Lost Sound

With John Smith


Lost Sound documents fragments of discarded audio tape found on the streets of a small area of East London, combining the sound retrieved from each piece of tape with images of the place where it was found. The work explores the potential of chance, creating portraits of particular places by building formal, narrative and musical connections between images and sounds linked by the random discovery of the tape samples.

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“A lyrical and poignant response to the urban environment, Lost Sound depicts the city as a disparate and fragmented series of personal histories. A sense of migration, loss and displacement seeps through upbeat soundtracks from sunnier climes.” Helen Legg, notes for solo exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham 2006

“The theme of fragmentation and decay is taken up by my favorite work here, the video Lost Sound (2001), made in collaboration with sound artist Graeme Miller. Divided into short sections titled by location, Lost Sound shows discarded audiotapes around London — strands clinging to a fence, trapped in the crevices of a tree trunk, intertwined with weeds. The soundtrack combines the voices and songs on the found audiotapes with ambient sounds recorded on location. Visually the audiotapes tell us almost nothing; they must be ‘decoded’ by the equipment that put them on the soundtrack. But we come to see that the signs, cars, and pedestrians in the videotape pose similar ‘decoding’ problems: what do they mean, where do they come from, who are they? A city that at first seems comprehensible is revealed as a layering of mysteries; we know no more about the passing humans from their images than we do about what’s on the crumpled tapes. Each section charts a different relationship between tape and urban scene, taking the viewer on a little unpredictable journey. Finally, as happens so often in Smith’s work, the representational structure itself seems to break down. Titles and images are flipped left to right, undermining the readability of words, and men loading boxes onto a truck are seen in a repeated loop, foregrounding the arbitrariness of cinematic time as well as commenting on the repetitiousness of manual labor. Lost in an indecipherable maze whose rules change constantly, we see the city as a network of unpredictably shifting relationships and come to doubt even the sounds encoded in the tape fragments.” Fred Camper, Chicago Reader 2001

LOST SOUND excerpt


Moth Theatre

Moth Theatre


Moth Theatreis a small-scale freestanding plywood theatre fitted with a video feedback system and ultra-violet lighting. Standing in a pool of its own radiance, it is theatre for moths by moths.

Insects are drawn to the miniature cinema where their image is filmed and fed back to the same screen, generating pattern and unwitting choreography. Moth Theatre plays with the nature of spectacle across the species divide. Drawn by the same light and image as the insects, the human observer is able to eavesdrop on this evolving and autonomous performance.

Moth Theatre was commissioned for the Latitude Festival 2010 in Suffolk, UK and was the first winner of the Latitude Contemporary Art Award. It was show also at Serralves em Festa, Porto.




Counterpointer is a score for live performance, recorded video and live music commissioned in response to Situationist International and the legacy of Guy Debord. It was performed live in Paris and Glasgow 2017 with citizens of the cities who made spontaneous responses to unplanned locations using handbells.  The live space, the city outside it and the pre-recorded videos assemble into an unrepeatable concert of gesture and sound.

Commissioned for Reviewing Spectacle by the University of Kent and presented at How to Drift, CCA Glasgow (2017) and Théâtre de l’Échangeur, Bagnolet (2017)

Wild Car

Wild Car

WILD CAR is a 75minute film shot in the winter of 2019 from an improvised rail vehicle, the Wild Car. The footage, captured on iPhone 7, follows narrow-gauge railway tracks across Europe from the rail-side houses of Kent in England to the north of Denmark and to the south of Sardinia (via Poland) and joins it together in a single mesmeric journey. The viewer is taken across what seems to be an impossibly empty and almost imaginary landscape. This is Europe in bardo – suspended in its own atmospheres. It is a trauerarbeit, a work of mourning made in the year of Brexit, that both laments and celebrates the scale and weight of Europe in the detail of its small geographies.

WILD CAR was commissioned by Creative Folkestone and Sardegna Film Foundation and supported by Arts Council England. Screenings include GROUNDED Film Festival (2022), Fotofestival Łódź (2022), Creative Folkestone (2020).