Guy Richards Smitby William Powhida
Guy Richards Smit’s musical alter-ego, Maxi Geil!, and his band Playcolt, perform their rock videos in A Message to my Audience. The three videos are shown as part of a Swiss television show in front of a Satin covered bed surrounded by Smit’s paintings of Maxi Geil! and Playcolt. The often hilarious videos send up eighties prog rock and performance-based art with uniform glee and drip with sexual and artistic pathos.
"Maxi Geil" means something like "really horny" in German and gets at the heart of Smit’s elaborate performances. Sex and desire are pronounced themes in all three videos with juicy lyrics like "I want your vagina around the head of my prick" in "The Artist’s Lament." It’s not left for innuendo as in commercial pop, but explicitly and salaciously expressed. The videos negotiate love, sex, and fame coupled with intrinsic questions of irony and sincerity. Smit’s conceit of using a fictional identity, a common device within his oeuvre, complicates expectations and assumptions of the artist and the art works.
The framing device for the rock videos "Zebra Countdown Video Klasse", an amusing parody, allows Smit to imply the international fame of Maxi Geil! and Playcolt. It’s also a great satire of hipster culture, here and abroad, with its requisite ’80s plastic glam. Its best moment concerns an offhand comment Maxi has made at the Grammy’s. He happily admits saying "Fuck the Troops" and relishes the freedom to do so in Europe. The moment is pure fiction, but captures the deliciously unrepentant honesty that lies behind Smit’s constructions. Using ironic devices like fictional identities and satire, Smit reveals the underlying, uncensored desires and impulses of his audience.
The videos themselves, a live performance of "Here Comes Maxi," "Strange Sensation," and "The Artist’s Lament" all explore different aspects of fame and fucking. In the "live" performance, which might have been filmed at Luxx or Joe’s Pub, has the women of Playcolt coo for Maxi while dancers writhe about and get excited. The self-aggrandizing tone parodies the egotism of artists like Matthew Barney and his fawning legions.
"Strange Sensation" is more intimate and revealing of the pathos present in Smit’s works. Maxi Geil! & Playcolt serve as the music for a modern dance troupe, much as Radiohead recently did at BAM. Arriving late, Maxi vainly tries to express what the song is about, "a feeling," then "a good feeling," to the dancers. It’s a painfully funny song about love and doubt. The female singer, Smit’s wife, sings melodically "Come inside, come inside…," as the song cuts to an absurdly funky bass line. The music and lyrics are deliriously mismatched, yet conceptually perfect. All the while, the dancers gradually express the song’s love story.
The last video further confuses the narrative, as Maxi playing the artist, Guy Richard Smits, ends up smeared in blood as he tries to understand the creative process. The video ends with the female singer cooing "Guy, guy, you’ve got a lot of work to do," against an arctic backdrop. The quality of the video, like all of them, is bad, but in an endearing way, like the singing, the directing, the editing, and everything that Smit does in the name of art.
Demonstrating more talent in whatever he tackles in the name of art than ‘genuine’ musicians, actors, directors, writers, comedians etc., Smit capably pulls off all the roles without becoming exactly what he is parodying. There is enough production to suspend disbelief and cause serious doubt about the sincerity of the gestures, precisely the nebulous area in which this work exists. The thin, flat paintings by the artist of Maxi Geil! & Playcolt are another extension of Smit’s persona, the painter, and there is a calculated feeling of disinterest in the style. The kind of bad, self-conscious painting Smit practices has the breezy air of celebrity painting, not a painfully serious artist. If they were by anyone but someone ridiculously and inexplicably successful, like say Elizabeth Peyton, they would fall flat esthetically. Smit is there, seriously, just not everyone has recognized it yet.