Superman Recites From the Bell Jar

By Francis Levy

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“Superman Recites Selections from ‘The Bell Jar’ and Other Works by Sylvia Plath” from l999 is one of the video installations in the Mike Kelley exhibition which just closed at MoMA PS1. Along with the Kandor pieces devoted to Superman’s preservation of his childhood world on Krypton–a series of bell jars in and of themselves– this piece contains two central elements of Kelley’s iconography: fatalism and popular culture. Actually the exhibit was an iconography party filled with self-annihilators like Plath and Pasolini (one of the works from a series called “Banners from College Campus Flyers” is an advertisement for an “Actor to Play Pier Paolo Pasolini…age not important, noacting experience required.” Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone boxes and Marx’s lumpenproletariat all makes appearances, though in a very telling intersection between art and chance, Kelley’s “Lumpenprole and Ageist Prop,” an afghan covering a series of found objects was removed from the exhibition, leaving only the memory of something that once was. Which is really the point. Kelley’s work explores the interior of the psyche, mining repressed memories of childhood, of trauma, of sex. His paintings of pre-op transsexuals are perhaps the most obvious manifestation his edgy sexuality, but there’s an evanescence to much of Kelley’s work, as if the fate of “Lumpenprole” were prophetic. Kelley’d also fascinated with schools. One of his works is titled “Educational Complex” (1995) and here is the writing one finds on the wall of another piece,“A Continuous” Screening of Bob Clark’s Film Porky’s (1981), the Soundtrack of Which Has Been Replaced with Morton Subotnick’s Electronic Composition The Wild Bull (l968), and Presented in the Secret Sub-Basement of the Gymnasium Locker Room (Office Cubicles), 2002,”

“say fellows watch it when you force ol’ Horseface to suck you off. His buck tooth overbite will pop the cap off your dick just as easy as the top off a beer bottle.”

Who doesn’t remember the study of jottings like this being interrupted by a wad of wet paper towels thrown over the stall of a high school toilet?

Photograph by Hallie Cohen

{This was originally post to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy’s blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture} …read more

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