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Melanie Smith

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON

Smith

Melanie


Melanie

Smith

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON 1


Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014 2

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Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014 2

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Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014 6

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Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014 6

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Melanie Smith Interview with Bill Arning

Bill Arning: Having installed your earlier show at MIT, I’ve noticed a large cinematic turn in the work. When I think about Spiral City (2002) or the Aerobics Class (1995), which used documentary video as a sort of sculptural-conceptual object, it seems you’ve really embraced cinematic values. Is that a decision or was that an evolution? Melanie Smith: It wasn’t a decision. And I agree that the earlier pieces were more kind of plastic in a way—they were more related to a sculptural space. Now I think that cinematic phase is going more to painting. I think it’s just been a natural evolution in the work as I have always maintained a parallel painting practice . . . there’s always that ever-present sense of painting that has kind of transferred to the screen. I agree that an “object” quality does seem to be disappearing. BA: There was an anthropological bent to your work, and now you’ve really become a storyteller. I would have expected that, given your earliest works. MS: When I finished Spiral City, my question was: What would that next step be? I had finished the work that I could do in and around Mexico City. So I was aware of going back to my own history, back to where I was from, to open the work into a larger sphere—what you call storytelling. Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014 8

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Melanie Smith Interview with Bill Arning

Bill Arning: Having installed your earlier show at MIT, I’ve noticed a large cinematic turn in the work. When I think about Spiral City (2002) or the Aerobics Class (1995), which used documentary video as a sort of sculptural-conceptual object, it seems you’ve really embraced cinematic values. Is that a decision or was that an evolution? Melanie Smith: It wasn’t a decision. And I agree that the earlier pieces were more kind of plastic in a way—they were more related to a sculptural space. Now I think that cinematic phase is going more to painting. I think it’s just been a natural evolution in the work as I have always maintained a parallel painting practice . . . there’s always that ever-present sense of painting that has kind of transferred to the screen. I agree that an “object” quality does seem to be disappearing. BA: There was an anthropological bent to your work, and now you’ve really become a storyteller. I would have expected that, given your earliest works. MS: When I finished Spiral City, my question was: What would that next step be? I had finished the work that I could do in and around Mexico City. So I was aware of going back to my own history, back to where I was from, to open the work into a larger sphere—what you call storytelling. Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014 8

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It just had to start amplifying, and there was a point where those tensions started happening between my past and my present. So I think that that’s where the work has gotten more seductive. All these kind of new components—this surrealist component, the emotional, fragile components—leap in. BA: Luis Buñuel comes to mind. Moments in both Xilitla (2010) and Elevator (2012) made me think of his Exterminating Angel (1962). And Chantal Akerman’s films as well. You work in sculpture, painting, and photography. If I continue your trajectory, is the Melanie feature film coming? MS: Almost. My new film, Fordlandia (2014), is thirty minutes, and it’s a sit-down thing. But also I’m always playing around with the deconstructing of film: there’s a narrative, but there’s not a narrative. I still think that my root is in plasticity; it doesn’t come from a cinematic image. BA: Can you talk about where the idea for Elevator came from? It is such an engaging film. MS: Recalling Buñuel’s Exterminating Angel, there’s a double take and then the absurdity of the animals in the famous sheep scene. I also was thinking of Roland Barthes’s “The Third Meaning”: the moment between a still image and then the next still image, that kind of meaning that appears in the moment between them. The elevator goes up and down as a way of stringing a whole load of stills together, which leaves the question of what happens between these moments. BA: On each floor, there’s a little complete movie being played with its own interior logic. MS: Then there is a play on the messed-up modernity that doesn’t work: it goes up and down, and it always comes back to the place where it started. I was thinking of the elevator itself as the absent presence of the body. BA: This seems clearest in close-ups of the mechanisms and the gears. And the creaking sounds. And also there’s something about an old elevator that strikes those of us who spend time in high-rise cities as vaguely terrifying . . . Melanie Smith, Elevator, 2012, video stills 10

