A Conversation : Eye and Gut (Mickey Smith)

Overheard at the Circulation Desk

E Back then periodicals represented a tangible common culture
around shared interests, shared standards, shared identities.

G The content I am looking for is, how blood and guts transmute
into books and then into your image and then into our brains

E But looking at them past their expiration dates
has the opposite effect!

G Still I would find it boring to read 'how ' something works as a
pharmakon. Once one can 'say' what it 'is' is it no longer effective
as a spell?

E Publications seem insufficient. The audience for them is a
universe of disparate and disunited lives loosely bound.

G Just imagine coming upon these bindings. How you felt when you found them in the stacks.

E A library was the lifeblood of culture, and the central repository of
intellectual activity.

G Against the cold outside the radiators shutter and pop.

E The written word goes there to die.

G You wander into the general medicine archive circa 1970. To your surprise you spy an unfamiliar sequence.

E Printed matter enters its period of neglect.

G When I was in art school worked as a shelver in a medical library.

E The titles represent a serial aspiration on the part of an
immigrant nation toward a finally resolved sense of identity.

G I worked nights.

E We think now of the library as a cemetery

G A sick sweet smell of farts and dust intermingles with sweat.

(Mickey Smith press release with anonymous remix)


Christina McPhee said...




November 14 – December 21, 2008


Friday, November 14, 6 – 8pm

INVISIBLE-EXPORTS is pleased to announce the first New York solo exhibition of new photographs by Mickey Smith.

* * *

For centuries, the library was the lifeblood of culture, the central repository of Western intellectual activity. Nowadays, we think of the library as a cemetery, where the written word, as it’s presented in newspapers, magazines and even books, goes to die; where printed matter exits its period of relevance and enters its period of neglect.

Mickey Smith is a cultural archeologist and You People is her reclamation project. The books and bound periodicals she photographs are a fossil record the 20th century unknowingly left behind. In their own time, these periodicals represented to their readers a concrete and tangible common culture — each reader knowing that there are thousands, perhaps millions, of people around the country reading the very same things — unifying communities of subscribers around shared interests, shared standards and shared identities. But looking at them past their expirations dates has the opposite effect: the publications seem insufficient, the audience for them a universe of disparate and disunited lives, only loosely bound. They become something else, the meaning shifting from their content to the viewer’s own inherited history.

Mickey Smith’s photographs deal with themes of association and disassociation. The titles, repeated one after the other on the shelves of libraries across America, represent a cultural heritage, a kind of serial aspiration on the part of an immigrant nation toward a finally resolved sense of identity. But as Smith shows, forming an identity is not as simple as clustering around one node — or periodical — rather than another. Instead, by showcasing the repetition of these words, she highlights their incantatory power—and suggests that identity and culture have always been a matter not of neat categories but of vague associations.

Mickey Smith is a McKnight Artist Fellow in Photography and has received grants from FORECAST Public Art Affairs and CEC ArtsLink. Currently, her work can be seen at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, in Woodstock, New York, and the Pushkin House as part of the Contemporary Art in Traditional Museums Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.

* * *

INVISIBLE-EXPORTS is a gallery dedicated to superior conceptual work. IE is located in the Lower East Side, at 14A Orchard Street, just north of Canal. The hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11-6:30pm, and by appointment. For more information, call 212 226 5447 or email: info@invisible-exports.com.