skip to Main Content

Cauleen Smith: Remote Viewing

Apr 30–July 18, 2021

The Contemporary Dayton is proud to have, as the first work in its new video gallery in our new location at the Arcade the innovative work of globally recognized filmmaker and artist Cauleen Smith.

Smith’s work has most recently been featured at The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.  In 2019, a retrospective of her work was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.

The Co opens its new video space with Smith’s moving and timely work, Remote Viewing.

Remote Viewing came about as a result of Smith’s return to LA to teach in 2008.  This shift first conjured ideas of the light and space of the west. Her reaction to this, as both an artist and teacher, was to look for something that would enable a discussion about the filmic scale and dynamism of this new environment. These thoughts led her to the concepts of Land Art and, importantly, an immediate frustration with the alienation in that movement between the main idea–the land itself–and memory, one of Smith’s ongoing, primary concerns.

She recognized that the binding elements of both memory and our shared relationship to the land­–ownership, access and stewardship–were essentially disconnected from much of the work in the Land Art movement.

At the moment Smith was considering this erasure of ideas, she happened to hear an NPR StoryCorps segment on the radio.  In it a man related that, as a boy, he had watched the whites in his town attempt to obliterate every trace of the black community’s history by digging a deep hole in which to bury a historical schoolhouse built for the education of black students there.

For Smith, this scene and thoughts of the Land Art movement invoked the idea of a parallel erasure.  Visually, the schoolhouse burial, like many Land Art works, seemed to be a horrible intersection between the sublime and the obscene; a doppelgänger to the myopia of Land Art.  She wondered about the commonalities of these erasures and what might make one’s need to expunge a history so intense that a group would dig a hole and bury an entire signifying structure underground.

Remote Viewing’s title simultaneously refers to the inaccessibility of Land Art’s iconic works, mostly experienced at a distance through photo documentation, and to how this remove mirrors the detachment evident in our acceptance of systemic social violence accessed via the blithe click of a TV remote control.

An adjacent gallery will feature an installation of two of Smith’s accordion books:

Remote Viewing (book) (2011) and Invisible Knapsack (2017).

Cauleen Smith (born Riverside, California, 1967) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, she makes things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants.

Her films, objects, and installations have been featured in group exhibitions including the Whitney Biennial (2017), Prospect 4, New Orleans (2017), Studio Museum Harlem; the Contemporary Art Museum Houston; the New Museum, New York; and BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK. She has had solo exhibitions at MASS MoCA; the Art Institute of Chicago; Institute for Contemporary Art Pennsylvania; the Museum of Contemporary, Chicago; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and a two-person exhibition with Theaster Gates at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Smith is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the 2022 Heinz Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2020 Wein Artist Prize from the Studio Museum in Harlem, the inaugural Ellsworth Kelly Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Art in 2016, the 2016 Herb Alpert Award for Film/Video, Rockefeller Media Arts Award, Creative Capital Film /Video, Chicago 3Arts Grant, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Artadia, a Rauschenberg Residency in 2015 and recently in 2019, Smith was an artist in residence at Artpace. Smith was born in Riverside, California and grew up in Sacramento. Smith earned a B.A in Cinema from San Francisco State University in 1991 and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1998. Smith studied with Trinh T. Minh Ha, Angela Davis, and Lynn Hershman-Leeson at San Francisco State University. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2007. Smith lives in Los Angeles and is a Professor at CalArts School of Art.

Artist Talk: Cauleen Smith


Exhibition Sponsor

Stene Projects, Stockholm


Dr. Robert L. Brandt, Jr.

Production Partner

Hospitality Partner

Operating Support

The Co receives operating support from Culture Works, Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District, Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, and Members.