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It just had to start amplifying, and there was a point where those tensions started happening between my past and my present. So I think that that’s where the work has gotten more seductive. All these kind of new components—this surrealist component, the emotional, fragile components—leap in. BA: Luis Buñuel comes to mind. Moments in both Xilitla (2010) and Elevator (2012) made me think of his Exterminating Angel (1962). And Chantal Akerman’s films as well. You work in sculpture, painting, and photography. If I continue your trajectory, is the Melanie feature film coming? MS: Almost. My new film, Fordlandia (2014), is thirty minutes, and it’s a sit-down thing. But also I’m always playing around with the deconstructing of film: there’s a narrative, but there’s not a narrative. I still think that my root is in plasticity; it doesn’t come from a cinematic image. BA: Can you talk about where the idea for Elevator came from? It is such an engaging film. MS: Recalling Buñuel’s Exterminating Angel, there’s a double take and then the absurdity of the animals in the famous sheep scene. I also was thinking of Roland Barthes’s “The Third Meaning”: the moment between a still image and then the next still image, that kind of meaning that appears in the moment between them. The elevator goes up and down as a way of stringing a whole load of stills together, which leaves the question of what happens between these moments. BA: On each floor, there’s a little complete movie being played with its own interior logic. MS: Then there is a play on the messed-up modernity that doesn’t work: it goes up and down, and it always comes back to the place where it started. I was thinking of the elevator itself as the absent presence of the body. BA: This seems clearest in close-ups of the mechanisms and the gears. And the creaking sounds. And also there’s something about an old elevator that strikes those of us who spend time in high-rise cities as vaguely terrifying . . . Melanie Smith, Elevator, 2012, video stills 10

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MS: Oh, god, yeah! The elevator in our building you do not want to get into. Someone got trapped in there for a whole night once; they couldn’t get out and they had to sleep in there. In the film, you don’t know if the door is going to open, and then there is a “whack!” and you’re in there. Your body is in another body. BA: There’s humor in the soundtrack, too, like the birdcalls and the pig grunts and the gasps. There is also the image of the microphone with the sound of birds. Can you talk about the disparities between sound and image, and how they provoke both distance and humor? MS: It’s a Brechtian mechanism. The sound is taking you to a different place than the image suggests. I’m trying through adding sounds to image to broaden the perception of the image itself. When the door opens, and we’re suddenly watching a microphone, we ask, What is that microphone there for? It’s that potential for you to be able to speak yourself. It’s the potential to be listened to. It’s the potential to be able to use your own voice. But that voice is a far-off voice and not connected to the elevator. BA: The humans in Elevator seem to be professional actors with memorable character-actor faces: strong, comic, fascinating features. MS: They have an acting background, but they’re extras. They know how to work in front of a camera—they walk on, they walk through—but they don’t ever actually get to do the acting. They’re always watching the actors. There’s this sort of simulated feeling that they want to act so badly, they overact. What I’m trying to set up is this sort of dialogue between: Is this acting? Or is this not acting? It’s an ambiguous feeling. They’re trying to act, which is what extras do, but they don’t know how to act, since they’re simulating another scene that they witnessed as an extra. You’re left with that sensation: Was it real? Was it not real? But you know that you’re being cheated somehow. BA: How and why did you develop the objects for Elevator? MS: I wanted to create some kind of archaeology, almost a psychoanalysis based on a loose or free association reminiscent of, but actually not derived from, the video itself—again widening the interpretive spectrum.

