, Michael E. Smith

Michael E. Smith

Sep 16 – Nov 5, 2017

GermanEnglish

It's 2142, and all Earthly, obstinate forms have quietly died out. An alien species descends on a fact-finding mission, code-named necropsy, and lands near a cenotaph believed to contain vestigial human life. The problem is, this species doesn't know what water is, and they mistake hydrogen dioxide for poison. They think a bull testicle is a human remain; they diagnose a green laser pointer as a will-o'-the-wisp- that is, a human soul removed from its body. For them, a microwave is a home.It's 2142, and all Earthly, obstinate forms have quietly died out. An alien species descends on a fact-finding mission, code-named necropsy, and lands near a cenotaph believed to contain vestigial human life. The problem is, this species doesn't know what water is, and they mistake hydrogen dioxide for poison. They think a bull testicle is a human remain; they diagnose a green laser pointer as a will-o'-the-wisp- that is, a human soul removed from its body. For them, a microwave is a home.

It's 2142, and all Earthly, obstinate forms have quietly died out. An alien species descends on a fact-finding mission, code-named necropsy, and lands near a cenotaph believed to contain vestigial human life. The problem is, this species doesn't know what water is, and they mistake hydrogen dioxide for poison. They think a bull testicle is a human remain; they diagnose a green laser pointer as a will-o'-the-wisp- that is, a human soul removed from its body. For them, a microwave is a home.

So might the story read if Michael E. Smith's exhibition at KOW, Berlin, were a sci-fi novel. Smith's plot would be sombre but stoic, its setting one of beeping, echoing emptiness, its language factual and inventorial. Smith's is a sparse, eerie show of untitled sculptures (all works 2017), in which the junk and detritus of late human existence- a microwave, a pristine mattress, a dehumidifier, an artificial heart, for starters- are excavated and agglomerated, imbued with impossible magnetism and collapsed into a tense, yearning sequence of objects.

Upstairs is an overturned white microwave, teetering on a staircase, as if about to jump. Nearby, two flat monitors play identical grainy, found footage of birds in cages in an outdoor urban environment: city space, and its control systems, as imprisonment. On a wall downstairs is a totemic, tribal relic: a hairy bull scrotum, desiccated and purselike. Nearby, black sweatshirts are attached to a smoke machine from which, occasionally, vapour emanates like a silky ghost. The head of a lawn sprinkleris attached cleanly to an artificial heart. On an opposite wall, a red, dead macaw is pegged upside down: occasionally,the green light from a laser pointer flashes across the creature's head, in some bizarre clockwork of a leprechaun's mock-life, or half-life. We see a mattress and a stretched white bed sheet, site of procreation and sleep; a dehumidifier, slammed against a dead angelfish; a bull scrotum, a dumb, silent, dried-out emblem of virility, is pinned to the wall like a sacrificial artefact.

So might the story read if Michael E. Smith's exhibition at KOW, Berlin, were a sci-fi novel. Smith's plot would be sombre but stoic, its setting one of beeping, echoing emptiness, its language factual and inventorial. Smith's is a sparse, eerie show of untitled sculptures (all works 2017), in which the junk and detritus of late human existence- a microwave, a pristine mattress, a dehumidifier, an artificial heart, for starters- are excavated and agglomerated, imbued with impossible magnetism and collapsed into a tense, yearning sequence of objects.

Upstairs is an overturned white microwave, teetering on a staircase, as if about to jump. Nearby, two flat monitors play identical grainy, found footage of birds in cages in an outdoor urban environment: city space, and its control systems, as imprisonment. On a wall downstairs is a totemic, tribal relic: a hairy bull scrotum, desiccated and purselike. Nearby, black sweatshirts are attached to a smoke machine from which, occasionally, vapour emanates like a silky ghost. The head of a lawn sprinkleris attached cleanly to an artificial heart. On an opposite wall, a red, dead macaw is pegged upside down: occasionally,the green light from a laser pointer flashes across the creature's head, in some bizarre clockwork of a leprechaun's mock-life, or half-life. We see a mattress and a stretched white bed sheet, site of procreation and sleep; a dehumidifier, slammed against a dead angelfish; a bull scrotum, a dumb, silent, dried-out emblem of virility, is pinned to the wall like a sacrificial artefact.

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Microwave
Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Smoke machine, sweatshirt
Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Bull testicle
GermanEnglish

Like an alien, I look around, take stock, struggle to understand

Like an alien, I look around, take stock, struggle to understand

As to the meaning of these things, some free association can help: if water is aqua viva, the life-stuff of earth-born species, then microwaves raise its water temperature and dehumidifiers suck it out, killing life, hence the dead fish and macaws. By implication, with Smith's help, we can decline the moods of the verb 'to live': to breathe, to vaporize, to sprinkle, to tinkle. To make sculptures of ice-cold abstraction that contain, and restrain, the uneasy sparks of life.

