DVD REVIEW: Squatting the Palace: An instillation by Kiki Smith in Venice

Squatting the Palace: An instillation by Kiki Smith in Venice

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Kiki Smith is a tough person to label in the contemporary art world but the new DVD Squatting the Palace gives a look into her whirlwind process revealing a great deal about her creative identity and ultimately her work itself. The documentary focuses on her preparation for a major exhibition in 2005 at the Fondazione Querini Stampali in Venice giving the audience an inside look into how she creates her work and what it takes to put together such a large exhibition.

With her wild grey hair and tattooed arms, Kiki Smith appears to be a contradiction- part soulful hippie and part New York punk and that sensibility carries over to her work which has defied the common stereotypes incorporating multiple media including sculpture, printmaking, drawing, photography, and anything else that suits her fancy. The film does a good job in illuminating events in Smith’s childhood such as her sparse living spaces and her relationship with her father, sculptor Tony Smith, giving the viewer a great deal of insight into her work’s ultimate meaning. It also might explain why Smith has avoided working in a formal studio, choosing instead to work in her East Village townhouse which is at times both frenetic and quaint.

The only downside to the documentary is that Smith’s flighty nature gets in the way of what she’s saying at times and the unobtrusive; almost cinéma vérité style doesn’t include input from other artists or scholars that might add some clarity.

Tim Needles

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