Mike Kelley, Day Is Done, 2005/2006.

At Home with Mike Kelley

The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) are pleased to co-present At Home with Mike Kelley, a series of online screenings and conversations about the moving-image work of Mike Kelley. Featuring videos that span from the 1980s to 2012, this series underscores the varied and inventive art practice of Kelley, praised widely for his use of lowbrow pop cultural material and everyday arcana to interrogate the basic structures of American life. These semi-weekly online events will pair Kelley’s video work with conversations between artistic collaborators, writers, curators, admirers, and other interlocutors to parse the artist’s work and legacy. 

This screening series will stream live at eai.org at selected times through July and August, accompanied by live conversations and audience Q&A. No RSVP or pre-registration is required. Additionally, the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts will make available Kelley’s reflections on the videos on our website (see below), bringing forth further perspectives on and approaches to Kelley’s prolific output.

Beginning in the late 1970s with solo performances, image/text paintings, and gallery and site-specific installations, Kelley came to prominence in the following decades with a series of sculptures composed of common craft materials. Featuring repurposed thrift store toys, blankets, and worn stuffed animals, the Half a Man series focused Kelley’s career-long investigation of memory, trauma, and repression, predicated on what the artist described as a “shared culture of abuse.” Kelley’s solo and collaborative videos often tread similar territory, taking as their subject relics from the artist’s childhood, postwar Americana, and themes of social conditioning and alienation, the family, and public life. 

Kelley was acutely aware of video’s attributes and possibilities, and treated his moving-image work with the same keen specificity as his performance and gallery art. Writing on his first solo videotape The Banana Man, he notes that “video and film tend to normalize fracture. The viewer is expected to jump from one image to the next and experience it as a seamless development.” For him, this quality of fracture unlocked a new dimension in his solo character-based performance, allowing for seemingly incoherent and illogical parts to settle into a contradictory yet unified whole. As a collaborator, Kelley worked in various capacities with a wide array of artists including Michael Smith, Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon, Tony Oursler, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, and Ericka Beckman. Included in this series are Beckman and Kelley’s H.G. Wells-inspired BLIND COUNTRY and his collaboration with the Yonemoto brothers, Kappa, two stunning psychodramas fusing Freudian symbology with pop imagery. 

Later works by Kelley are singular in their scope and ambition. He would compare the experience of viewing his nearly three-hour opus Day Is Done, first exhibited as a sculptural installation at Gagosian Gallery in 2005, to “channel-surfing on television,” a barrage of “simultaneous and sequential scenes playing in architectural space” that recall both filmic montage and music video television. At the time of his death in 2012, Kelley had been working on  an ambitious public art installation, Mobile Homestead, and had completed an accompanying feature-length travelogue documenting the journey of a full-scale replica of his childhood home across Detroit and back, in the process interviewing citizens of the artist’s hometown.

The series will begin this month with screenings of The Banana Man and BLIND COUNTRY, with additional events throughout August to be announced. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 8 pm EDT (5 pm PDT):
Mike Kelley, The Banana Man, 1983
Followed by a conversation with Michael Smith, Cauleen Smith, and Ying Liu, moderated by Mary Clare Stevens and Rebecca Cleman.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 8 pm EDT (5 pm PDT):
Mike Kelley and Ericka Beckman, BLIND COUNTRY, 1989
Followed by a conversation with Ericka Beckman and Jamillah James.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at 8 pm EDT (5 pm PDT):
Bruce and Norman Yonemoto in collaboration with Mike Kelley, KAPPA, 1986
Followed by a conversation with Bruce Yonemoto and Andrea Lissoni.  

Thursday, August 27 through Wednesday, September 9, 2020:
Mike Kelley, Day Is Done, 2005/2006
Featuring a conversation with John Miller and Aura Rosenberg (pre-recorded).

Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 3 pm EDT* (12 pm PDT):
Mike Kelley, Mobile Homestead, 2011
*Live panel discussion; the film will be available for viewing September 10 - 23, 2020.

In Class with Mike Kelley 

Beginning September 1st through the academic year, the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts in partnership with Electronic Arts Intermix will provide no-fee access to the series At Home With Mike Kelley for educational use. Educators are encouraged to contact info@​eai.​org for further information about this access, which includes the Kelley titles featured in the series and accompanying conversations with invited guests. This educational initiative is part of the larger mission of the Foundation to encourage scholarship of Mike Kelley’s oeuvre and the greater historical context in which he worked. 

Mike Kelley and Ericka Beckman, Blind Country, 1989.

Portrait of Mike Kelley as The Banana Man circa 1983. Photo: Jim McHugh.

Video Statements and Related Texts

The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts is pleased to make available a selection of Kelley’s texts related to the videos here on our website. From brief video statements originally written as introductions to various works screened at the Broadway Kino in Cologne on November 14, 1991, to creative writing as reflected in the darkly humorous libretto for his seminal, Day Is Done, Kelley's clear voice further elucidates his video practice.

