Mike's WorldMICHAEL SMITH & JOSHUA WHITE (AND OTHER COLLABORATORS)
April 25 - August 3, 2008
This spring, the Institute of Contemporary Art is home to “Mike's World: Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators),” the first major retrospective of internationally renowned performance/video/installation artist Michael Smith and his New York-based collaborator, director/artist Joshua White. This extraordinary exhibition features some 30 years of videos, installation environments, and other performance-related materials detailing the adventures of "Mike," a sweet but hapless Everyman character created by Smith, and his amusingly ineffectual search for a piece of the American Dream. "Mike's World" will be on view April 25 - August 3, 2008.
Since the 1970s Michael Smith has been a pioneering figure of performance art. Merging the art world with the entertainment world, he has created a body of work that includes video, commercial and cable television shows, puppet shows, stand-up comedy, gallery installations, drawings, and even comic books. Throughout his work, Smith has developed a number of characters and personas, the most emblematic of which "Mike," is the subject of this current exhibition. “Mike” functions metaphorically as a kind of ever-hopeful Candide, adrift in a world of rapid technological advancement that he seems incapable of fully comprehending.
“Mike’s World” is organized by the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin and curated by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of American and Contemporary Art for the Blanton. The exhibition has been designed by Michael Smith and Joshua White as a self-contained theatrical set. Other collaborators include Mark Bingham, Power Boothe, Mark Fischer, Alan Herman, Howard Mandel, Kevin Noble, R. Sikoryak, Doug Skinner and William Wegman.
Two new works serve as the introduction to the exhibition: a five-minute video by Smith and White reprising the story of "Mike," and an installation timeline that introduces "Mike's World" to museum audiences and contextualizes it within recent "real world" historical and cultural events.
Loosely based on the orientation galleries in a presidential library, the space will provide a sharp break from the rest of the museum and a challenging, quasi-theatrical experience for museum visitors.
Subsequent sections of the installation are sequenced along a thematic and chronological route. Single channel videos and excerpts from performances are shown on monitors throughout the installation. The videos surveyed include Down in the Rec Room, 1979/81; Secret Horror, 1980; It Starts at Home, 1982; Go For It, Mike, 1984; Mike Builds a Shelter, 1985; The World of Photography (a collaboration with William Wegman), 1986; Mike, 1987; Outstanding Young Men of America, 1996; Interstitial, 1999; Famous Quotes of Art History, 2001-03; How to Curate Your Own Group Exhibition, 2003; and Portal Excursion, 2007.
The exhibition includes a number of fragments from early installations, and three key recent projects will be reconstructed in their entirety. MUSCO: 1969-97, 1997, the office, storage area and showroom of a theatrical lighting company forced into bankruptcy by "its astounding failure" to keep up with post-disco-ball times. The QuinQuag Arts and Wellness Centre, 2001, documentation of an invented art retirement colony being devoured by corporate patronage. Take Off Your Pants!, 2005, a revolving six-sided kiosk that offers carnivalesque elaborations of a Mike-designed board game. The exhibition also features numerous drawings, notebooks, storyboards, and performance ephemera.
About the Artists
Michael Smith's 30-year artistic career includes live performance, video works, commercial and cable television skits, puppet shows, exhibition installations, comic publications, and drawings. Smith has an impressive exhibition and performance history that began in the late 1970s, with venues as varied as Franklin Furnace, The Kitchen, Caroline's Comedy Club, PBS, Dance Theatre Workshop, Henson International Puppet Festival, Cinemax, the Whitney, the Corcoran, the New Museum, the Pompidou Center, and, in recent years, sites as far-flung as São Paolo, Copenhagen, Milan, London and Cambridge. Smith was recently selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. He is on the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin.
Joshua White is a director and producer based in New York City. He made his mark as the creator and director of the legendary Joshua Light Show at Bill Graham's Fillmore East in the late 1960s. White went on to design psychedelic light shows for Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, among others. Later, he directed episodes of television programs such as Seinfeld, The Max Headroom Show, and Inside the Actors' Studio. White's lighting designs were recently included in the exhibition Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Installation views at ICA. Photos by Aaron Igler. > click to enlarge
Opening Walkthrough (For Members Only)
April 24 @ 5pm
With artist Michael Smith, collaborator Joshua White and Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of American and Contemporary Art for the Blanton.
Performance: Michael Smith
June 4 @ 7pm
Meet “Mike,” an insecure but determined man struggling to succeed in a technologically sophisticated world. "There are autobiographical elements in the character, but it's not me," says Smith, who has been developing his antihero and main alter ego over three decades. Further blurring the line between reality and fiction, “Mike” will work with a docent who presents Smith’s work to the audience.
ICA acknowledges the support of The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation, Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania.
“Mike's World: Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators)” is organized by The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. Funding for the exhibition is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Melissa Jones, and Marlene Nathan Meyerson and by a grant from Houston Endowment Inc. in honor of Melissa Jones for the presentation of contemporary art at the Blanton. This project also is supported by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Images, top to bottom: Michael Smith and Alan Herman, Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter/Snack Bar, 1983. Photo: Kevin Noble... Michael Smith, Mike's House, 1982, installation with videotape It Starts at Home. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Kevin Noble.