Melanie Smith, Elevator, 2012, video stills

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MS: Oh, god, yeah! The elevator in our building you do not want to get into. Someone got trapped in there for a whole night once; they couldn’t get out and they had to sleep in there. In the film, you don’t know if the door is going to open, and then there is a “whack!” and you’re in there. Your body is in another body. BA: There’s humor in the soundtrack, too, like the birdcalls and the pig grunts and the gasps. There is also the image of the microphone with the sound of birds. Can you talk about the disparities between sound and image, and how they provoke both distance and humor? MS: It’s a Brechtian mechanism. The sound is taking you to a different place than the image suggests. I’m trying through adding sounds to image to broaden the perception of the image itself. When the door opens, and we’re suddenly watching a microphone, we ask, What is that microphone there for? It’s that potential for you to be able to speak yourself. It’s the potential to be listened to. It’s the potential to be able to use your own voice. But that voice is a far-off voice and not connected to the elevator. BA: The humans in Elevator seem to be professional actors with memorable character-actor faces: strong, comic, fascinating features. MS: They have an acting background, but they’re extras. They know how to work in front of a camera—they walk on, they walk through—but they don’t ever actually get to do the acting. They’re always watching the actors. There’s this sort of simulated feeling that they want to act so badly, they overact. What I’m trying to set up is this sort of dialogue between: Is this acting? Or is this not acting? It’s an ambiguous feeling. They’re trying to act, which is what extras do, but they don’t know how to act, since they’re simulating another scene that they witnessed as an extra. You’re left with that sensation: Was it real? Was it not real? But you know that you’re being cheated somehow. BA: How and why did you develop the objects for Elevator? MS: I wanted to create some kind of archaeology, almost a psychoanalysis based on a loose or free association reminiscent of, but actually not derived from, the video itself—again widening the interpretive spectrum.

Melanie Smith, Elevator, 2012, video stills

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Melanie Smith, Elevator, 2012, video stills

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Melanie Smith, Elevator, 2012, video stills

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BA: And impeding the anticipation on the part of the viewer that either the objects will serve as a footnote to the film or the film will be a footnote for the objects. Speaking of objects, Bulto (2011) was made not for Mexico, but for Lima, Peru. How important was it to the genesis of the piece that this was occurring in Lima? MS: I wanted to translate that feeling of a big Latin American city to another big Latin American city. Bulto is a certain phantasma of a phenomenon that would happen in Latin America, not necessarily only in Lima. Bulto goes back to the fardos funerarios, which are the cloths that a dead body would be wrapped in and then buried in, particularly in Peru. Bulto came from these ideas that the object would contain a body somehow. The shape is like a ham, a body, or an occult thing. BA: It’s almost weaponlike too. Every time I’ve traveled to Mexico or South America, I’ve always been amazed at what people try to travel with. MS: (Laughs) Exactly, yeah. These huge amounts of god-knows-whatthey-are, televisions. And those are bultos, mysterious packages. BA: I saw someone getting on a plane with a refrigerator, and he couldn’t bring the refrigerator on as a carry-on. It was a little fridge, but still . . . MS: It all has to do with commerce: things are cheaper to buy here than in Mexico. BA: Even in your earliest works, there was a deliberate slippage between commerce and psychology. In Orange Lush (1995), the objects have these psychological residences—you let them have the weird, phallic, vaginal strangeness of these objects. But then you’re like, well, these objects also aren’t made in South America: they’re made in Asia. You like working in the place where the psychological and economic collide. MS: The Bulto is specifically psychological baggage—it’s this thing that nobody wants, but it’s this thing you can’t get rid of because it always comes back to you. That’s why the Bulto is this circulating thing. Nobody knows or questions what the hell it is, but it’s a burden. BA: And you have to deal with it while it’s there. A favorite scene is when the kids dump it in a trash pile, and then someone goes and picks it up. Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video still 16