Video Statements and Proposals (Introduction)

The Banana Man

Blind Country


Day Is Done

Mobile Homestead

The Banana Man (1983)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 5 PM PDT / 8 PM EDT 

Shot in 1982 with the assistance of a performance/installation class he was instructing at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, The Banana Man (1983) was Kelley’s first completed solo video work. Drawing upon his memories of childhood friends regaling him with their synopses of the antics of The Banana Man, a vaudeville act that appeared on Captain Kangaroo, Kelley uses his scant recollections—the Banana Man’s habit of pulling out bananas from his pocket, and his accompanying high-pitched squeal—to build out an intricate psychology of the character.  

Joining to discuss is artist Michael Smith in conversation with Cauleen Smith and Ying Liu.  

Michael Smith is a video, installation and performance artist who invokes the routines of popular comedy to articulate the banality and hype of mass consumer culture, and the isolation of those whose inner lives are defined by it. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and Austin, TX.

Cauleen Smith 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.

Ying Liu is a Brooklyn-based multimedia artist born and raised in a small island named Zhoushan in the East China Sea. Her evening-length, hybridized works often mix consumer technology such as VR, GoPro and GPS, and fuse mediums including theater, dance, video, and performance art with DIY props and an exuberant sense of play.

BLIND COUNTRY  (1989) Mike Kelley and Ericka Beckman

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 5 PM PDT / 8 PM EDT 

Made in collaboration with fellow California Institute of the Arts alum Ericka Beckman, BLIND COUNTRY is loosely inspired by the H.G. Wells short story The Country of the Blind—an adolescent favorite of Kelley’s—in which a one-eyed man encounters a sightless society and must give up his vision to live among them. Kelley and Beckman’s take reestablishes the story as one of castration anxiety, emphasizing the “thinly veiled sexual and racial fears” within Wells’ original. 

Followed by a Q&A with Ericka Beckman, in conversation with Jamillah James.

Ericka Beckman is an American artist and filmmaker based in New York. Beginning her career in the 1970s alongside peers at CalArts, she is considered a key figure in the Pictures Generation. Over her three-decade career, her playful yet formally demanding films challenge traditional aesthetic and cultural values, mixing games with fairytales to create hybrids with new rules. 

Jamillah James is Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA). With Margot Norton, she is curating the 2021 edition of the New Museum Triennial. Prior to joining ICA LA in 2016, James was Assistant Curator at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, working in collaboration with the nonprofit Art + Practice.

Kappa (1986) - Bruce and Norman Yonemoto in collaboration with Mike Kelley

Thursday, August 4, 2020 at 5 pm PDT / 8 pm EDT

Deconstructing the myth of Oedipus within the framework of an ancient Japanese folk story, the Yonemotos craft a highly charged discourse of loss and desire. Quoting from Bunuel, Freud, pop media and art, they place the symbology of Western psychosexual analytical theory into a cross-cultural context, juxtaposing the Oedipal and Kappa myths in a delirious collusion of form and content. The Kappa, a malevolent Japanese water imp, is played with eerie intensity by Kelley; actress Mary Woronov plays Jocasta as a vamp from a Hollywood exploitation film. Steeped in perversions and violent longings, both the Kappa and Oedipus legends are presented in highly stylized, purposefully "degraded" forms, reflecting their media-exploitative cultural contexts. In this ironic yet oddly poignant essay of psychosexual compulsion and catharsis, the Yonemotos and Kelley demonstrate that even in debased forms, cultural archetypes hold the power to move and manipulate.

Followed by a Q&A with Bruce Yonemoto, in conversation with Andrea Lissoni

Bruce Yonemoto is a Japanese-American multimedia artist. His photographs, installations, sculptures, and films appropriate familiar narrative forms and then circumvent convention through direct, over-eager adoption of heavily clichéd dialogue, music, gestures, and scenes that click in the viewer’s memory without being identifiable. Working in collaboration with his brother, Norman Yonemoto, since 1975, Bruce Yonemoto has set out to divulge a body of work at the crossroads of television, art, commerce, and the museum/gallery world. His work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Film Institute, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Maya Deren Award for Experimental Film and Video, and a mid-career survey show at the Japanese American National Museum.

Andrea Lissoni is the Artistic Director of Haus der Kunst, Munich. He was previously the Senior Curator of International Art (Film) at Tate Modern, London, where he he launched an annual Cinema Programme conceived as an exhibition unfolding throughout the year. In 2012, he co-founded Vdrome, an online cinema for artists and filmmakers. Previously, he was curator at HangarBicocca, Milan (2009-13) and co-director of the international festival Netmage, Bologna (both Italy).

Day Is Done (2005/2006)

Thursday, August 27 through Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Day Is Done is a carnivalesque opus, a genre-smashing epic in which vampires, dancing Goths, hillbillies, mimes and demons come together in a kind of subversive musical theater/variety revue. Running over two-and-a-half hours, this riotous theatrical spectacle unfolds as a series of episodes that form a loose, fractured narrative. The video comprises parts 2 through 32 of Kelley's multifaceted project Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstructions, in which trauma, abuse, and repressed memory are refracted through personal and mass-cultural experience. The source material is a series of high school yearbook photographs of "extracurricular activities," specifically those that represent what Kelley has termed "socially accepted rituals of deviance." Kelley then stages video narratives around these found images.

