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Teddy Smith

Crew Profile: Teddy Smith

Year you began at The Block (or would have started): 2019
 
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What should we know about you?
I’ve been working in museum settings for three years now, and making in some capacity about as long as I can remember. I grew up in West Texas with creative parents, who were really encouraging of my early interests in pursuing art. They were both in construction and I spent a lot of time watching them work, which turned out to be very formative. In 2015, I moved to Chicago for school, and in 2019 graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in fine art and minors in art history and graphic design. While in school, I found comfort in affect and queer theory and began toying around with installation, video, and writing. At the time, I also worked as an undergraduate intern at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Since graduating, I’ve worked as a preparator at the Block, the Smart Museum, and the MCA. 
           
Memorable experience preparing an exhibition at the Block? Or if this would have been your first installation at the Block, at another museum or institution?
One of my favorite aspects about Block installs is that all of the free-standing walls are built in-house and then moved around and manipulated for future shows. My first day at the Block, we demoed a wall in the downstairs gallery and something about that just felt really empowering. Every install, we raise up some of the walls and relocate them, completely redirecting the flow and feel of the gallery. In practice, it’s this sort of awkward happening where the whole crew assembles with these “Raise-N-Roll” dollies to coordinate the move, but I always found it a little poetic in the grand scheme. The rooms are constantly reinventing themselves. I spent a lot of time reflecting on that idea for this project.
 
How does work as a museum preparator inform or influence your artistic practice? Or not?
The two definitely inform each other. Of course my installation practice and my work in the museum share much the same skill set. My work as a preparator has given me a lot of tools to be able to accomplish personal projects, and vice versa. In writing, I take on a much more observational role. But my writing shares many of the theoretical concerns of the more physical work, specifically the visual cues and affective qualities that allow a space to tell a narrative.
  
Where have you been finding inspiration at this time?
I’ve mostly found inspiration to create through my roommates. I live in a queer household with 4 other artists and its been interesting seeing how we all use the space together. We share what we’re working on often (writing a French country album, building a desk, sewing masks, redecorating etc) and at the end of the day all come together for communion in a few games of Super Smash Bros.
 
I’ve been reading a lot too. I’m reading Bia Lowe’s Wild Ride for the first time, and it certainly has lived up to its moniker. I’m also revisiting some of my favorites: Kathleen Stewart, Lauren Berlant, Maggie Nelson. I really look up to their writing styles. They all have this timeless ability to capture whatever feels to be going on at the exact moment I sit down with them.
 
What can you share with us about the work you created for this project?
Simply put, At Work is a collection of writing about spaces in flux. The scenes, mostly from my personal experience, each embody this idea of the “in-between” or that which is constantly changing. For me, these concepts are deeply rooted in queerness and the affective quality of the everyday, and are a steady throughline in my writing and visual work. This project was a unique opportunity to use this lens to reflect more specifically on my experience in construction and installation spaces. Here, the in-between is the space where all the pieces assemble and collide, where walls can talk, rhythms rise up, and things get a little messy. 

Read "At Work"

Teddy Smith