Finally got the Michael Smith/Joshua White "Open House" website to load. Rhizome.org has posted this virtual version* of the installation of a fictional Soho artist's loft, shown in real space at the old New Museum location, in 1999. Both versions follow the career arc of the character "Mike" from his early exhibits and neighborhood activism to his years of producing a public access cable show to finally putting the loft up for sale--each step the grand artistic gesture of an unreliable narrator whose audience sees through every shoddy move. The online version has videos, slide shows, and scans of print media, all clickable from a central floorplan map; this information graced the walls or video screens of the original installation but might have been lost to sensory overload. Between the navigation arrows and your back button it's possible to tour most of the space, although some of the links don't work or hang up with a "loading" icon (here, for example--will try it again later).
A closet full of old gear and sagging paintings (see photo above) intrigued when I saw the show at the tail end of the dot com era. If you click on the closet link* on the floorplan* you learn that the decaying canvases came from a two-person exhibition of Mike's and collaborator Iris's artwork at a downtown gallery in the '70s. A slideshow of period black and white photos chronicles the hanging of floral New Image-style paintings and probably a few more coffee breaks on the gallery floor than entirely necessary for a two-painting exhibit (one of the "break" photos is below).
Packing the closet along with more good/bad paintings, photos and memorabilia from the early days of the loft* reimagine the heroic Soho of 112 Greene Street and the art history books as a place of pathetic striving. All very painstakingly mock-documented and worth a click through.
In an art world obsessed with success and eternal youth, Michael Smith's work has consistently dealt with the invisible realm of artists getting older without meeting their goals. Some writers see this as a running quip on the failure of Modernity but I would liken it more to the Shakespearean fool commenting on the follies and vanities of Empire.
*Update, 2011: Rhizome's links to Open House have been changed to http://archive.rhizome.org/Open_House/. That is now the root URL for the rooms I linked to in this post. http://archive.rhizome.org/Open_House/FP/FPmenu.html, http://archive.rhizome.org/Open_House/FP/closet.html, and http://archive.rhizome.org/Open_House/FP/storage.html