In honor of Mike Kelley’s exceptional career and legacy, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene), a seminal work in his complex videography, is on view both at MoMA PS1—as part of the artist’s posthumous retrospective—and in MoMA’s second-floor Projects Gallery.
A black-and-white photograph from a high school yearbook shows two young boys standing on a stage, an unmade bed and an open oven completing the scenography of sloppy domesticity. Mike Kelley first appropriated this image in his photo series Timeless/Authorless, exhibited at Metro Pictures, New York in 1995. At the time, Kelley had just presented his Educational Complex, a sculptural maquette of buildings representing every educational institution he ever attended. Within this maquette there are empty areas—“blank architectural zones”—indicating memory lapses, unobtainable memories from school experiences that lay dormant or repressed. With the Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction series, Kelley attempted to produce narratives that would fill in these blanks.
In 2000 he scripted a one-act melodrama, using this same black-and-white image as the starting point, and the result was the 30-minute Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene): a piece “in the manner of early television dramas, which were basically plays performed live on television,” in which two male characters play out a dynamic and paranoid relationship of sympathy and torture, guilt and suicide. EAPR#1 became the original installment in a series of films and video installations that spanned 12 years of the artist’s career.
The domestic scene was followed by Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #2–32, a group of video installations presented jointly as Day Is Done, where the multiplicity of narratives resembles the experience of surfing through television channels. During the 2009 run of Performa, Kelley presented EAPR #33 (The Offer) at Manhattan’s Judson Memorial Church. EAPR #34, 35, 36 and 36B were the following iterations of this series.
Throughout the Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction series, Kelley played with the appropriation of found objects; he would re-stage the original images and project new scenarios upon them. The scenes of after-school activities depicted in the photographs portray moments of “nonsensical escape from institutional daily routine”. The fictions constructed around them are usually awkward, humorous, or absurd, building up the series of over 30 video narratives of abuse (social, sexual, domestic). Whether imagined or remembered, Mike Kelley viewed these narratives of abuse as standardized experiences in American culture, stemming from the ordinary, lived individually but recognizable to all.
“My goal [with the EAPR series] is eventually to make one tape representing each day in a year and, finally, to restage the tapes live, consecutively, in a 24-hour period.” When Mike Kelley passed away in January 2012, not only was this ambitious video project left unfinished, but his conversations with MoMA curators about a projected exhibition were left open-ended. In an effort to extend his monumental retrospective from MoMA PS1 to midtown Manhattan, the simultaneous screening of Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene) salutes Kelley’s unrivaled contribution to media and performance art.