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The first time I saw Jack, he was standing on a ladder putting some white paint on a wall at Artists Space. He had recently arrived in NY from LA, where he’d already been working as an artist and teaching for a number of years. I was 19 years old, still in art college, and working part time at Artists Space. I had come to New York to study dance and performance art.
I was attending two or three performances a week and trying to locate what it was about performance that I was drawn to. With the exception of Richard Foreman’s plays, I hadn’t found much. A lot of performance art at that time was decidedly untheatrical. I was always excited watching the beginning of a ballet – the curtain going up, the lights, the music starting – but once it began, I got really bored.
That night, there was a Jack Smith performance at Artists Space and Jack and I were both there. The performance was slow to get started. A seemingly intoxicated Jack Smith, after arriving an hour late, unpacked an ironing board, a roll of film and a bunch of slide mounts, and announced that he just had to mount all the slides and then the performance would begin. While we were waiting, Jack and I talked about some of the performances I’d been seeing and about art. Jack was impatient and critical of Jack Smith and his ambling, messy, persona-intensive art. He dismissed the work of Joseph