An ongoing project by artists Michael Smith and Joshua White, Open House was commissioned by the New Museum, and presented in its lower level public gallery in 1999 when the institution still resided on Broadway. In this version, Open House was a large-scale installation of a Soho artist’s loft belonging to the fictional artist “Mike Smith,” who is created and played by the artist Michael Smith and who, viewers learned through a video-taped sales pitch playing in the entrance to the installation, has lived in the loft for over twenty years, and is now looking to sell it. According to the pitch, the new owner will inherit the loft and, in a gesture that lies somewhere in between personal erasure and a Buddhist-like surrendering of material possessions, the past twenty years of Mike Smith’s art, all made while he lived in Soho. This dual sale—of art and life—turns the Open House installation into both a marketing pitch and a memoir. It presents the artist’s two-decade trajectory in Soho: video-taped documentation of the rigorous building of the loft, which in itself resembles a durational performance art piece of the 1970s, his multi-faceted, multi-media art, his activism, and his personal evolution, all with a price-tag. Presented at a critical juncture in the fictional artist’s life, Mike’s story with Soho ends where Open House begins, with the desire to leave the neighborhood, or what it has become, for some place more affordable and less pretentious.
This interview with Michael Smith took place in anticipation of the launch of an online version of Open House—a project that was realized thanks to my colleague John Michael Boling, who worked with Smith to transfer the work from DVD to the web.
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