Tag Archives: Cauleen Smith


I saw a call for the “Best American Experimental Writing,” and it said something like, “Bring us your weirdest, your wildest writing.” And I thought, Is that it? What creates the experimental, the innovative, the hybrid that has to be weird or wild? There’s always grace, there’s always stealth, there’s always nuance, there’s always structural intervention. And, depending on readers, one might not always notice what literary forms are being manipulated until you get uncomfortable with your expectations not being met. The tag on the book says one thing, but your experience of what you’re reading is doing something else. — Tisa Bryant*

Join Bryant—author of Unexplained Presence and a forthcoming book from Semiotext(e)—and Cauleen Smith in conversation as part of LACMA’s Confabulations series.

See link below for r.s.v.p. info.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Tuesday, February 23.

6 pm on the West Coast; 9 pm East Coast.

*“Hybrid ‘I’: Tisa Bryant, Anelise Chen, Chris Kraus, and Q. M. Zhang in Conversation,” PARIS LA 16 (2018), 174–177.

From top: Tisa Bryant, courtesy of the author; Cauleen Smith, courtesy of the artist, Cauleen Smith, Sojourner (2018), digital video, color sound; Tisa Bryant, Unexplained Presence (2007), cover image courtesy and © Leon Works.


Anticipating the LACMA exhibition of her touring ICA, University of Pennsylvania show Give It or Leave It, Cauleen Smith will join Brent Hayes Edwards—author of Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination—in conversation.

Curator Rita Gonzalez will introduce the online talk. See link below to register for the webinar.



Thursday, November 19.

6 pm on the West Coast; 9 pm East Coast.

Cauleen Smith, Give It or Leave It, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, curated by Anthony Elms, September 14, 2018–December 23, 2018, from top: I Appreciate You in Advance, 2018, fiberglass screen, woven metallic polyesters, woven two-tone silk; Epistrophe, 2018, multichannel video, color, sound, four CCTV cameras, four monitors, projection, custom wood table, taxidermy raven, wood figures, bronze figures, plastic figures, books, seashells, minerals, jar of starfish, Magic 8-Ball, manekineko, mirror, metal trays, plaster objects, wood objects, wire object, fabric, glass vase, plants; Cauleen Smith, Give It or Leave It (2019) exhibition catalog images (5), courtesy and © the artist and the ICA, University of Pennsylvania; Pilgrim, 2017, still; Give It or Leave It installation view, photograph by Constance Mensh for the ICA. Images © Cauleen Smith, courtesy of the artist, Resnicow and Associates, and the ICA, University of Pennsylvania.


I always think of Sojourner as being in conversation with many different objects, wallpapers, surfaces, textures, and banners. By the time viewers watch the film, they have already received so much informational groundwork from the environment that the film can focus on conveying a particular kind of imagery or feeling. When the title credits appear at the end of Sojourner, the room is completely dark, and that’s the moment when people can see the disco ball installation producing a cosmos on the ceiling. I always consider who the work is made for and what I want it to convey. It is so important that people are given an experience that cultivates their intellectual and physical well-being. That’s why I started making installations for my films, instead of simply showing them. — Cauleen Smith

MUTUALITIES—Smith’s first solo exhibition in New York City—has reopened at the Whitney. The show, which includes her 22-minute video installation Sojourner, was organized by Chrissie Iles, with Clémence White.

This week, join Smith and curator Amber Esseiva for a virtual conversation presented by the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard.

See links below for information.


Through January 31, by appointment.

Whitney Museum of American Art

99 Gansevoort Street, New York City.


Thursday, September 10.

4:30 pm on the West Coast; 7:30 pm East Coast.

Cauleen Smith, Mutualities, Whitney Museum of American Art, February 17, 2020–January 31, 2021, from top: Alexis Hold Audre Lorde, 2020, from the ongoing series Firespitters, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper; Gregg Bordowitz, 2020, Firespitters series, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper; Sojourner, 2018, stills (2), video, color, sound; Pilgrim, 2017, still, video, color, sound, Whitney Museum of American Art; Natalie Holds Dionne Brand, 2020, Firespitters series, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper; Natalie Diaz, 2020, Firespitters series, gouache, graphite, and acrylic ink on paper. Artwork and video images courtesy and © the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Kate Werble Gallery, New York City. Firespitters series photographs by Matthew Sherman, courtesy of the photographer and the Whitney Museum of American Art.


Written in 1981 and shot in 1982 while I was teaching a performance / installation class at the Minneapolis College of Art and DesignTHE BANANA MAN was my first completed video work.  Basically it is a one-person affair, though several of my students assisted and performed in the project.  The tape was my attempt to deal with the problem of character, the subject of much discussion at that time in relation to performance art.  I

In my own performance work, character was a function of language. As ideas shifted, so did one’s understanding of who was talking: unlike traditional theater, there were no consistent characters. I realized I could never deal with all the material I had written about the Banana Man in a live performance because it was character-based. I felt that the character would ground the piece too much, and prevent the kind of temporal confusion I was interested in. No matter what happened or how the ideas would flip, the viewer could always resort to this stable character as the “logic” of the piece. This is why I decided to present the work in video. Because of the conventions of editing, video and film tend to normalize fracture. The viewer is expected to jump from one image to the next and experience it as a seamless development. To me, this experience of seamlessness seemed to correspond to the notion of unified character. As film viewers try to normalize time, so they also attempt to normalize character. No matter how inconsistent their actions are, actors are seen as portraying “beings” driven by some unifying “psychology.” The viewer’s job is to figure out what that is. In THE BANANA MAN, I was interested in this impulse toward unification. The tape is a series of scenes about one character, and it is up to the viewer to come to terms with what this character is. — Mike Kelley

As part of the program At Home with Mike Kelley, the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and Electronic Arts Intermix present an online screening of THE BANANA MAN, followed by a live conversation with Cauleen Smith, Michael Smith, and Ying Liu, moderated by Mary Clare Stevens and Rebecca Cleman.

See link below for details.



Tuesday, July 14.

5 pm on the West Coast; 8 pm East Coast.

Mike Kelley, from top: Portrait of the artist as the Banana Man, circa 1983, photograph by Jim McHugh; studies for The Banana Man, 1981–1982 (3); The Banana Man (1983), still. Images courtesy and © the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.


Materials from the postponed Redcat exhibition Inside Out & Upside Down—Posters from CalArts: 1970–2019 are available online.

CalArts Archive, from top: Conny Cavazos, Lei Lei, 2019; Onyou Kim and Vivian Naranjo, Martha Friedman, 2017; Florencio Zavala and Victor Hu, Miranda July & Phil Elverum, 2007; Jae-Hyouk Sung, Matmos, 2003; Cassandra Cisneros, Juyoung Kim, and SoYun Cho, Redcat: Cauleen Smith: “Black Utopia LP,” 2013; Jens Gehlhaar, Anthony Hernandez: Landscape for the Homeless, 1997; Bijan Berahimi and Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, No Age & Brian Roettinger, 2013; Angela Bac and Jessie Zo, 2014 CalArts Halloween, 2014; Scott Barry, Rachel Harrison (3/3), 2010; Louise Sandhaus, Ed Fella Farewell Lecture: Educated, Philosofated, Detroitated, Esplicated, 2013; Allison Hsiao, Redcat: Adentro, 2018. Images courtesy and © the artists and CalArts.