smoking kills

A black modern chamber is filled with the amplified sounds of breathing. A large-scale floor-to-ceiling black and white wall projection alternates between a single image and split-screen. A four-inch stainless steel stiletto fills the frame on the left, exemplifying the art and architecture of both foot and shoe. On the right, stands a female form, monumental, part mountain and woman combined. She is smoking in a formal, dramatic, hyper-stylized manner. She occasionally pauses, arm raised with cigarette poised at the tip of her fingers, pointing directly towards the ceiling. Omnipotent and purposeful, this female colossus continues repeating this single action. Man-made artifices, shoe and cigarette are contrasted against the natural, physical structure of the body. All elements perfect in both form and function.

Vividly present in the smoke filled air is a sense of nihilism, decadence and luxury. Lungs and ribs adjust to expand and contract, inhale and exhale an ephemeral white substance, satiating a self-imposed need. Naked but for a pair of stilettos these women are presented as anatomical smoke stacks. Human machines extracting nicotine time and time again, stimulating the automatic nervous system and provoking the release of Dopamine.

Inspired by the ‘SMOKING KILLS’ labels found on European cigarette packaging, artist/director Stephen Blaise states, “I was struck by it’s absurdist clarity, so matter of fact…no gray area or room for misinterpretation here and very different from the way this message is communicated in the U.S.” Blaise also references Helmut Newton’s ‘Big Nudes,’ the formality and elegance of August Sander’s portraits and the glamour of old Hollywood.

In this remodernist vision, parallels are drawn between: human behavior and fetishism, light and shadow, beauty and horror, strength and weakness, appearance and temporality, cause and effect, intellect and desire. ‘Smoking Kills’ explores the dichotomy that exists between the visual impact of smoking on film and the well-established scientific fact that smoking kills.