Sunday, February 9, 2014

Slapstick (Mike Kelley at MOMA PS 1, Part Four)

(This is Part Four in a series of responses to Mike Kelley's retrospective at MOMA PS 1 in New York City, which closes this week.  The show was amazingly thorough, and Mike Kelley was so amazingly prolific, I can't just write one post and move on.)
This is a joke of course, but so tenderly told the joke gets lost in the lines and scribbles and shades it took to finish it.  Clown wigs piled up into a cloud, but also clown heads somehow accumulating beneath a guillotine.  Or maybe Hanna Barbara sea-creatures sucked into an under-sea vortex and frozen into a moment in time.  Or an official symbol, a flag for a nation of people (Carrottoplandia) who think they are funny but really aren't.  Or all the doodles and thoughts you had as a ninth grader cooked down to an essence of pure beautiful silliness.  Or a poem by e. e. cummings  that does not require reading, just falling down the stairs.  Or a way to take the slapstick world in without malice or indecision, without scorn or confusion, a way to make lace out of synthetic sunshine bull-shit.  Or as Kurt Vonnegut chirps in his novel Slapstick:  "Hi ho."
Or an anthem to all the degenerates marching in a parade to free ourselves from tyranny. 
With this one, Mike Kelley teaches you how to not care by caring so much it short-circuits your vast intentions, and you suddenly can see the joke beyond all the tear-streaked pages in your superserious diary, the one that you keep locked up but then you can never find the key.  Those words about how unfair the world is, those sentences about how your next-door neighbor always gives you the stink eye, those paragraphs about falling in love with total strangers and then feeling like you've wiped yourself off the face of the earth by doing that.  Clown wigs, like a pestilence of butterflies.  Clown wigs formed into a shield.  Clown wigs melt into a continent on which you chase the only dream left:  clown wigs.