Michael Smith’s (b. 1951, Chicago, Illinois, USA) videos, installations and performance works, produced both independently and in collaborations, explore contemporary mass media culture and its effects on those who experience it. The majority of Smith’s work chronicles the dreams and adventures of his two main alter-egos: the extraordinarily prescient and sympathetic alter-ego, the naïve and somewhat inept Everyman ‘Mike’ and ‘Baby Ikki’, an ambiguously ageless, sexless figure, as they each navigate (to varying degrees of success) the absurdities and alienation of the tragicomedy that is contemporary American life.
Recently, Mike and Baby Ikki both featured in Smith’s debut ballet, Excuse Me!?!...I’m looking for the “Fountain of Youth.” In this earnest attempt on Mike’s part to participate in the art world’s contemporary interest in the medium of dance, the fictional characters’ physical ineptitude is juxtaposed with the graceful professional dancers, choreography and music. Yet, by invoking the reciprocal artist/audience relationships of performance, the artist invites his viewers to identify and empathise with these archetypal figures even at their most ridiculous. Smith’s filmed and live performances are also frequently elaborated via other media, for example in artist’s books, drawings and sketches.
Michael Smith’s collaborators have included Joshua White, Eric Fischl, Mike Kelley, Seth Price and Mayo Thompson. He cites Buster Keaton, Vito Acconci, Richard Foreman, Samuel Beckett and William Wegman as influential in his exploration of humour and form. This range of conceptual and visual sources is evident in the depth and variety of Smith’s simultaneously ironic, hilarious, poignant and poetic body of work.
Smith is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship award (1985), four National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Fellowships (1978, '82, '88, '91), and most recently The Alpert Award in the Arts (2012).
In 2016 Smith's work was selected for inclusion in MANIFESTA 11 (Switzerland). Other selected shows and performances include those at Tate Modern (UK), MOMA (USA), the Whitney Museum of American Art (USA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA), the New Museum (USA), Leo Castelli Gallery (USA), Sculpture Center (USA), the Brooklyn Museum (USA), MOMA P.S.1 (USA), Palais de Tokyo (France), Miami Art Museum (USA), White Columns (USA), the Walker Art Center (USA), the Wattis Institute (USA), Caroline's Comedy Club (NYC), Dance Theatre Workshop, Cinemax (NYC), MOCA LA (USA), the Pompidou Centre (France), the MAC Galleries (Ireland), South London Gallery (UK), and Hales Gallery (UK). Smith's work is represented in numerous international collections including MoMA (USA), Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA), Walker Art Center (USA), Pompidou Center (France), and Museum of Television and Broadcasting, NYC (USA).