Commonwealth and Council

Link Arms and Listen

Jen Smith


Commonwealth & Council presents Link Arms and Listen, an exhibition by Los Angeles artist Jen Smith. The exhibition title, borrowed from the lyrics of a song by The Golden Bears, sutures dual impulses between Smith’s formal aesthetics and social art practice.

Link Arms and Listen presents three works. The first work, a video called "Oh I Limp Concise Sadism!" (a reformation of “Mission Accomplished”) documents Smith’s pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. during which she dons a white horse’s head made of chicken wire and paper, and drags the severed rear of the horse. She spews yards of celebratory ribbons like blood and guts. Without a viewing hole on the mask to guide her steps, she uses the length of her arms to assess her path, only to fumble and collide with the pillars of the monument. Her blinded movements and lack of coordination suggest the futility of an idealized, mythic nationalism.

During her two-week residency at Commonwealth & Council, Smith constructed the second piece in the show, a banner of satin and linen that reads, "WE MAKE THE RULES.” Conceived as a communal affirmation and a critical provocation of imperial power, the piece links the formal investigations of the video to the social offerings of her home preserves project.

The third work reminds us that the politics of the social and the economic is always a part of the home. Configured as part artist project and part entrepreneurial exercise, Smith began making home preserves in response to the seasonal abundance of Los Angeles and her own economic necessity. As part of the show Link Arms and Listen, Smith will offer home preserved pickles and preserves and a pickling demonstration on November 6 at 2pm.

Link Arms and Listen is a continuing exploration of utopic/ dystopic tensions within notions of democracy in late capitalism, examining both the mythological and the quotidian.

Jen Smith is an artist and musician. With her post punk band the Quails, she has played music halls, street protests and squats, made posters, zines and anti-war ephemera, and recorded three albums. She received her BA in American Studies from University of Maryland, College Park, and her MFA from University of California, Irvine.