New York — West of Rome, Los Angeles and SculptureCenter, New York and are pleased to present Mike Kelley’s and Michael Smith’s: A Voyage of Growth and Discovery, a collaborative video, sculpture, and sound installation. The exhibition will include a six-channel video featuring Michael Smith’s character Baby IKKI filmed at a festival in the Black Rock desert in 2008. Related sculptures fill the 3,000 square foot space surrounding a 30-foot tall junk sculpture of Baby IKKI. The project premieres at SculptureCenter in New York from September 13 to November 30, 2009, with an opening reception on Sunday, September 13, 5–7 pm, and travels to Los Angeles where it will be presented by West of Rome in Spring 2010.

A Voyage of Growth and Discovery centers on Baby IKKI, a character that artist Michael Smith has been performing for over thirty years. Pre-lingual and of ambiguous age, Baby IKKI is both comedic and melancholy. The six-channel video follows the existential journey of the Baby over several days at a festival of “radical self-expression” held in the remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The Baby, alone in his journey despite being surrounded by thousands of revelers, negotiates the rave-like festival environment while also exploring the primal natural elements of fire, water, earth, and wind. Michael Smith offers a masterful tragicomic performance that exhibits extreme physical endurance. The two-and-a-half hour multi-channel video, culled from hours of raw footage, is the result of an intensive editing process between Mike Kelley and Michael Smith. The video’s six-part narrative structure mirrors that of the event: four days and nights of festival preceded by an introductory travel section and followed by a post-festival day. In the introductory section Baby IKKI is shown “on the road” in his mobile home, where he is bombarded and inculcated with televisual material that presage his experiences in the desert. En route, the Baby busies himself with candies, cushions, and matches, while watching scenes from B-movies and cartoons replete with pyrotechnics and themes of infantilism. The festival itself is a carnivalesque event where IKKI is subsumed in raves, faced with erotic encounters, and surrounded by multitudes of costumed party-goers. The culmination of the event is the massive public “burn,” after which the Baby is left alone to ponder his “voyage.”

The installation reflects the fantasy-oriented environment of the festival, which is both grand and folksy—an odd mixture of fairground, playground, hippie commune, and the futuristic architectural aesthetics of R. Buckminster Fuller. Resembling an abandoned festival site of the post-“new age” era, the structure circles a 30-foot tall junk sculpture representing Baby IKKI himself. Surrounded by video projection screens, the viewer is invited into this world of regression and tactile experience—to share in Baby IKKI’s journey.