A note about Jack Smith

— Michael Krebber

© Jack Smith Archives, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

© Jack Smith Archives, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Having a conversation about Jack Smith, a friend told me about the concept of the ‘superfluous man.’

I think it is very funny to read the Wikipedia ‘superfluous man’ entry. It does not really fit the personality of Jack Smith, but, yet, it does a lot.

It says in the entry that this concept is a Russian literary concept derived from the Byronic hero. I could just paste the whole entry in here. Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time is mentioned, Goncharov’s Oblomov too. There are others. I haven’t read them yet.

“… It refers to an individual, perhaps talented and capable, who does not fit into social norms. In most cases, this person is born into wealth and privilege. Typical characteristics are disregard for social values, cynicism, and existential boredom; typical behaviors are gambling, drinking, romantic intrigues, and duels. He is often unmindful, indifferent or unempathetic with society’s issues and can carelessly distress others with his actions, despite his position of power. He will often use his power for his own comfort and security and will have very little interest in being charitable or using it for the greater good.

The superfluous man will often attempt to manipulate, control or enslave other individuals. Because he has no integrity or ambitions, he is often self-serving and sees little point to being a benefactor or helping others. He will often carelessly try to manipulate, degrade or pacify individuals within the society; in order to gain more comfort and security …”

And this: “… describes the superfluous man as “not just … another literary type but … a paradigm of a person who has lost a point, a place, a presence in life” before concluding that “the superfluous man is a homeless man.”

Add that it is somebody who is capable of doing things that tell others something important about their own existence and fate—this kind of stuff.

And then, it should be understood too that this person is not capable of caring about surviving and has to be given food, a place to stay, or money for rent. The other person predominant these days in my thoughts is Warhol.

Smith and Warhol do ‘it’ in different ways, but the relentlessness and consequence is the same. Both have their motives.

Jack Smith being a predecessor of …—rather than accepting art forms that could be mentioned here, I would leave them out, preferring to suffer from them because forms hurt.

Jack Smith being a role model for an artist? This would be too difficult.

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