By Stephen CarlickYesterday morning (March 6), the Art Gallery of Ontario welcomed revered multi-disciplinary artist Patti Smith to speak about her current photography exhibition, Camera Solo, in Toronto. In a room of approximately 50 journalists and other media personnel, Smith discussed the concepts and philosophies behind her music, poetry and photography while her echoing voice and dozens of camera flashes bounced around the gallery's high ceilings.
Though she's perhaps better known to Exclaim! readers as a musician, Smith has always been a poet first and foremost, and her photos demonstrate this. Alongside the more patently personal photos — those of her family and the places and objects that evoke them — are those whose subjects evince a similarly intimate connection to Smith's muses: the graves of Susan Sontag, Walt Whitman, William Blake and Percy Shelley; the vacated beds of Virginia Woolf, Victor Hugo and John Keats; Arthur Rimbaud's fork and spoon, letters and atlas. She plans, during her stay in Toronto, to photograph Glenn Gould's chair.
On the walls of the exhibition space are quotations from Smith herself. "I have a strong relationship with the dead," one reads, "even a happy one." The intimacy of her diminutive, often out-of-focus ("atmospheric," she corrects) polaroids validate this notion; they suggest reverence for her loved ones, both past and present. That thread that will continue into her recently added concert at Toronto's Queen Elizabeth Theatre on March 9, which, Smith asserts, will pay tribute to her departed friend and famous photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
"So many people complained that they couldn't get tickets to our [AGO] event, and it just so happened that March 9 is the day of Robert's passing," she explained. "I usually always do a performance in memory of Robert on March 9, so because I was [in Toronto], I decided to do it here.
"I've done it all over the world. It's very simple: I might be reading from Just Kids; singing some of the songs Robert liked; there are many ways I can connect Robert the human being with my work. I'm just saying that it won't have much to do with his photography. It'll be about Robert the human being: the boy I loved, the boy I worked with, the boy I knew."
The rest of Smith's touring schedule is visible below. To browse a gallery of photos from the press conference, click here.
3/7 Toronto, ON - Art Gallery of Ontario (7:30 show) 3/7 Toronto, ON - Art Gallery of Ontario (9:45 show) 3/9 Toronto, ON - Queen Elizabeth Theatre 4/13 Rome, Italy - Sala Santa Cecilia (Parco della Musica) 4/14 Rome, Italy - Sala Santa Cecilia (Parco della Musica) 4/17 Burnley, UK - Mechanics ^ 4/19 Haworth, UK - Brontė School Rooms ^ 4/21 Scarborough, UK - Scarborough Spa ^ 4/30 Austin, TX - Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheatre 5/2 New Orleans, LA - Jazz Fest 5/6 Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre 6/18 London, UK - O2 Shepherds Bush Empire 6/19 London, UK - O2 Shepherds Bush Empire 6/24 Brussels, Belgium - Ancienne Belgique 6/26 Bruges, Belgium - vzw Concertgebouw 6/27 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso 7/2 Berlin, Germany - Zitadelle Spandau 7/4 Leipzig, Germany - Werk 2 7/6 Hamburg, Germany - Stadtpark 7/8 Tampere, Finland - Tampere Hall 7/9 Helsinki, Finland - Music Centre 7/11 Rattvik, Sweden - Dalhalla 7/12 Upsalla, Sweden - Botanical Gardens 7/13 Gothenburg, Sweden - Tradgardsforeningen 7/15 Copenhagen, Denmark - Falkoner Theatre