This text is the introduction to the printed publication Second Hand Smoke that was produced to accompany the exhibitions No Oduur (January 19 – March 4 2012, at Space, London) and Stop Being So Attractive I Can't Get Anything Done (March 16-24 2012, Autocenter, Berlin). The publication includes written contributions by NICOLAS CECCALDI, SIMON DENNY, TIMO FELDHAUS, MORAG KEIL & LENA TuTUNJIAN, MÅRTEN SPÅNGBERG, VALENTINA LIERNUR, SIDSEL MEINECHE HANSEN, and JACK SELF. Introduction written by MARLIE MUL, publication designed by HANNE LIPPARD and MARLIE MUL.
Second Hand Smoke
A group of women each with a large inflatable cigarette strapped to their back, in North London, 2011, addressing any smoker in sight to quit their habit. The overturn of the smoking ban in The Netherlands for bars under a size of 72m2; a nostalgic gesture to what has been described as ‘the atmospheric heritage’ of smoking. The low-profile emergence of the outdoor (public) smoking pole, a singular stainless steel hollow pole with unremarkable appearance, comes in a comfortable standing height size or is installed on exterior walls at standing height.
The inhaling of cigarette smoke makes one cough, dizzy and often nauseous – learning how to smoke requires effort and determination.
The first smoker of Europe, Rodrigo de Jerez, who took up the habit after being introduced to it by Native Americans and bringing tobacco leaves back to his Spanish hometown where he was imprisoned for his sinful habits, as “only the Devil could give man the power to exhale smoke from his mouth”. When released seven years later, smoking had caught on. The faith of the Native Americans in an entwined relationship between human and spirit through tobacco, seeing it as their duty to yield the tobacco plant and to smoke it, as the spirits were in endless need of the plant to survive. The strong tobacco of the Native Americans. The control over Native Americans through possessive control over the tobacco plant. The Western world increasingly moved towards milder forms of tobacco. In the form of the cigarette, tobacco would gain a suitable and functional strength.
The smoker would smoke in smoking rooms in a smoking suit; the abstinence from smoking in certain spaces or in the company of women was done on the grounds of etiquette. The invention of the lucifer match lead to smoking in the open air. The smoking in factories, warehouses, shops and offices possibly started to take place to counter the monotonous, sluggish work of the modern age. The modernist flat-pack cigarette fit in with this age of great activity: the smoking of cigarettes is an individualized, mild and transient habit. The smoking of tobacco went from being a supplementary activity, to a contribution to the enhancement of one’s day. The 1920’s introduced the cigarette for women as a symbol of freedom, equality and personal choice. The dwindling association between cigarette smoking and masculinity and an analogous increase in associations with femininity, later became a mode by which large capitalist patriarchal tobacco companies could boost profits: “Over the 20th century…in industrial countries the cultural meaning of women’s smoking as it relates to gender relations has moved from a symbol of being bought by men (prostitute), to being like men (lesbian/mannish/androgynous), to being able to attract men (glamorous/heterosexual).” The filter-tipped cigarette became popular with women because these cigarettes didn’t leave behind embarrassing bits of tobacco in the mouth – it has mainly been embarrassment or social etiquette rather than a fear for health that has steered the development of ways in which tobacco has been consumed.
The idea that there was less social control over women brought a growing expectance of personal, individualised control, and with that the responsibility to be informed, civilised. Mg tar, mg nicotine, mg …., etc. Lights. Safer smoking. Smoking as a product of a growing social pressure toward exercising greater self-restraint. Tobacco and self-control. Smoking to lose weight. “It’s not just a cigarette. It’s a few minutes on your own,” – Eve Lights Slim 100s. The smoking of tobacco was linked to lung cancer in the 1950’s. The 1970’s formed the end of the baby boom and led to an emphasis on quality rather than quantity of the population. The construction of smoking as a public health problem. Science and media strongly interacted in these health issues. The Saatchi & Saatchi 1973 anti-smoking campaign introduced women-focused materials that concentrated on the links between smoking and losing sexual attractiveness. The connection with wrinkles. Smoking in pregnancy. The discovery of addiction. Poor health.
The global cigarette. The cigarette symbolises both freedom and control. The presentation of tobacco use as overpowering and addictive makes the tobacco companies look evil, as if they are controlling smokers for their own profits. The presentation of tobacco smoking as an act of free will (the freedom to smoke) allows one to ‘blame’ the smoker. ‘The public smoker takes away my freedom to be a non-smoker’. Smoking becomes a spatial issue. “The social consequences of individual behaviour”. The right to breathe smoke-free air at the end of the 1970’s is still a choice based on aesthetical factors rather than on proven health risks. The it’s my body and I’ll do as I please in the 1970’s. The do with your own body whatever you like, but do not expose mine to risks in the end of the 1980’s. The loss of tobacco’s freedom in the 1990’s.
The Smoker had been recognised. The passive smoker remained invisible in the decisions made about smoking. It was medical discourse that needed to bring all bodies into view, and make them all discussable, including the body of the non-smoker. The debate over whether there’s a moral difference between directly causing harm to someone and allowing harm to come to that person. The smoke for the smoker and the smoke for the non-smoker. Mainstream/sidestream; the acknowledgement of the existence of both direct and indirect smoke.
Second Hand Smoke is the conception of connected rather than disconnected bodies; It is the active smoker that creates the passive smoker.