Cultivate it as you will

Cultivate it as you will [Carnegie’s New Zealand 1902-2015]

Cultivate it as you will explores the historic legacy of Carnegie Libraries. Named after the successful Scottish American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropic trust established 2,509 library buildings throughout the English-speaking world between 1886-1917. His charitable enterprise claimed to be an act of hands off gifting. "Cultivate it as you will" Carnegie proclaimed.

However, his generosity came with many conditions and some considered it tainted money due to poor labour relations leading to violent riots in his steel mills. New Zealand communities were persistent applicants for the programme resulting in the successful founding eighteen libraries at the turn of the century. To investigate this history, Smith travelled the country to document the twelve remaining buildings and their adaptive reuse. Featuring extensive video documentation and contextual material, the exhibition provides a contemplative reflection on one man's fraught legacy and the communities that fulfilled his vision.   




Harboured is a personal narrative exploring issues of contemporary immigration – finding comfort in familiarity, navigating vast physical and emotional distances, integrating into a new society. Visual, auditory, and emotional connections to the port of Auckland have been made through the shipping industry, a constant presence growing up as the daughter of a merchant marine in the port of Duluth. In the exhibition, large-scale photo textiles were combined with live video feed to negotiate the vast distances between ports in opposing hemispheres. 


Volume + Volume Collocations
Volume documents bound periodicals and journals in public libraries. The books are not touched, artificially lit, or manipulated— rather created by the librarian and found in the stacks— positioned by the last anonymous reader. The focus is on simple, provocative titles that, through scale, transcend the spines on which they appear to create conceptual, anthropological works.

Large scale installations of Volume: Collocations, deal with with themes of association and disassociation. The titles, repeated one after the other on the library shelves, represent a cultural heritage, a kind of serial aspiration. By showcasing the repetition of words, their incantatory power suggests that identity and culture have always been a matter not of neat categories but of vague associations. 



Denudation documents abandoned objects within libraries. The work references in-situ laboratory-style photography—the image as evidentiary document, the print as cold case. The stark, dark photographs test the limits of objectivity and the false consolation of casualness even as, in the tradition of documentary and crime-scene photography, the images aspire to conscientious neutrality.


Believe You Me

Believe You Me examines the manner in which books and book imagery continue to deliver status, even in a culture that has turned away from reading—indeed even more powerfully, and more pervasively, than in eras that had not yet given up on the book as a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. In these contemporary images, books have become vacant props, drafted into private battles and culture wars out of a desperate nostalgia for the fading power of the written word.


Forever Govern Ignorance

Reflecting the impenetrable vault of American buraucracy, Forever Govern Ignorance documents Federal Depository Libraries across the United States. Stacks of microfiche cards containing countless government records were photographed, then pulled from their files to reveal an array of topics—from mundane to controversial—housed in thin sheets of deteriorating film.


Abe's Penny Vol. 2.12

Abe's Penny, a mail art journal, invited Mickey and long-time postcard pen pal, writer John Lamb, to collaborate on a four-part series of image and text printed on postcards. Abe's Penny was added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art Library in 2013.


Public Artworks

Collocation No.13 (NATURE), a large scale glass work, was commissioned in 2009 for the University of Florida’s Biomedical Sciences Building. It was selected as one of 40 outstanding public art projects to receive national recognition by the Public Art Network’s 2010 Year in Review.

Two Long, One Short (Inspired by the Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge) and This is Where (inspired by Put Me in the Zoo) were commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Works throughout the hospital were inspired by beloved children's books.


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