Mike Kelley, Educational Complex, 1995 (installation view, Full House: Views of the Whitney’s Collection at 75, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2006). Synthetic polymer, latex, foam core, fiberglass, and wood, 57 3/4 × 192 3/16 × 96 1/8 in. (146.7 × 488.2 × 244.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee 96.50
MIKEKELLEY: I decided to build a reconstruction of every school I ever went to with the all the parts I could not remember left out. And then these were combined to one super school. They were cut apart and reconfigured, in a kind of very formalized way that made it look more like a kind of modernist architecture.
NARRATOR: Educational Complex explores how we remember spaces—and how much of them we forget.
MIKEKELLEY: Educational Complex was done directly in response to the rising infatuation of the public with issues of Repressed Memory Syndrome and child abuse. It led to a rash of similar kinds of cases. The popularization of this certain kind of therapy which was predicated on the idea that certain traumatic events, that especially sexual abuse are repressed and only removed later through therapy. The implication is that anything that can’t be remembered is somehow the result of trauma.
So the parts I could not remember of these buildings was the majority of them, probably like 80 percent. So that meant 80 percent of these buildings that I had been in for most of my life were the site of some kind of repressed trauma.
No one’s going to think that when they look at it. It looks completely orderly. It doesn’t look dysfunctional at all. But seen through the theory of repressed memory syndrome, that’s what it means.
Like why can’t Mike Kelley remember all these rooms in the schools he went to every day for, you know, most . . . half of his life. Well, nobody can.