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Interview with Michael Bell-Smith

By Ceci Moss

Michael Bell-Smith, Bouncing Lights Forever (Installation Shot), 2008
Interview conducted by Ceci Moss

The title of the show is "Bouncing Lights Forever". In your work, the viewer feels suspended in infinite motion, a quality aptly captured by the title for your exhibition. I think your work proposes a meditative loop in relationship to historiographer Hayden White's idea of a "modernist event", a term which refers to the contemporary convergence of the event, its representation, and the dissemination of that representation into one moment. I would like to know what your thoughts are on the acceleration of these kind of events in time, and if you feel this is represented in your aesthetic.

Is there a larger narrative or system at play in the work? You describe displacement, and I wonder if this is a result of an overflow of multiple representations, rather than the dismantling of one larger narrative. That's what I was getting at when I asked about the "modernist event". Why do you think your work is removed from a real-world referent? How do you make that distinction?

Michael Bell-Smith, Self Portrait NYC, 2006
In the past, in pieces such as Self Portrait, NYC (2006) and Continue 2000 (2005), you amplified the sensation of movement by using human figures as a static focal point. In your most recent work, I noticed not only that these figures were absent, but also that you increased the size and scale of your works immensely, for Glitter Bend especially. It seems you intend to generate a vantage point of magnitude, and in so doing, envelop the viewer into the piece. Why did you decide to expand perspective in this way?

Self Portrait, NYC
Continue: 2000

Glitter Bend
Building Across from Glitter Bend

Michael Bell-Smith, Glitter Bend, 2008
What is the structure that you're "foregrounding"?

Glitter Bend

Michael Bell Smith, Moving, Endless (Samples), 2008
The five panels of Moving, Endless (Samples) immediately reminded me of the tonality of James Turrell's installations. Turrell sculpted light within the boundaries of the built structure, whereas in your work, light is dictated by the limitations of the screen. Turrell's practice heightened the viewer's awareness of sight, and I would like to know if this concern propels you, especially as it relates to the contemporary experience of a viewer stationed in front of the computer.

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