Smith’s first Mike narrative conceived for television depicts, with nightmarish absurdity, the sacrifice of privacy for public exposure. Produced through the Artists Cable Project, the skit layers the upbeat zaniness of a game show over Mike’s unsettling experience of a gang of white sheet shrouded “spooks” transporting his living room to a television studio.
Michael Smith and Joshua White
Take Off Your Pants!, 2005
Installed within a six-sided kinetic sculpture, these two videos from Take Off Your Pants! brand Mike’s pants-centric worldview in a spinning kaleidoscopic assault of carnival lights, whirligigs, and candy colors. Each hyperactive face of the kiosk displays items ranging from a lenticular portrait of Mike merchandised as “Pants Guy,” to an inset diorama of a mythical Pants Village. The kiosk’s ungainly form, like a relic from Disney World’s cloyingly cute It’s a Small World, heralds a darker view of the global village as an alienating place where we’re alone, surfing the internet in our underwear.
“Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with a great many particulars”—Heraclitus as interpreted by middle-aged Mike emphasizes the neurotic particulars, and less the wisdom of the bigger picture. As in so many of his outsized quests, whether to be a major television personality, a disco champion, or an Outstanding Young Man, Mike’s extremely human excursion into the realm of online continuing education is strikingly disconnected from reality.