Exhibition view: Michael E. Smith, Field Station, MSU Broad, East Lansing, Michigan, USA (17 February–6 May 2018). Courtesy MSU Broad. Photo: Eat Pomegranate Photography.
For his current exhibition at Michigan State University’s Broad Museum, Michael E. Smith had the handles removed from the large glass doors to the exhibition space. Smudges from the labor remain — he requested that custodians not clean the glass for the show’s duration.
The blemishes are barely noticeable, as the doors stay open during business hours. Yet the two gestures subtly denaturalize the space. They speak to the major socio-economic implications of seemingly minor changes. A commercial building with smudged doors and missing handles signals that something is wrong. Smith’s sculptures and installations, comprised largely of modified found objects, evince an alternate reality, one in which the ideals of capitalism and self-determination are countered by the reality of social and economic strife in the United States.