Jess Smoot

I am a professional mischief maker who uses tactics from my background as a trained clown to examine social power structures. Through playful and inquisitive performances, I ask viewers to question current circumstances and imagine new ways to relate to each other that aren’t hierarchical and oppressive in nature. Drawing directly from the lineage of the clown as a court jester, I believe the best way to destabilize authoritarian figures is by removing them from their pedestals, allowing us to magnify their flaws while also examining our own and coming to terms with the full complexity of human individuals within the harmful systems we’ve created.
In recent years, I’ve also been using archival material as fodder for my work. When I use historical material, I remove it from its context and examine it within the contexts of today. My work puts the archive on display, and while it often acknowledges the historical narrative, it does not prioritize it. I seek to use it as a way to collaborate with people who we no longer have access to physically so that we can better understand the circumstances we presently find ourselves in.

jess smoot, clown, performance art, art institute, Tia Mitchell, CPS Lives, Chicago public schools, nonprofit, art organization, chicago students, chicago artist, photography

Portrait by Tia Mitchell

Stories from Jess Smoot

Jess Smoot
& Cesar Chavez Elementary School
Jess Smoot & Cesar Chavez Elementary School

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