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Craig Smith talks about relational experiences in art

Craig Smith lectures students on Tuesday evening at Hanes Art Center.
Craig Smith lectures students on Tuesday evening at Hanes Art Center.

Craig Smith believes artists are producers of culture. 

Smith, an artist and professor at the University of Florida, gave a lecture on Tuesday about art as a group experience for the Hanes Visiting Artist Lecture Series. 

Smith runs the Creative Photography program at the University of Florida and teaches a required first-year course called “What is the Good Life” in an effort to maintain an experience of the arts and humanities for every student.

He began as a live music performer and performed at Cat’s Cradle more than 20 years ago. He said he didn’t know anything about art until he studied photography at the University of Oklahoma. After meeting people in New York during his time as a graduate student in Buffalo, his art began to develop.

Smith uses music, photography and a variety of other mediums to create art that is relational and experiential. He said if his style of art had to be placed into a category it might be called “relational aesthetics,” but in reality it's much broader than that.

“The focus is on things that people can do, things that artists can do in the world that bring people together with common objectives … everybody who’s there, with the artist, collectively as the audience, is focused on some sort of goal,” said Smith.

During the lecture, Smith showed examples of work from a host of other artists with similar styles of art. He also showed pictures and video of his own art, and described some of his most significant performances — some of which including gun parts, exercise equipment and Navy signal smoke.

“I thought it was interesting — it's different than art lectures I’m used to, but it was a different perspective that I think is valid and important," said post-baccalaureate student Quyen Tang.

Jessica Glover, who is applying for graduate school in the arts, said Smith's art was more about the experience.

“I liked his different take on what art is and as something to be experienced visually and the ephemeral quality as opposed to something kind of being objectified or something that’s being hung up or analyzed in a certain kind of way," Glover said.

Smith is performing a piece entitled “Endless Nights” on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Studio Six in Swain Hall. Smith’s art can also be viewed on his blog.

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