Left: Café 'Ino, Bedford Street, 2013. Right: Guardian angel, Dorotheenstadt Cemetary, 2013.Shop
Left: Aftermath, Rockaway Beach, 2012. Right: Genet manuscript (Mayday speech), 2003.Shop
Left: Silver balloon, 2010. Right: Hotel Victory, 2013.Shop
Many things – a stranger’s voice at the coffee shop, the scent of a snuffed candle, the way the light permeates your room at a certain time of day – can trigger memories; our emotions and senses so interwoven that the mere whiff of perfume can leave us absentmindedly humming the tune of a song we heard somewhere, sometime, someplace many moons ago.
For inimitable punk icon and poet Patti Smith, objects have this effect; ostensibly ordinary objects that upon entering into Smith’s multidimensional world, become so much more. A small wooden table and chair, a deflated silver balloon, a dear friend’s straw hat – relics of a past life that have come to symbolise a time and place, a person, a moment. Objects, which now form the subject matter of Smith’s latest project, Eighteen Stations, an exhibition of the artist’s photographs that accompany her recently released best selling memoir, M Train.
Here, Smith is given a platform to further build upon her four-decades-long legacy as seminal artist and wordsmith with an extension of M Train – “a roadmap to my life,” as Smith labels it. Much like her Polaroids, Smith’s memoir is steeped in quotidian detail – a collection of anecdotes told from the various cafés she has worked from globally, her substance of choice: coffee, bottomless cups of it, strong, black – always close at hand.
To mark the opening of Eighteen Stations, Smith spoke with Omar Kholeif, Senior Curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, about her solo show at Robert Miller Gallery, New York. “I wanted to do a show but I needed to do something that was incorporated in the world that I was spinning in. And so it came to me that I could do a show which presented the world of the book, and it’s perfect for me because it intersects language with the visual image,” says Smith.
And of the small wooden table and chair cited many times in M Train, and which now has pride of place in a gallery room at the exhibition, Smith says: “The table and chair in the little room is the original table and chair that I was obsessed with in my Café ‘Ino days. So obsessed that I was so tearful when the café closed that the owner gave them to me … I thought the table and chair would like being in the gallery.”
Eighteen Stations is showing at Robert Miller Gallery, New York from 3 March – 16 April.
WORDS Edwina Hagon
PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of the artist and Robert Miller Gallery