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Melanie Smith

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

British artist Melanie Smith explores the contrast between where she comes from and where she lives now in Mexico City. She fuses elements from her origins and her new home, for example by documenting an English garden grown within a tropical rainforest. By doing so, she takes a look into experiences of alienation, displacement, and coming to terms with a new environment.
Created by Tate.

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Video transcript

Things are messy, things are edgy, things are, perhaps, don’t function how they should function but seeing that as, in a sense, some kind of possibility. That’s where a lot of my work lies. My name is Melanie Smith. We’re in Mexico City. Buenos. The first few years of here, it was very, kind of, emerged in looking into what was here. A completely different reality to the one that I’d expected really. There’s that funny mixture of epochs and scales and colours and things. It’s very intense visually, very saturated. All that kind of intensity of the streets started filtering the studio. It immediately started this, sort of, interesting fusion between where I am, where I come from and then this, sort of, fusion and perhaps even alienation, you know, of where I was living. The piece Aztec Stadium in 2010 was 3000 kids from the state education programme. We asked them to lift a series of these of these placards or stunt cards, I think they’re called, with iconographic images from history of Mexico and other histories. The whole piece in itself was this, it really is all between this kind of fragmentation of the image and the chaos. Xilitla is a video piece based on a surrealist garden made by Edward James who was an Englishman who came to live in Mexico. It’s filmed in vertical format. I suppose, importantly, the place itself is very vertical, so when I first went there with Rafael Ortega we were filming in horizontal format and we were cutting out half of the structures. The other reason was to very much break with that tradition of the horizontal. My work is constantly questioning this, messed up modernities or, in a sense, failed modernities mixing up that occidental and colonial gaze with where I live.