In his video and performance work since the 1970s, Michael Smith has repeatedly taken on the persona of Mike. An everyman character with Mr. Rogers-like approachability and a Groundhog Day-like routine, Mike struggles to adapt to the complexities of contemporary life. Whether buying the latest coffee or fax machine or engaging in some ill-fated entrepreneurial scheme, he is perpetually on a quest for self-improvement and self-actualization. In our current circumstances, Mike can perhaps be seen as the perfect COVID-19 character—a mascot for isolation and unwavering optimism.
Smith and his baby boomer peers came of age during television’s golden age. This influence reveals itself in Smith’s critical eye and his keen interpellation of the variety shows of yesteryear, public access television, and slapstick and stand-up comedy. Deceptively simple, Smith’s works—and by extension, Mike himself—articulate the histories of many worlds: the medium of video, the art industry, New York City, the world of business, and American culture at large.
Greene Naftali is pleased to present four video works by Smith, ranging in date from 1980 to 2007, each featuring his Mike alter ego. The selection muses upon media consumption, loneliness, disaster preparedness, and institutional trust, among myriad other subjects. Visit the Media page to view these videos, and the Texts page for interviews and essays on Smith.
We also encourage you to explore additional web projects by Smith, including Mike’s World: Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators), an online companion to the retrospective exhibition held at the Blanton Museum of Art and the ICA Philadelphia in 2007–08, and the interactive online CD-ROM, Open House, produced following Smith and White’s 1999 New Museum exhibition. Plus, Smith has made highlights from his puppet show collaboration with Doug Skinner, Doug and Mike’s Adult Entertainment (1991–96) available here. An eight-volume DVD set, Mike’s Box: The Collected Works of Michael Smith, is forthcoming.
Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter/Snack Bar, 1983
In collaboration with Alan Herman
Installation view, Castelli Graphics, New York, 1983
Photo: Kevin Noble