John Smith: White Hole, The Gallery, Tyneside Cinema, Until 6 January

Co-curated by Tyneside Cinema and Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network , the UK premiere of John Smith’s White Hole brings together his recollections of two trips to Eastern Europe, before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since the 1970s, Smith has made over 50 film, video and installation works which have achieved international recognition and influenced artists’ moving image practice in the UK and beyond.

Unlike most of the John Smith’s work, this piece started off as a print on paper: artist Cornelia Parker curated a black and white themed room for the 2014 Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition and invited John Smith to make a piece. Interested in concepts surrounding negative and positive opposites, Smith was reminded of his first visit to Eastern Germany in 1997 during which he spent time in Liepzig. Smith was surprised by a shift in the thinking that was taking place, only eight years after the fall of the Berlin Wall: following initial aspiration towards capitalism, the people began to see that there had been positives within the previous communist regime, as well as negatives. A phrase he encountered was that there was “a tunnel at the end of the light”, the opposite of the aphorism we know as “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

What came from this image is White Hole, now installed large-scale in The Gallery: the only artists’ moving image space in the country which uses the latest cinema projection technology. The work presents Smith’s perspective on the realities and opposing ideologies of Communist Warsaw and Capitalist Leipzig in the 1990s, and takes the viewer on a journey of opposites, reversals, positives and negatives.

Inkeeping with Smith’s practice, whereby highly crafted films often subvert the boundaries between documentary and fiction, and rework and transform reality, White Hole is accompanied by a wry narrative that ultimately questions our ‘grass is greener’ imaginings of life in other places, times and political systems.

John Smith: White Hole, until 6 January 2015, The Gallery, Tyneside Cinema, 10-12 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE1 6QG.

1. Image: White Hole, John Smith, 2014.