Day Is Done
Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstructions #2–#32
2005–6, 169 min, colour, sound
Mike Kelley’s absurdist masterpiece, Day Is Done, is a fractured feature-length musical, featuring vampires, goths, hillbillies, mimes and demons. The video comprises parts #2 through #32 of Kelley’s multi-faceted project Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstructions, in which trauma, abuse and repressed memory are refracted through personal and mass-cultural experience. In creating the work, Kelley collected hundreds of high school yearbook photographs of ‘extracurricular activities’, specifically those that represent what Kelley has termed as ‘socially accepted rituals of deviance’. He arranged the images into various categories, including religious performances, thugs, dance, hick and hillbilly, Halloween and goth, satanic, mimes, and equestrian events. Each of the 31 video chapters of the film is based on one of these categories, and consists of a performance or time-based recreation of the activities recorded in the photographs, all set at an undefined institutional building and gymnasium referred to as the ‘Educational Complex’. The result is an intentionally disjointed narrative that speaks to the cult of cultural and institutional rituals, the complex vulnerability of adolescence, and the related adult experience of potentially traumatic buried memories.
Day Is Done exemplifies Kelley’s fascination with what he called the ‘American Carnivalesque’, an ambivalent category oscillating between humour, eroticism, darkness, and alienation. Day Is Done treats its subjects with an approach that is not only dutifully anthropological – identifying and cataloging behaviors and types – but is also radically reconstructive, adding layers of perversity, violence, and surrealism to socially accepted rituals and folk entertainment.
A screening at Künstlerhaus Kino accompanying Ghislaine Leung’s exhibition CONSTITUTION.