Mike Kelley

By Walle, Mark Van de | Artforum International, January 1996 | Go to article overview

Mike Kelley


Walle, Mark Van de, Artforum International


METRO PICTURES

Satan! Satan! SATAN!! Satan wants YOU! And he's everywhere. That's right, you heard me, everywhere.

Mike Kelley tells you all about it in his new exhibition of nasty Satanic-type stuff. Stuff like: high-school yearbook photos of kids playing mischievous - but obviously Satanic - pranks like mooning people and dressing up as the opposite gender, all stuck under dummy headlines from lefty liberal newspapers such as the New York Times and the Detroit Free Press. Stuff like: models of institutional spaces where Kelley has suffered, complete with basements and sub-basements - Satanists and other ritual abusers love basements, they always do their foul deeds there - and models of institutional insignia, slightly tweaked, so that they look just as evil as you always knew the Rotarians and the Masons really were. Kelley wants you to know that Satan is in your home (sometimes he looks like mommy or daddy, and sometimes he looks like your parents' friends - but more on that later), in your school (which is why he has those yearbook photos and those paintings that look like the drawings the creepy kid in the Sepultura T-shirt who sat next to you in homeroom was always doing) and in restaurants, too, (which is why he has reviews of Chinese restaurants, alternating with descriptions of terrible, horrible Satanic sexual abuse, printed on the newspapers). Satan is even hiding out in the lame cutesypoo kiddie kulture that gets shoveled by the media into the heads of beloved tykes all the goddamn time. You can tell that this is true because of the way even adorable little woodland animals look creepy and evil in Kelley's paintings on the wall, what with the pentagrams and demon wings and goat heads all over the place.

Kelley needs to remind you of all this in part because Satan is tricky and hides everywhere, so that you don't notice him until it's too late, and in part because Satan and his minions are frequently so horrible you can't bring yourself to remember what they did after they did it. Later, of course, you will remember what happened, but only in the form of social maladjustment and vague, twisted images floating across your mind. Both are symptoms of the repressed memory syndrome, which you get from being the victim of evil practices like childhood Satanic ritual abuse or alien abduction. Or school.

Especially school, actually - at least for the purposes of this exhibition.

Kelley has long been a fan of perversity, social maladjustment, and adolescent-sicko imagery, particularly in its institutionalized and covert forms, and school is the best place to look for that sort of thing. …

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