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 façade 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.
In conjunction with the Mike Kelley retrospective at MoMA PS1, this weeklong presentation is a compilation of Going West on Michigan Avenue from Westland to Downtown Detroit and Going East on Michigan Avenue from Downtown Detroit to Westland. Kelley’s interviews illustrate the socioeconomic and cultural diversity in the Detroit area as residents, business owners, church officials, strip-club dancers, motel-dwellers, representatives at the Henry Ford Museum, 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 includes a level of subterranean spaces, which Kelley envisioned as accessible only to him and selected guests for art-making and other ritual uses; in the public project, a personal and inaccessible domain remains, akin to the repressed memories and subconscious energy that animate many of Kelley’s installations, performances, and works on paper. Similarly, these two films—along with a third, which recorded the 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.
Organized by Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film.