Michael E. Smith at S.M.A.K.
June 24 – October 1, 2017

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

On approaching the entrance to Michael E. Smith’s exhibition, we are immediately confronted with an essential aspect of this artist’s choreography: absence. Apart from his name and an arrow indicating the direction of the visit, we encounter no other standard information such as an introductory wall text. The omission of as many superfluous elements as possible is a basic principle not only of all Michael E. Smith’s exhibitions, but also of the way he produces individual artworks. The artist does not aim specifically to remove information, but he does in this way find a means of working towards his ultimate goal: a concentration on what seems essential, prototypical or elusive in the things that surround us.

 

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

Smith made use of the architecture of the museum both as an intermediary and as an accomplice in the creation of this exhibition, in which he undermines the feigned neutrality of the white cube at several levels. For example, he changed the lighting and removed door-handles to create a delineated, darkened environment in which everything is of equal importance. This gave rise to a second space within the museum that consists of minimal changes and sightlines marked out by means of artworks. The sense of looking and being looked at arises at several places in the exhibition. By utterly banishing the sublime, the exhibition appears to envelop itself in a certain degree of pragmatism that is occasionally accompanied by a dry humour. For example, when works give the impression that they are herding together round the walls of the museum, almost in the same way as families take over a place. By installing works in corners and other unusual spots, such as above the door of the museum’s reserves, Michael E. Smith ensures his presentation has an extra physical impact on both us, the visitors, and the museum staff and their routines. The artist describes the way he intuitively arranges exhibitions: for spatial solutions the phrases he uses include ‘making moves’ and ‘making flips.’

 

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

Michael E. Smith / Photo Dirk Pauwels

In Michael E. Smith’s work we find intimations not only of man’s embedment in broader ecosystems, but also themes linked to the human condition – including the friction between discipline and order, freedom and anarchy, family and individual, and the norm and the deviation from it. The artist nevertheless does not in any sense wish to be explicit or to adopt a moral position. In his work, language, material and image are constantly suppressing one another and thereby ultimately once again lead us to a torso of meaning. So that we can experience this, Smith plays on all our senses.

 

Michael E. Smith
June 24 – October 1, 2019 / S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst
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