Blight was made in collaboration with the composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. The images in the film record some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of motorway building work. The soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people.


“In the first few minutes of his film Blight, derelict houses appear to be dismembering themselves. Bricks rattle, mortar falls, and wooden beams are dislodged, seemingly by poltergeist activity (a feeling reinforced by a poster for the film The Exorcist, on a bedroom wall that has become newly exposed to daylight). The claw of a bulldozer is filmed, ominously caressing a chimney stack it is about to tear down. But the shot stops short, and the inevitable destruction happens in our heads, not on the screen.”

Cornelia Parker1


“The only distinction I would make between what I do when I play with sound and what a musician would do is that I don’t usually have a rhythmic structure for those sounds. So they’re not put into any kind of repetitive structure. That’s the only way I’d distinguish it from conventional music.”

John Smith2


“And finally, in developing strategies to integrate music into the soundtrack, rather than treating it as a supplement or addition, Smith’s collaboration with Pook challenges the conventional tripartite division of the soundtrack into speech, music and effects. In each of these three areas, it is perhaps the selfreflexive play with the creation of meaning that identifies Smith as an original voice in experimental film and video. However, for Smith, experimentation and reflexivity are never ends in themselves, but rather part and parcel of a critical engagement with the ways in which audiovisual media influence our understanding of the world. In investigating what is at stake in the creation and transmission of meaning through sound and image, Smith brings us back to the social sphere, reminding us that the practice of art is political and has political potential.”

Holly Rogers and Jeremy Barham3

  • 1Cornelia Parker, John Smith: Film and Video Works, (Bristol: Picture This / Watershed, 2002).
  • 2John Smith, interview by Birtwistle, 24 October 2014.
  • 3Holly Rogers and Jeremy Barham, eds. The Music and Sound of Experimental Film. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
UPDATED ON 12.05.2021