Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mike's World ICA

"Mike's World" is a dense, cacophonous installation in the main gallery at the ICA. After entering an uncluttered black cube with a snarky and appropiate introduction to Mike's World you enter a space visually and aurally assaulting with many installations, videos, installation with video , works on paper and ephemera. I get easily overwhelmed, sometimes by Stendhal Syndrome and sometimes something more like ADD. I was not overwhelmed by beauty so it wasn't Stendhal. This is a dense presentation of three decades of work by Michael Smith and collaborators. He's an artist I'm surpised I haven't heard of. Especially in the 80's I thought I followed performance and installation especially involvolving identity and institutional critique.

My favourite piece was the instantly readable "home fallout snack bar", a recreation of a 1983 piece. For me it had a clarity and an easy way in. The snack bar/fallout shelter had a cool mix of paranoia and midcentury Americanness. Why not have a basement rec room that handily turns into a fallout shelter. The mix of a Lucy and Ricky aesthetic with the survivalist was strong. Visually the bunker with accompanying drawings was sleek and handsome. It also provoked a vision/nightmare of your neighbors paranoia. Somehow under the cheery , upbeat facade of "your typical" American lurks fear and insecurity.

Quinquag presents a fictional mid century artist colony morphing into a New Age wellness center with geodesic dome and all. This fictional colony was located in Woodstock NY. As a former resident of Woodstock I found this piece both a plausible fiction and a sharp edged satire. Mike's presenting of the older pre hippy communal arts colony was evocative of Woodstock's history. There were actually dualing splintered art colonies in 20th C Woodstock, (Byrdcliffe and Maverick}. Another colony known for artist made tiles and the model of rocking chair favoured by JFK struck me as unsurprising. The "artifacts" and historic taped interviews were dumb (in the good way) and evocative. The corporate sponsorship and idea of a "Wellness Center" on the historic ground of the colony was well imagined and funny. Believable and skewering . But as art I found it a little flat and one linerish. More a piece of satire on the old Daily Show and not as evocative and artful as the Snack Bar/fallout shelter.

I liked this show. Funny, smart and well crafted. But in retrospect it seemed a little lightweight. I also think maybe it's cheery face and for me empty calories were the point? Somehow I felt entertained an amused but a little undernourished.