In Matters of Time, Mickey Smith’s monumental photographs and wearable objects are pulled together to form a contemplative exhibition reflecting on cultural identity, present and past. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition at Sanderson.
For nearly two decades, Smith has documented bound periodicals found in public and institutional libraries which — as her artistic practice continues to evolve — have become harder to find with the rapid increase of digitization. While the books themselves record and chronicle, so do Smith’s photographs. Portraits of book spines stand as erudite soldiers, documented as they are found in the stacks. The text and knowledge that rests between covers remains unseen and untouched, while the titles rise above their original intent, evoking a sense of intrigue.
The selection of photographs in Matters of Time span fifteen years, illustrating the depth of Smith’s engagement to this work. From her still timely POWER, 2005, photographed in Minneapolis, Minnesota to TIME, 2007, photographed in the archives of the Time-Life Building of New York, these seminal titles from her Volume series sit alongside new works made in New Zealand. KIA ORA and Collocation. No.17 (OCEANIA) were documented by Smith in the general collection of the University of Auckland Library, a poignant reminder of the recent controversial closure of its specialty libraries. A grouping of playful titles, Who’s Who in New Zealand, Rip It Up, and Tall Poppies reference publications found only on library shelves, only handwritten, in Aotearoa.
Exhibited alongside the photographs, Smith introduces contemporary jewellery, an expansion of material use within her existing practice. Both images and objects reside together forging her continuous exploration of time and place. One vitrine contains playful, bold cuffs and rings made of New Zealand sheepskins – a contemporary reference to Kiwiana. Another features cast sterling silver Daily Reminders - an intimate reflection on illness and ubiquitous presence of pharmaceuticals in everyday life.
“When my husband became ill, his prescriptions were numerous and complicated. Every Saturday morning we sorted his pills for the week: AM. NOON. PM. BED. Chemotherapy. Pain. Steroids. Sleep. He would marvel with distaste at the graphic qualities of the pills and loathed how they transformed his body radically, rapidly, unforgivingly.” Smith writes. “Coinciding with this was a steep increase of pharmaceutical use amongst friends and family in the US. Suddenly everyone appeared to have has a pill organizer rattling at hand. In a time when there is a pill to cure every ailment, physical or emotional, this collection considers the purpose, reverence and prevalence of pharmaceuticals in our lives.”
Throughout the exhibition, Smith asks us to contemplate the erasure of our collective histories and knowledge, as well as the feelings of loss and grief – all of which eventually become a distant memory. She is looking to the past to make sense of the present, the evolution and life-cycle of artifacts, cultural references and documentation to understand what we as humans deem to be true, what we cherish and claim to be significant – Smith’s observations more poignant than ever in a very uncertain future.
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