In 2005, Mike Kelley (1954-2012) developed a site-specific public art project with the London-based organization Artangel: a replica of Kelley’s childhood home on Palmer Road in the Detroit suburb of Westland. Kelley envisioned the space as a community gallery that would live on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (MOCAD), along with a removable white clapboard front that could be dispatched and provide a host of services to the area. In 2010, the mobile section traveled from downtown Detroit to Westland and back as Kelley documented the neighborhoods dotting the main thoroughfare, Michigan Avenue.
Installation view of
at MoMA PS1, 2013. Photo by Matthew Septimus.
In conjunction with the retrospective Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1, this week-long presentation is a compilation of Going East on Michigan Avenue from Downtown Detroit to Westland and Going West on Michigan Avenue from Westland to Downtown Detroit (2010-2011). Kelley’s interviews illustrate the socio-economic and cultural diversity in the Detroit area as residents, business owners, church officials, strip-club dancers, motel-dwellers and many others speak about their daily lives and how they’ve seen the city change in successive economic crises since the vibrant age of Motor City. Some vignettes address unemployment, drugs and homelessness but others reveal resilience, hard work, tradition and a sense of community. As one bartender concluded, after describing hardship in her midst: “I won’t walk away. I love it here.”
The stationary portion of the Homestead initially included a level of subterranean spaces, accessible only to Kelley and selected guests for art-making and other ritual uses; in the public project, a personal and inaccessible domain remained, akin to the repressed memories and subconscious energy that animate many of Kelley’s installations, performance, and works on paper. Similarly, these two films – along with a third, which recorded a 2010 launch event at MOCAD – only show the homestead from the exterior. Ultimately, the films double as social examination and portraiture, rendering the artist through the city Kelley called home.