Smith's dark slapstick universe is a parable about life as a cheap dangle; existence as an imaginary cursor, which hits the head of a bird like a torture droplet of water. A disused mattress, sucked of vicissitude, which returns to mock it, as the word 'macaw' suggests. This has a tragic intelligence: Smith's assemblages, made with a surprising combination of low material (sweatpants and smoke machine), technology in repose (a microwave) and virile, loaded objects (a bull scrotum), are strange but not random. They demonstrate the varied forms of life we steep and pin onto objects, breathing life into dead things, and robbing life from the living. Smith's metaphor for this is the artificial heart, tubular and transparent, dried of liquid matter and wanting desperately to leak, to weep. Here is the multi-channelled, multi-chambered core of Smith's koan-esque exhibition.

Like an alien, I look around, take stock, struggle to understand; but, exhaling, I am spoken to by this moving cenotaph about late-human struggles for life in the sci-fi novel we call reality.

Pablo Larios for Frieze Magazine Nov 2017

Photography: Ladislav Zajac

As to the meaning of these things, some free association can help: if water is aqua viva, the life-stuff of earth-born species, then microwaves raise its water temperature and dehumidifiers suck it out, killing life, hence the dead fish and macaws. By implication, with Smith's help, we can decline the moods of the verb 'to live': to breathe, to vaporize, to sprinkle, to tinkle. To make sculptures of ice-cold abstraction that contain, and restrain, the uneasy sparks of life.

Smith's dark slapstick universe is a parable about life as a cheap dangle; existence as an imaginary cursor, which hits the head of a bird like a torture droplet of water. A disused mattress, sucked of vicissitude, which returns to mock it, as the word 'macaw' suggests. This has a tragic intelligence: Smith's assemblages, made with a surprising combination of low material (sweatpants and smoke machine), technology in repose (a microwave) and virile, loaded objects (a bull scrotum), are strange but not random. They demonstrate the varied forms of life we steep and pin onto objects, breathing life into dead things, and robbing life from the living. Smith's metaphor for this is the artificial heart, tubular and transparent, dried of liquid matter and wanting desperately to leak, to weep. Here is the multi-channelled, multi-chambered core of Smith's koan-esque exhibition.

Like an alien, I look around, take stock, struggle to understand; but, exhaling, I am spoken to by this moving cenotaph about late-human struggles for life in the sci-fi novel we call reality.

Pablo Larios for Frieze Magazine Nov 2017

Photography: Ladislav Zajac

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Sprinkler, artificial heart
Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Sprinkler, artificial heart
Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Macaw, laser
Michael E. Smith, Installation view KOW
Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Mattress, bed sheet
Michael E. Smith, Installation view KOW
Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Dehumidifier, Emperor Angelfish
Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2017, Dehumidifier, Emperor Angelfish (Detail)

Current

  • Current
  • Upcoming
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009

Current

Upcoming

2018

EL OTRO, EL MISMO / THE OTHER, THE SAME

, Los Carpinteros
Apr 28 – Jul 21, 2018

Maskirovka

, Tobias Zielony
Mar 24 – Apr 15, 2018

Double Bodies

, Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger
Feb 10 – Mar 17, 2018

Hotel Rénaissance

, Ahmet Öğüt
Nov 25, 2017 – Jan 28, 2018

2017

Michael E. Smith

, Michael E. Smith
Sep 16 – Nov 5, 2017

Love Story

, Candice Breitz
Apr 29 – Jul 30, 2017

On the Possibility of Light

, Chto Delat
Feb 18 – Apr 9, 2017

On Fear and Education, Disenchantment and Justice, Protest and Disunion in Saxony / Germany

, Mario Pfeifer
Dec 1, 2016 – Apr 15, 2017

The Cabinet of Ramon Haze

Nov 19, 2016 – Jan 29, 2017

Things, Not Words

, Heinrich Dunst
Nov 19, 2016 – Jan 29, 2017

2016

Barbara Hammer & Oswald Oberhuber

, Barbara Hammer, Oswald Oberhuber
Sep 17 – Nov 6, 2016

Out Of The Dark

, Chto Delat, Alice Creischer, Eugenio Dittborn, Heinrich Dunst, Barbara Hammer, Hiwa K, Renzo Martens, Chris Martin, Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger, Mario Pfeifer, Dierk Schmidt, Tina Schulz, Michael E. Smith, Franz Erhard Walther, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Tobias Zielony
Jun 26 – Jul 31, 2016

