whenever a photograph is taken of you, you lose a piece of yourself.
In the work Modern Art she draws our attention even more explicitly to the world of art. The photograph is taken from such an angle that we see only a shiny black surface, and Smit enjoys exploiting this fact. She uses the work as a mirror to put on lipstick. Art as a mirror – but once again in order to meet expectations.
Smit’s work is full of allusions and moments to think about.Margriet Kruyver
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