Helmut Smits (Roosendaal, 1974) dropped out of high school at age 17 and spent four years working in his father’s printing business. Thereafter, knowing he wanted to go to art school, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art and Design in Den Bosch. Since graduation, Smits has produced art, sculptures, and conceptual art, as well as furniture and other articles. Spotting the “art” in everyday situations, ideas, and objects, he responds with often simple interventions that bring major issues into focus in a poetic and playful way.
In 2013, Smits organized a party for his son—not for a birthday, but because a routine check had revealed that the child was soon to reach a height of 1 meter. This milestone was celebrated among family and friends with a 1 meter cake, 1 meter of soft drinks, 1 meter tall towers of Duplo, 1 meter long party whistles and a 1 meter folding ruler for a gift. 1 Meter Parties have since been organized from Tokyo to Jerusalem; they commemorate a normal yet unique moment in the life of a human being, unrelated to culture, religion, or race.
In another example of how Smits works, he questioned whether that “yucky brown liquid” —Coca-Cola—is truly “The Real Thing,” as the company’s advertising slogan of the ‘70s had us believe. Taking a critical look, he concluded that it is not the flavoring of the drink that is authentic or “real,” but the water. Coca-Cola is sold and drunk the world over, even in places where clean drinking water is unavailable, despite the fact that it takes almost three liters of water to produce one liter of (unhealthy) Coca-Cola. To counter this absurdity, Smits built an installation that reverses the manufacturing process of Coca-Cola: using distillation to recover its pure water, the source of all life. His aim is not to save mankind, but to make us consider how our mindless consumerism affects and shapes the world in which we live.
Helmut Smits is one of the 26 designers and studios that are selected for the group show Dream Out Loud – Designing for Tomorrow’s Demands. The exhibition can be visited from 26 August 2016 in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Read more about the exhibition or order tickets..
1 meter party
Helmut Smits celebrating his son being 1 meter tall with a 1 meter party.