Saturday, February 15, 2014

Vampires Need to Get Flu Shots Too (Mike Kelley at MOMA PS 1, Part Five)

(This is Part Five 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 one is called "Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstructions #5 (Sick Vampire)," and it's part of an ongoing series Kelley did in which he recreated scenes from yearbooks, corporate newsletters and other ephemeral publications featuring accidental interventions into the conventional world through pagan rituals that seem both ethereal and kind of sad.  A lot of this work got turned into a movie musical he pulled together called Day Is Done.  Also part of the PS 1 gig was a huge pull-away document holder that was home to Kelley's vast archives of those clippings from yearbooks, newspapers, whatever:  vast dossiers of nothingness akin to Joseph Cornell's files of movie-stars.  Hoarding banal yet creepy and illuminating documents seems not only be a part of Kelley's oeuvre but also his soul, and this split-screen image holds that magic still so we can approach and maybe even be kissed or bitten by it.  Drabness eased by a supernatural silliness, I guess, is one of the best ways to describe real life lived as it is lived, and I keep thinking about all the boring conferences, awards presentations, board meetings, just meetings in general that people go to and then also the times they feel they need to collectively let off a little steam or take a break from the everyday while at work and something horrible and beautiful and completely unnoticed happens.  A vampire uses the bathroom, or a guy dressed in drag delivers a birthday cake, etc.  And the world remains the same of course but reality is slightly shaken awake only to slap its fist on the snooze button and go right back to sleep.  Kelley wanted those small moments to be extrapolated into a philosophy without pinpointing the meaning or the reason.  He only gave visual proof to ideas lurking behind the real, and even with that the sullen sinister affect of a half-asleep vampire becomes the ultimate visage, a veneer of evil that isn't evil or even a little bit scary, just kind of what it is.  The magic somehow blossoms from that brave staring down, that joke that is never laughed at but somehow consumed like a drug that gets you through, only sometimes even that does not work.  Vampires need to get flu shots too.