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BA: And impeding the anticipation on the part of the viewer that either the objects will serve as a footnote to the film or the film will be a footnote for the objects. Speaking of objects, Bulto (2011) was made not for Mexico, but for Lima, Peru. How important was it to the genesis of the piece that this was occurring in Lima? MS: I wanted to translate that feeling of a big Latin American city to another big Latin American city. Bulto is a certain phantasma of a phenomenon that would happen in Latin America, not necessarily only in Lima. Bulto goes back to the fardos funerarios, which are the cloths that a dead body would be wrapped in and then buried in, particularly in Peru. Bulto came from these ideas that the object would contain a body somehow. The shape is like a ham, a body, or an occult thing. BA: It’s almost weaponlike too. Every time I’ve traveled to Mexico or South America, I’ve always been amazed at what people try to travel with. MS: (Laughs) Exactly, yeah. These huge amounts of god-knows-whatthey-are, televisions. And those are bultos, mysterious packages. BA: I saw someone getting on a plane with a refrigerator, and he couldn’t bring the refrigerator on as a carry-on. It was a little fridge, but still . . . MS: It all has to do with commerce: things are cheaper to buy here than in Mexico. BA: Even in your earliest works, there was a deliberate slippage between commerce and psychology. In Orange Lush (1995), the objects have these psychological residences—you let them have the weird, phallic, vaginal strangeness of these objects. But then you’re like, well, these objects also aren’t made in South America: they’re made in Asia. You like working in the place where the psychological and economic collide. MS: The Bulto is specifically psychological baggage—it’s this thing that nobody wants, but it’s this thing you can’t get rid of because it always comes back to you. That’s why the Bulto is this circulating thing. Nobody knows or questions what the hell it is, but it’s a burden. BA: And you have to deal with it while it’s there. A favorite scene is when the kids dump it in a trash pile, and then someone goes and picks it up. Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video still 16

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Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video still 18

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Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video still 18

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MS: But there is a historical meaning. It really is the shadow of unresolved identity, I think. And that is quintessentially the Latin American history of colonialism. BA: But you never showed the film with the object? MS: No. We had the object circulating in the streets of Venice during the Biennale—a kind of very discrete performance where it went out into the streets, and it got in the middle of, you know, those really narrow streets, and it blocked people. That’s the other thing and the function of the Bulto: it gets in the way. You can’t get around it. And people were shouting at them in those little tiny Venetian alleyways. There was a very comic moment when we had this group coming around to the pavilion where it was kept in the back storerooms. I was just describing what the project was in the front room, and then the doors crashed open, and the Bulto came through this crowd of people and went off down the street. BA: So does the Bulto object exist somewhere in the world today? MS: No, no. It comes and goes. I mean, it’s only made when it has to be. BA: Is there an equivalent in either English culture or North American culture? I mean, would the Bulto make sense here? MS: No. It’s the result of the imposing of “other” on your identity. For me, at least, your identity is not yours if it’s being imposed onto you, so that’s what the Bulto is—it’s this shadow of unresolved identity. BA: In a lot of your work, there is a focus on the place where economic realities come into collision with the cultural imaginary. Edward James’s vision for Las Pozas, where you filmed Xilitla, was economically possible only because of his wealth, and he was the largest employer for the region for decades. During the time you were making your film, Fondo Xilitla was founded and is still trying to get enough resources to keep the place visitable by interrupting the flow back into ruin and nature that James intended. This is being done in order to bring money back to the region on an ongoing basis . . . MS: Yeah, I think it’s problematic. BA: So the economics in the film are this backstory. In your film, the workers are working and laboring, even on the things that are kind of crazy, like the beautiful cinematic moment with the glass sheet in the water. What is the economically complex problem with rendering the site visitable? Do you take a position on it? What is your relationship to it? 20

