Mike Kelley

Born in 1954 in Detroit
Died in 2012 in Los Angeles

In 2005, Mike Kelley was approached by the UK-based Artangel organization, which commissions and produces site-specific artwork, to propose what would be their first commission in the United States. In response, Kelley suggested that he build a replica of his childhood home in the Detroit suburb of Westland that would be repositioned in the city of Detroit and utilized as a community gallery. While the facade of the house would be removable and “street legal” so that it could be driven around the Detroit area to provide various sorts of public services, a complex of “secret” tunnels and rooms would be built beneath the structure at its “home” on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (MOCAD), and used for private activities organized by the artist.

On view in the 2012 Biennial are three videos produced by Kelley that document the first phase of Mobile Homestead: the project’s christening ceremony as well as the journey of the Mobile Homestead facade along Michigan Avenue from MOCAD in downtown Detroit to the original Kelley home in Westland and back again. The two documentaries of Mobile Homestead en route through the Detroit environs trace a remarkable variety of both urban and outlying areas, making apparent the socio-economic disparities among the communities through which Mobile Homestead passed. Along the way, interviews were conducted with shop owners and residents, including a motorcycle gang, strip-club dancers, church officials, the staff of socialservice organizations, and representatives of the Ford Motor Company. The third video documents the 2010 launch event of the mobile section of the project that occurred on the site at MOCAD where the completed project will eventually stand. Taken together, these videos convey Kelley’s critical eye on this American city that he knew so well.