Sally Smart is one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, renowned for producing large-scale cut-out assemblage installations and more recently combining performance, installation and film. Her practice engages identity politics and the relationships between the body, thought and culture.
The Choreography of Cutting is a major ongoing project that reframes and refigures the historical avant-garde dance company, the Ballets Russes, and its experimental choreography, costume and theatre design as well as its legacies. Smart does not simply reiterate the work of the Ballet Russes, she recasts it through a distinctly feminist lens, insinuating Hannah Höch as central protagonist, and Martha Graham and Pina Bausch as natural successors. Alongside intricate backdrops and elaborate embroideries, Smart creates large-scale blackboard drawings that give form to her studio processes of thinking, mapping and planning through diagrams and notations. These works derive from Smart’s research into the European modern dance pioneer Rudolf Laban and his connections to the philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who used both blackboard dissertations and puppets in the pedagogical process.
Smart maps multiple ideas, temporalities and space to create a dynamic materialisation of thought, gesture and action and in so doing she reimagines and embodies a vigorous discourse between the historical and contemporary avant-gardes.
Australian artist Sally Smart is recognized internationally for producing stunning, large-scale wall tableau installations made from felt, canvas, silk-screened and everyday fabrics that she fashions together with pushpins. Smart is a process-oriented storyteller, presenting work that characteristically subverts gender hierarchies through the deconstruction and reconstruction of historical events and political associations with the traditional activities of women… Smart has long been interested in the unstable, the illusory and the uncanny. As opposed to certainty or perfectibility, her interest is in the realms of shadows, symptoms, dreams, mutations and subconscious memories....
Barry A. Rosenberg, University of Connecticut, 2012.