The Citizen

, Tobias Zielony
Apr 30 – Jun 12, 2016

This Lemon Tastes of Apple

, Hiwa K
Apr 30 – Jun 12, 2016

Broken Windows 6.3

, Dierk Schmidt
Mar 12 – Apr 16, 2016

Cast Behind You The Bones Of Your Mother

, Clemens von Wedemeyer
Dec 19, 2015 – Feb 27, 2016

2015

Left To Our Own Devices

Sep 17 – Dec 5, 2015

A Summer Of Films

, Chto Delat, Alice Creischer, Eugenio Dittborn, Heinrich Dunst, Barbara Hammer, Renzo Martens, Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger, Mario Pfeifer, Tina Schulz, Michael E. Smith, Franz Erhard Walther, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Tobias Zielony
Jun 28 – Jul 26, 2015

Approximation In The Digital Age To A Humanity Condemned To Disappear

, Mario Pfeifer
May 2 – Jun 25, 2015

A Lucky Day

, Renzo Martens
May 2 – Jul 26, 2015

Time Capsule

, Chto Delat
Feb 28 – Apr 18, 2015

Have A Crush

, Barbara Hammer
Jan 10 – Feb 14, 2015

Dream Lovers

, Tobias Zielony
Dec 6, 2014 – Feb 14, 2015

2014

Dämmstoffe

, Heinrich Dunst
Nov 1 – Dec 18, 2014

Pinturas Aeropostales

, Eugenio Dittborn
Sep 13 – Nov 23, 2014

Cool Drink on a Hot Day

, Chris Martin
May 3 – Jul 27, 2014

In The Stomach Of The Predators

, Alice Creischer
Mar 1 – Apr 19, 2014

2013

Körperformen

, Franz Erhard Walther
Nov 30 – Feb 13, 2013

40 cbm Of Earth From The Iberian Peninsula

Sep 14 – Oct 30, 2013

, Michael E. Smith

Michael E. Smith II
Apr 27 – Jul 13, 2013

Dignity

, Barbara Hammer
Feb 16 – Apr 14, 2013

Believers

, Alice Creischer, Chto Delat, Michael E. Smith, Franz Erhard Walther, Tobias Zielony
Nov 10, 2012 – Feb 3, 2013

2012

Im Archipel

Sep 8 – Oct 21, 2012

Das Etablissement der Tatsachen The Establishment of Matters of Fact

, Alice Creischer
Apr 27 – Jul 22, 2012

Manitoba

, Tobias Zielony
Feb 3 – Apr 15, 2012

Tina Schulz

, Tina Schulz
Nov 5, 2011 – Jan 28, 2012

2011

A Formal Film In Nine Episodes, Prologue & Epilogue

, Mario Pfeifer
Sep 10 – Oct 28, 2011

Social Violence

Apr 30 – Jul 29, 2011

Barbara Hammer

, Barbara Hammer
Feb 12 – Mar 17, 2011

Franz Erhard Walther

, Franz Erhard Walther
Nov 6, 2010 – Feb 11, 2011

2010

Chris Martin

, Chris Martin
Sep 11 – Oct 24, 2010

Michael E. Smith

, Michael E. Smith
Jun 12 – Jul 25, 2010

Vele, Zgora

, Tobias Zielony
May 1 – Jun 5, 2010

The Fourth Wall

, Clemens von Wedemeyer
Jan 23 – Apr 22, 2010

Antirepresentationalism 3: Issues of Empathy Conceptual and Socially oriented Art in Leipzig 1997–2009

, Mario Pfeifer, Tina Schulz, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Tobias Zielony
Nov 28, 2009 – Jan 15, 2010

2009

Antirepresentationalism 2: Trouble with Realism. Conceptual and Socially oriented Art in Leipzig 1997–2009

, Mario Pfeifer, Tina Schulz, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Tobias Zielony
Oct 17 – Nov 21, 2009

Antirepresentationalism 1: Politics of Redescription. Conceptual and Socially oriented Art in Leipzig 1997–2009

, Mario Pfeifer, Tina Schulz, Clemens von Wedemeyer
Sep 4 – Oct 10, 2009

KOW ISSUE 5: Spirituality and Anti-Universalism

, Chris Martin
May 1 – May 30, 2009

KOW ISSUE 4: THE SOCIAL USE OF SIGNS (OBLIGATION TO EXPRESS)

, Tina Schulz
Apr 3 – Apr 27, 2009

KOW ISSUE 3: Detroits' Post-Fordism

, Michael E. Smith
Mar 27 – Mar 29, 2009

KOW ISSUE 1: Participatory Minimalism

, Franz Erhard Walther
Feb 27 – Mar 21, 2009

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