In Day Is Done, these restagings take the form of "folk entertainments" that Kelley memorably subverts. Featuring characters such as Motivational Vampire, Morose Ghoul and Devil/Barber, much of the action—antic song-and-dance numbers and dramatic scenes, with Satan as emcee—takes place in a generic school gymnasium and a wooded landscape.

The video reconstructions were originally seen within an ambitious, sprawling exhibition of video/sculpture installations, photographs, sets, props and drawings at the Gagosian Gallery in New York in 2005; the videos were incorporated into 25 sculptural viewing stations. Writes Kelley, "My intention was to create a kind of spatialized filmic montage: a feature-length film made up of multiple simultaneous and sequential scenes playing in architectural space."

Followed by a pre-recorded conversation between John Miller and Aura Rosenberg.

John Miller is an American artist and writer best known for his artistic investigation of the relationship between art and everyday life. He presents a bizarre vision of contemporary culture through a combination of found objects and traditional media. He has written on Kelley's work previously in the book-length Mike Kelley: Educational Complex (Afterall, 2015). Miller lives and works in Berlin, Germany and New York, NY.

Aura Rosenberg's work probes sexuality, gender, childhood, artistic identity and historical construction. Her diverse practice draws on photography, video, painting, sculpture, installation and performance. Rosenberg lives in Berlin, Germany and New York, NY. She is represented by Meliksetian|Briggs in Los Angeles and Martos Gallery in New York City and teaches at Pratt Institute and The School of Visual Arts, New York.

Mobile Homestead (2011)

Thursday, September 10 through Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 12 pm PDT / 3 pm EDT | Live panel discussion featuring Carla Acevedo-Yates, Lee Azus, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Cary Loren, and Laura Sillars.

Mobile Homestead is a public artwork by Mike Kelley consisting of a full-scale replica of his childhood home in the Detroit suburb of Westland, built upon a complex of secret subterranean tunnels and rooms. Located on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) in Downtown Detroit, the sculpture functions as a community gallery with a removable, street legal façade that is mobilized periodically to provide various public services in and around the city.

Three Mobile Homestead videos document the maiden voyage of the mobile façade’s journey from MOCAD to Kelley’s childhood neighborhood and back again in 2010.  What emerges is a poignant portrait of the post-recession Motor City, speaking to the city’s cultural diversity, history, and socioeconomic stratification, and detailing local establishments that run the gamut from a motor-themed strip club to the Henry Ford Museum.

Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead is commissioned by Artangel in association with MOCAD, LUMA Foundation and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts with the generous support of the Artangel International Circle.

Carla Acevedo-Yates was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and has worked as a curator, researcher, and art critic across Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Previously, she was the associate curator at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University where she organized solo exhibitions of new work by Johanna Unzueta, Claudia Peña Salinas, Jesús “Bubu” Negrón, Duane Linklater, and Scott Hocking.

Lee Azus is an architectural historian with an interest in twentieth-century American housing policy and its relation to racialized capitalism. His essay, "Uncanny Home: Considering Race and American Housing Policy in Mike Kelley's 'Mobile Homestead'" considers white flight and the suburbanization of Detroit, published in From Conflict to Inclusion in Housing: Perspectives on the Interaction of Communities, Residents and Activists with the Politics of the Home (UCL Press, 2017). He has presented work at the Amps (Architecture_Media_Politics_Society) Mediated City Conference, the Vernacular Architecture Forum, the Ecojustice and Activism Conference, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit. He holds an MS in architecture from the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, as well as an MS in historic preservation from Eastern Michigan University.

Matthew Angelo Harrison (born 1989, Detroit, MI) creates otherworldly sculptures that are in conversation with anthropology, science fiction and industrial design. Harrison completed his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012. He has had solo shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2016), Atlanta Contemporary (2017), and the Broad Museum at Michigan State University (2018). His work was recently included in Landlord Colors: On Art, Economy, and Materiality at the Cranbrook Museum in Michigan, The 2019 Whitney Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Colored People Time: Quotidian Pasts at Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. In 2021, Harrison will enjoy solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland, and then at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA. He is represented by Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco. Harrison lives and works in Detroit.

Cary Loren is a filmmaker, musician, photographer and founding member of the Destroy All Monsters collective. He lives in Detroit and is the proprietor of The Book Beat, a visual arts bookstore.

Laura Sillars is Director of MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) and Dean of the MIMA School of Art and Design, part of Teesside University. She previously served as Artistic Director, Site Gallery, Sheffield and Programmes Director, FACT: Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, and Curator: Public Programmes at Tate Liverpool. Working with the artist Mike Kelley with Artangel and MOCAD, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Sillars produced the 2012 Mobile Homestead films.