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video stills 21


MS: But there is a historical meaning. It really is the shadow of unresolved identity, I think. And that is quintessentially the Latin American history of colonialism. BA: But you never showed the film with the object? MS: No. We had the object circulating in the streets of Venice during the Biennale—a kind of very discrete performance where it went out into the streets, and it got in the middle of, you know, those really narrow streets, and it blocked people. That’s the other thing and the function of the Bulto: it gets in the way. You can’t get around it. And people were shouting at them in those little tiny Venetian alleyways. There was a very comic moment when we had this group coming around to the pavilion where it was kept in the back storerooms. I was just describing what the project was in the front room, and then the doors crashed open, and the Bulto came through this crowd of people and went off down the street. BA: So does the Bulto object exist somewhere in the world today? MS: No, no. It comes and goes. I mean, it’s only made when it has to be. BA: Is there an equivalent in either English culture or North American culture? I mean, would the Bulto make sense here? MS: No. It’s the result of the imposing of “other” on your identity. For me, at least, your identity is not yours if it’s being imposed onto you, so that’s what the Bulto is—it’s this shadow of unresolved identity. BA: In a lot of your work, there is a focus on the place where economic realities come into collision with the cultural imaginary. Edward James’s vision for Las Pozas, where you filmed Xilitla, was economically possible only because of his wealth, and he was the largest employer for the region for decades. During the time you were making your film, Fondo Xilitla was founded and is still trying to get enough resources to keep the place visitable by interrupting the flow back into ruin and nature that James intended. This is being done in order to bring money back to the region on an ongoing basis . . . MS: Yeah, I think it’s problematic. BA: So the economics in the film are this backstory. In your film, the workers are working and laboring, even on the things that are kind of crazy, like the beautiful cinematic moment with the glass sheet in the water. What is the economically complex problem with rendering the site visitable? Do you take a position on it? What is your relationship to it? 20

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video stills 21


Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video stills

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Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011, video stills

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MS: I think they should just let it go. It goes back to many issues around restoration, which are really problematic, especially in Mexico. The three main issues around restoration are making something legible, making something stable, and making something reversible. That is tied to the fear of death that won’t let us just let these things go. So in the process of preserving these things, we create another history on top of the old history. In the case of Xilitla, the best thing that they can do is make it stable. And they have sensitive architects who are dealing with this, and other sensitive people who don’t want to be adding on and building bits back on when it crumbles into the jungle and this sort of thing. Their goal is to just stabilize this place. They were considering, now that the stairways are kind of getting more delicate and they get more visitors there, of putting ropes across so that you can’t stand on these things and you can’t go up them. That totally destroys the precariousness of what the place was about in the beginning. I feel “let it go!” BA: Now that your piece has been so widely seen, one of the responses of those who saw it in Venice was, “Oh, I want to go there!” So you are in some ways part of the advertising campaign to bring more people there! (Laughs) MS: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m part of the problem! BA: Who are the people we see in the film? MS: Gardeners mainly—these people whose economic livelihood is tied in some significant way to the continuation of Los Pozas. BA: They become like the kids in your video Aztec Stadium (2010), the marker for the real economic situation in the area. MS: I’m not supporting Edward James’s huge colonial project of somebody coming from the outside. It was very feudal. The layered story that I’m building up around Xilitla contains a critique of James. BA: Much of the commentary on your work is that you are an English person who (even though you’ve spent decades in Mexico) will always enjoy an outsider’s perspective. It makes you and James these doppelgangers for each other: “Look, another English artist has come in and represented a fantastic idea of what Mexico is to itself.” It’s an automatically estranged concept, playing with the doubling that is inherent in colonialism. Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010, video still 24

