Caroline Smith is a performance artist who directly engages her
audience by using intimate participation. Eating Secret explored
our relationship with food and I Look You In The Eye, her new work,
explores encounters with strangers, notably: How we look at
ourselves and another. What do we see when we have the opportunity
to really gaze at someone, intimately, close up, for the sake of
The piece has already been performed at Vogue Fabrics in the
East End of London and at the Royal Festival Hall, and it's now at
Clifford Chance in the Docklands, host to the annual Pride
exhibition. As I walk along a packed corridor, 30 floors up into
the sky, I stop at the photos of Smith's work while the performance
takes place behind a boardroom door, visible only through a
peephole. Smith performs with one person at a time, and I am
selected to participate.
Behind the closed doors there is a stunning view of central
London and the elegant boardroom is filled with a table the size of
a swimming pool. Q, Smith's new alter ego dressed in feather and
velvet corset and leopard skin boots, leads me to two chairs
in the corner of the room. She issues instructions and tells me we
will not speak again.
I look into a mirror she offers. The urban scape is behind me
and I seem to float. There's a responsibility to my looking because
I'm aware she's holding a heavy mirror up high for my pleasure. The
mirror comes down and we are left together, looking at one another.
The growing party noise from the corridor mixes with the silence of
the room and my mind wanders strangely off but still held in her
gaze. Afterwards, there's a single action that is deeply personal
and marks the performance. I observe others leaving the room - a
woman in tears, a man with a gentle smile, another man in a suit
striding quickly away from the boardroom and into the crowd. I
wonder what they have said, what they have seen - in themselves and
The work creates an intimacy that is strangely disarming and
comforting at the same time. Smith is interested in
transformative experiences and I realized we don't have the
opportunity to really look at one another, or see ourselves for the
pleasure of looking. Powerful and seductive.
I Look You In The Eye, Clifford Chance, 10 Upper Bank
Street, London, E14, Part of the Annual Pride Art Exhibition, on
till 28 July.
If you would like to participate in I Look You In The Eye,
Photo credit: Christa Holka