Between Search and Research: COR&P in Conversation with Michael Bell-Smith


Exterior view of I Thought It Was a Pull, but It's a Push at the Center for Ongoing Research & Projects (COR&P). Photo: Tim Smith.

Last autumn, the Center for Ongoing Research & Projects (COR&P), a project space founded in 2012 by Ryland Wharton and Kris Paulsen, held a solo exhibition by Michael Bell-Smith entitled I Thought It Was a Pull, but It's a Push. The following interview explores the themes from that show, as well as the 12" record published alongside it, delving further into the ideas raised in Bell-Smith's recent piece for Rhizome, "Creative 2 Professional: 7 Things to Think About."

COR&P: COR&P's mission is to facilitate and present research-based art practices. In previous exhibitions, artists have conducted archival research (such as Shana Lutker's history of Surrealist fistfights) or mined data in real time (Aspen Mays' tracking of shipping traffic). It is apparent from your work that you are an avid collector of digital ephemera. Do you see the process of searching, downloading, and collecting files as a type of research, and how does that research inform your practice?

MBS: When I'm working, I never think in terms of "research." It implies a division between your input and your output, that you put everything on pause to conduct "research." Who has the time for that? When I think about it though, I conduct research all the time. I spend hours sorting through collections of stock footage. I clip things from across the web, logging them in different websites, applications, and folders. I'll pull out my phone in the middle of conversation to jot down the name of an article, tracking it down later to read from my phone while on the train. I take photos on the street. And so on.

With various levels of intervention these things might be flipped into "production"—input becomes output. So, my research is intertwined with my daily life and the process of actually making things.