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MS: I think they should just let it go. It goes back to many issues around restoration, which are really problematic, especially in Mexico. The three main issues around restoration are making something legible, making something stable, and making something reversible. That is tied to the fear of death that won’t let us just let these things go. So in the process of preserving these things, we create another history on top of the old history. In the case of Xilitla, the best thing that they can do is make it stable. And they have sensitive architects who are dealing with this, and other sensitive people who don’t want to be adding on and building bits back on when it crumbles into the jungle and this sort of thing. Their goal is to just stabilize this place. They were considering, now that the stairways are kind of getting more delicate and they get more visitors there, of putting ropes across so that you can’t stand on these things and you can’t go up them. That totally destroys the precariousness of what the place was about in the beginning. I feel “let it go!” BA: Now that your piece has been so widely seen, one of the responses of those who saw it in Venice was, “Oh, I want to go there!” So you are in some ways part of the advertising campaign to bring more people there! (Laughs) MS: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m part of the problem! BA: Who are the people we see in the film? MS: Gardeners mainly—these people whose economic livelihood is tied in some significant way to the continuation of Los Pozas. BA: They become like the kids in your video Aztec Stadium (2010), the marker for the real economic situation in the area. MS: I’m not supporting Edward James’s huge colonial project of somebody coming from the outside. It was very feudal. The layered story that I’m building up around Xilitla contains a critique of James. BA: Much of the commentary on your work is that you are an English person who (even though you’ve spent decades in Mexico) will always enjoy an outsider’s perspective. It makes you and James these doppelgangers for each other: “Look, another English artist has come in and represented a fantastic idea of what Mexico is to itself.” It’s an automatically estranged concept, playing with the doubling that is inherent in colonialism. Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010, video still 24

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MS: And seeing it forty to sixty years later. BA: In Xilitla you gave yourself license to totally go for the beauty. MS: I could be finally exorcising the exotic. BA: By giving in to it? MS: By overdoing it. I don’t think I use that beauty as a trademark. The beauty gets set up, and then in the next splice, it gets deconstructed again somehow. That is becoming a feature in my work—that I can play with that high and low. BA: You decided to do a logistically complex, vertical format film upon seeing the verticality of the James’s structures: the multistory concrete flowers. You took that freedom for yourself from the early history of cinema, before the normal ratios in film were set in stone. MS: Defying cinematic norms by messing around with the format of cinema. Or putting it the other way, doing as James was doing with architecture, making something that was going to be destroyed or that would destroy itself. He was defying rational architecture, functionalist architecture. BA: The idea that there’s something inherently surreal in the world runs through all three pieces in this show. There’s a marvelous interview with James where he said that he never decided to become a surrealist—he had always seen the world that way and couldn’t believe he was meeting other people who had a similar vision. MS: I am reacting to seeing overtly political work that certainly has been going on in Mexico over the past few years and that, from my perspective, offers a kind of overtly moralistic take on politics. For me it’s much more convoluted and complicated than this sort of black and white politics. I think a lot of the art from the 1990s and early 2000s at least was looking for answers that were very related to this understanding of art from the periphery, global art, art from the local, and art fitting into a global parameter. I don’t want any answers. I’m looking for echoes so that other people might be able to go on their own journeys through these ricochets.

Interview took place February 26, 2014, at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010, video still

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MS: And seeing it forty to sixty years later. BA: In Xilitla you gave yourself license to totally go for the beauty. MS: I could be finally exorcising the exotic. BA: By giving in to it? MS: By overdoing it. I don’t think I use that beauty as a trademark. The beauty gets set up, and then in the next splice, it gets deconstructed again somehow. That is becoming a feature in my work—that I can play with that high and low. BA: You decided to do a logistically complex, vertical format film upon seeing the verticality of the James’s structures: the multistory concrete flowers. You took that freedom for yourself from the early history of cinema, before the normal ratios in film were set in stone. MS: Defying cinematic norms by messing around with the format of cinema. Or putting it the other way, doing as James was doing with architecture, making something that was going to be destroyed or that would destroy itself. He was defying rational architecture, functionalist architecture. BA: The idea that there’s something inherently surreal in the world runs through all three pieces in this show. There’s a marvelous interview with James where he said that he never decided to become a surrealist—he had always seen the world that way and couldn’t believe he was meeting other people who had a similar vision. MS: I am reacting to seeing overtly political work that certainly has been going on in Mexico over the past few years and that, from my perspective, offers a kind of overtly moralistic take on politics. For me it’s much more convoluted and complicated than this sort of black and white politics. I think a lot of the art from the 1990s and early 2000s at least was looking for answers that were very related to this understanding of art from the periphery, global art, art from the local, and art fitting into a global parameter. I don’t want any answers. I’m looking for echoes so that other people might be able to go on their own journeys through these ricochets.

