Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene)—a black-and-white video by artist, critic, and musician Mike Kelley—opens with a still image of a photograph. Found in a high school yearbook, it shows two young men standing in a shabby room, in a scene from a high school play. Based on this photograph, Kelley created and directed the mini-drama that unfolds in A Domestic Scene. This video is part of a larger work, in which he aimed to create one video for every day of the year, each based on a photograph from a yearbook, a small town newspaper, or other everyday sources. The artist once described his working process: “So, all I have is this image, and then I have to write a whole scenario for it, like a play, and then do the music and everything. Each one is just based on the look of the photograph that tells me what style it has to be done in.”
In A Domestic Scene, Kelley explores issues of identity, and how it is shaped by factors like our memories or our repression of them; psychological trauma; and the norms and expectations of our families and communities. The video is centered upon the tumultuous romantic relationship between two men, which plays out within the cramped space of the room they share. One is neatly dressed, comfortable with himself and his sexuality. The other is anxious, disheveled, and desperately resistant to his desire for men and the situation in which he finds himself. “Be what you are. Stop pretending you are something else. Then you will calm down,” says the collected man to his panicked lover. This advice proves impossible for the disheveled man to follow. The drama revolves around his struggle with himself, and the agony that results when someone’s true identity is denied.