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Harold Offeh

But not all of Offeh's work involves personae. In Smile, the dulcet tones of Nat King Cole play in the background (Cole is singing The Smile Song), while the screen is filled with a close-up of Offeh's face. The single shot work begins with the artist part grimacing, part smiling, his eyes rolled back. As the song continues, he tries harder to smile, the lyrics commanding his actions: "That's the time you must keep on trying / Smile - what's the use in crying?" At moments Offeh seems meditative, while his face clearly shows the pain and discomfort beneath his expression.

For Smile, Offeh was inspired by Vito Acconci's durational private performances recorded on Super 8 between 1969 and 1974, which "involve a level of corporeal manipulation that borders on masochism--Acconci is shown plucking hairs from around his navel, throwing soapy water into his eyes, and cramming his fist in his mouth."

[1] Nancy Spector, Guggenheim.
[2] Offeh made Smile considering questions of endurance, and repositioning Acconci's endurance of the masochistic, with his own endurance of a seemingly painless and pleasant act: smiling.

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Still from Smile by Harold Offeh, 2001
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