Day Is Done, for example, emerged from his work with repressed memories and his Educational Complex sculpture, a model of every school the Detroit native ever attended, with, he says, "all the parts I couldn't remember left blank." The original idea for the video shot over a few weeks in 2005 at an LA park, Kelley's studio, and his alma mater, California Institute of the Arts was to "fill in the blanks with screen memory."
"Also because this show was in New York, I thought doing something with a Broadway overtone would be funny because that's something cultured New Yorkers are embarrassed about!" Kelley says, laughing.
Kelley is obviously still eager to venture into unexamined office parks of discomfort, provoking his viewers by pushing them into the dead spaces that fill the back lots of corporate break rooms and school yards. The artist's well-known stuffed-animal works similarly evolved from an unspoken exchange with his audience. "When I first starting using that stuff, I was only working with things that were handmade, and it didn't matter to me what they were I was more interested in the idea of love and labor," Kelley explains. "But people were really, really fixated on the dolls, and I realized there's a great kind of empathy for them, and also I realized that much of that empathy had to do with this kind of rise and fixation on child abuse and that whole victim culture that was coming up in the '80s."
Shortly after one of those discarded dolls popped up on the cover of Dirty, Kelley, bandmate Cary Loren, SY's Thurston Moore, and critic Byron Coley put together the 1994 three-CD retrospective Destroy All Monsters: 19741976 for Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label to document the original lineup's work before the arrival of the Stooges' Ron Asheton and the MC5's Michael Davis in the band. The founding group re-formed, while Kelley has continued to work sound components into his artwork and make and release music on his Compound Annex imprint.
Has music video ever been part of Kelley's Wagnerian compendium of interests? "I've never been asked!" he says. "I don't think I would do one for myself who would show it? It'll just be another thing that sits in a box in storage, like all my records." Still, his freshly edited feature might work. "It generated a tremendous amount of music," the artist muses. "In a sense, Day Is Done is one giant music video." *
DAY IS DONE
Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m., $6<\d>$8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF