There are 1 billion smokers on the planet, which is nearly 15% of the world population. About 5.8 trillion (5,800,000,000,000) cigarettes were smoked worldwide in 2014 and a staggering 5 million people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organization.
I myself have been a smoker for 14 years and in the last 7 I have collected almost every single pack of cigarettes I smoked, leaving me with a bulk of around 2000 empty cigarette packs neatly stowed away in moving boxes. I have always claimed to be aware of the impact tobacco has on myself and my environment, fully agreeing that it is an addiction yet somehow hoping I could continue smoking, exactly because I was not oblivious to its effects.
This project is an attempt at building a visual representation of my obsession and compulsion with smoking through performance pieces. The two videos, recorded as continuous takes in a controlled studio environment, address the dichotomy of feeling in control of vs. being controlled by one’s addiction. The additional absurdity of collecting a symbol of tobacco consumption illustrates the repetitive nature of my habit. The tediousness of performing the same stacking movement over and over again as well as being subjected to a continuous barrage of cigarette packs transfers onto the audience as they are forced to endure both processes with me for the duration of the performance. The potentially cathartic nature of the work is lost the moment the wall of cigarettes collapses as this is merely a precursor to the whole operation starting over again.