Interview took place February 26, 2014, at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010, video still

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Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010, video stills 28

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Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Xilitla, 2010, video stills 28

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Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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Biography

MELANIE SMITH Born 1965 in Poole, England Lives and works in Mexico City EDUCATION 1984, BA, Fine Arts, Reading University, England

GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2013 Assembly: I Extend My Arms, Tate Britain, London México Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

2015 Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, forthcoming

2012 The Stumbling Present: Ruins in Contemporary Art, Art, Design & Architecture Museum, Santa Barbara, California

2014 Melanie Smith, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England

2011 Another Victory over the Sun, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Melanie Smith, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

The Smithson Effect, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City

Green Is the Colour, Sicardi Gallery, Houston

2005 New Work/New Acquisitions, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2012 Melanie Smith, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich 2011 Red Square Impossible Pink, Mexican Pavilion, 54th International Venice Biennale 2009 Spiral City and Other Vicarious Pleasures, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2008 Parres Trilogy, Miami Art Museum (in collaboration with Rafael Ortega)

2004 Made in Mexico, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston 1991 D.F. Art from Mexico City, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, San Antonio 1990 Salón de los Aztecas, Mexico City 1989 A Propósito—Hommage to Joseph Beuys, Ex-Convento del Desierto de los Leones, Mexico City

2006 Spiral City and Other Vicarious Pleasures, Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte (MUCA Campus), Mexico City 1997 Orange Lush, Anglo-Mexican Institute of Culture, Mexico City (cat.) 1996 Dream spots: Taxquena bus station, Sala Diaz, San Antonio Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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Biography

MELANIE SMITH Born 1965 in Poole, England Lives and works in Mexico City EDUCATION 1984, BA, Fine Arts, Reading University, England

GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2013 Assembly: I Extend My Arms, Tate Britain, London México Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

2015 Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, forthcoming

2012 The Stumbling Present: Ruins in Contemporary Art, Art, Design & Architecture Museum, Santa Barbara, California

2014 Melanie Smith, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England

2011 Another Victory over the Sun, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Melanie Smith, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

The Smithson Effect, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City

Green Is the Colour, Sicardi Gallery, Houston

2005 New Work/New Acquisitions, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2012 Melanie Smith, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich 2011 Red Square Impossible Pink, Mexican Pavilion, 54th International Venice Biennale 2009 Spiral City and Other Vicarious Pleasures, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2008 Parres Trilogy, Miami Art Museum (in collaboration with Rafael Ortega)

2004 Made in Mexico, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston 1991 D.F. Art from Mexico City, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, San Antonio 1990 Salón de los Aztecas, Mexico City 1989 A Propósito—Hommage to Joseph Beuys, Ex-Convento del Desierto de los Leones, Mexico City

2006 Spiral City and Other Vicarious Pleasures, Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte (MUCA Campus), Mexico City 1997 Orange Lush, Anglo-Mexican Institute of Culture, Mexico City (cat.) 1996 Dream spots: Taxquena bus station, Sala Diaz, San Antonio Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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Works in the Exhibition

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Huaca Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 2:48 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith Square plinth: 41 Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Highway/Dune Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 2:57 minutes, looped

Rectangular plinth: 36 Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010 Silicone, Styrofoam, frames, paintings, wood, found postcards, plastic sunglasses, rock, plastic objects, sawdust, glass, ceramic sculptures Dimensions variable

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Truck Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 3:33 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Xilitla, 2010 Single-channel video, 16:9 projection upright, color, sound 24:40 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith Elevator, 2012 Single-channel video, color, sound 7:49 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Bank Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 3:31 minutes, looped

All works courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Rally Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 1:57 minutes, looped Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (School Sequence), 2011  Single-channel video, color, sound 1:08 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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Works in the Exhibition

