Mike Kelley continues his obsession with the artifacts of mundane ritual in this three-hour video. Based on high school yearbook photos, with the eye of an alien explorer, Day is Done delves under the surface of Halloween parties, Prom Night dances, and musical productions. If we were to assume a complete veracity of representation in these student snapshots, we might imagine a world as twisted as this one. If we considered adolescent poetry as the culmination of literature, Christmas pageants as the highest form of religious expression, amateur musicals as the most profound theater and talent show numbers as the deepest personal expression, then we might invent such a universe. Kelley practices a considered form of Brechtian distance, amplifying the false and flat, the unfunny and the unaffecting, to find places where a more disturbing reality leaks through. He is interested in the place where Mies Van Der Rohe meets midwestern classroom, the place where Martha Graham meets goth dance routine. It’s not so much a theory of “trickle down” from high culture, but more an abiding fascination with the shared substructures of all these forms. Kelley is interested in the way institutional structures shape and define the culture within. He wants to reveal the kinds of expression that are allowed and supported, and those that are suppressed or denied. He wants to find the sites of repression, where sexual desire, social phobias and raw emotions find expression, despite our best attempts to channel such feelings into appropriate venues. He does this by peeling away a veneer of images, placing things into disjuncture and allowing the bald verbalization of hidden thoughts. When dragged into the open sunlight, these appear absurd, frightening and ultimately, very familiar.
- Seth Nehil