Playing with dead things

Showing: Åsa Cederqvist, Lisa Jeannin/ Rolf Schuurmans, Jonas Ohlsson, Christian Orendt/ Matthias Böhler, Jonas Liveröd, Johan Willner, Peter Land, Emelie Florin, Magnus Mattsson, Nadine Byrne and Ingvild Hovland-Kaldal.
Curated by Jonas Liveröd
February 1 – March 1, 2013

Introduction text by Jonas Liveröd

The private made public Insanity Ghost Clairvoyant Poetry Suicide Incendiary fire Incendiary fire
Insanity Suicide -moral disgrace Insanity-poverty Railway accident Railway accident Morphine
Suicide Hearse Carbolic Acid Arson Frozen Death in delirium Ghosts Respectable Suicide Suicide –
morphine Electricity Epidemics Insanity – religious Suicide Tramps Suicide-murder-insanity
Obscene matter Delirious insanity Diphtheria Miraculous medicine
Incendiaries False Teeth

The above are parts of newspaper clippings from 1885/86, edited and re-contextualised in Michael Lesy’s 1973 dizzying document of small town America called Wisconsin Death Trip. As I started writing this presentation of Playing with dead things I kept coming back to it. I’m pretty sure Kelley has seen and read Wisconsin Death Trip. He was equally fascinated and repulsed by American mythology, both historical and contemporary. Kelley was indeed interested in a lot of things. A lot.
One of the strongest qualities of his body of work is the sheer intensity and diversity in which he worked and the Wisconsin Death Trip text is the closest to his own subject-matters and energy that I could possibly hope to start off this introduction with. The amount of contexts and forms he has appeared in is overwhelming. Richard Wagner attempted to create the Gesamtkunstwerk, but Mike Kelley might be the only artist I know of who actually did it.
The Kelleyan odyssey made him a wonderfully awkward being.Via ranting punk prose performances in minimalist seventies Los Angeles, through the group Destroy All Monsters, paintings, textile works, record covers, monumental installations and little junk-like objects, curatorial collections, drawings,
dysfunctional videos, precise essays, screamo noise works and fragile glass sculptures on a focused roller-coaster ride through the aching dark heart of Americana.

The moment: It’s the early winter months of 2012 – the first of february to be exact. It’s late and I’m sitting in my rented former butcher’s shop in the countryside finishing a text for my publication Permanent Daylight. Like many times before I have read a number of Mike Kelley’s interviews and
essays when preparing for writing this text. His use of language inspires me more than his art these days. The night before I had read a conversation piece between him and Harmony Korine to get me going. I don’t know where I hear it first, maybe an sms, probably Facebook – Mike Kelley is dead.
During the next few days internet is flooded by comments, mentions and tributes by artists on Facebook and on blogs. In Los Angeles people spontaneously start building a shrine in a parking lot next to his studios. His death affected people (including myself) in a way that I wasn’t prepared for.
This was different from other deaths along the way. In the following months his suicide was being brought up by artists wherever I went, wether in small-town Sweden, Berlin, Barcelona or Dutch villages. I came to realise his importance on several levels, and the profound impact he has had on
artists and the art of today. His last monumental project was titled Day is done and is either prophetic or just a wry comment on
the state of things. Why did he put a gun to his head? Was it planned since long? Was it a desperate act in the spur of the
moment? It doesn’t really matter, what matters is Kelley’s immense body of work and the influence he has had on not only artists but also musicians, writers, filmmakers, students, wise-cracks, general renegades and acid heads across the world.

None of the works in this show are about Kelley, nor are they made to look like Kelley’s work. What we have here is the spirit of Kelley; an attempt to cast light on how many we are whom in so many different ways have been influenced by different parts of the gargantuan Kelleyan life/project. The fantastic set of artists I’m happy to have gathered for the show do not have much in common. Neither generation-wise nor by content or visual language, but they are all in one aspect or another interested, influenced or affected by some part of Mr Kelley’s kaleidoscopic production. As John Waters said when
he first heard of Kelleys suicide “At first I was hoping it was an art piece. It could have been,”.

And the title? Playing with dead things was Kelley’s first essay on the uncanny from 1994. He curated the exhibition and book The Uncanny, where he worked with objects, imagery and themes in his own distorted version of Freud/Jentsch’s Die Unhemliche. Punk and psychology blend seamlessly and
moves with ease and brilliance between high and low culture, ancient history and yesterday. It is the only book I have ever considered stealing from a library. The Uncanny dealt with the borderline between animate and in-animate, living or dead objects, an area he took huge interest in. Now he
himself is dead and Playing with dead things has the bizarrely unruly, funny and morbid tone I think he might have appreciated for a memorial show.

So, proudly presenting this show dedicated to Mike Kelley, Hero & Human 1957 – 2012. Keep on keeping on.

Malmö 2013 – Jonas Liveröd.

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  1. By Gallerinatten on February 10, 2013 at 1:00 am

    […] Playing with dead things – a celebration of Mike Kelleys […]