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Huaca Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 2:48 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith Square plinth: 41 Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Highway/Dune Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 2:57 minutes, looped

Rectangular plinth: 36 Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010 Silicone, Styrofoam, frames, paintings, wood, found postcards, plastic sunglasses, rock, plastic objects, sawdust, glass, ceramic sculptures Dimensions variable

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Truck Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 3:33 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Xilitla, 2010 Single-channel video, 16:9 projection upright, color, sound 24:40 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith Elevator, 2012 Single-channel video, color, sound 7:49 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Bank Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 3:31 minutes, looped

All works courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (Rally Sequence), 2011 Single-channel video, color, sound 1:57 minutes, looped Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega Bulto (School Sequence), 2011  Single-channel video, color, sound 1:08 minutes, looped

Melanie Smith with Rafael Ortega, Bulto: Fragments, 2011. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014

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This publication has been prepared in conjunction with Melanie Smith, the 183rd exhibition in the museum’s Perspectives series. This exhibition was organized for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston by Bill Arning, Director. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston March 22–June 15, 2014

Funding for the Museum’s operations through the Fund for the Future is made possible by generous grants from Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Anonymous, Jereann Chaney, Marita and J.B. Fairbanks, Jo and Jim Furr, Barbara and Michael Gamson, Brenda and William Goldberg, Leticia Loya, Fayez Sarofim, Andrew Schirrmeister III, and David and Marion Young.

Melanie Smith is supported in part by a grant from AMEXCID, Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Consulate General of Mexico. The Perspectives series is made possible by a major grant from Fayez Sarofim and by donors to the Museum’s Perspectives Fund: Allison and David Ayers Bright Star Productions Inc. The Brown Foundation, Inc. Dillon Kyle Architecture Heidi and David Gerger Glen Gonzalez and Steve Summers Kerry Inman and Denby Auble Mady and Ken Kades Poppi Massey Andrew Schirrmeister III William F. Stern 20K Group, LLC

Official Airline of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Editor: Polly Koch Publication coordinator: Nancy O’Connor Design: Don Quaintance, Public Address Design Design/production assistant: Elizabeth Frizzell Printing: EarthColor Houston

Perspectives catalogues are made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc.

Photographs: Video stills courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich Jerry Jones: back cover; pp. 1, 2, 4–5, 6–7, 8, 32, 35 Don Quaintance: pp. 3, 30. 31

The Museum’s operations and programs are made possible through the generosity of the Museum’s trustees, patrons, members and donors. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston receives partial operating support from the Houston Endowment, the City of Houston through the Houston Museum District Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, The Wortham Foundation, Inc and artMRKT Productions. CAMH also thanks its artist benefactors for their support including Ricci Albenda, McArthur Binion, Brendan Cass, Jack Early, Robert Gober, Wayne Gonzales, Sean Landers, Zoe Leonard, Klara Lidén, Donald Moffett, Rob Pruitt, Rusty Scruby, Laurie Simmons, Josh Smith, and Marc Swanson.

Front cover: Melanie Smith, Elevator, 2012, video still Back cover and titlepage: Melanie Smith, Objects: Thoughts on insubstantial subjects and matter, 2010. Installation view, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2014 Bulto: Fragments and Xilitla © 2014 Melanie Smith/ Rafael Ortega. All other works © 2014 Melanie Smith ISBN 978-1-933619-48-4 © 2014 Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Contemporary Arts Museum Houston 5216 Montrose Boulevard Houston, Texas 77006-6547 Tel.: (713) 284-8250 Fax: (713) 284-8275 www.camh.org

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Melanie Smith

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON

Smith

Melanie

Melanie Smith  

Melanie Smith is accompanied by a bound, illustrated catalogue including an essay by the exhibition's curator, Bill Arning, a checklist of w...

Melanie Smith  

Melanie Smith is accompanied by a bound, illustrated catalogue including an essay by the exhibition's curator, Bill Arning, a checklist of w...

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