Mike Kelley: Mobile Homestead

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
and video screenings internationally.

Detroit: tours available Wednesday - Sunday (details via MOCAD)

The mobile homestead in suburbia

"Mobile Homestead covertly makes a distinction between public art and private art, between the notions that art functions for the social good, and that art addresses personal desires and concerns ... It has a public side and a secret side." Mike Kelley, 2011 

Mobile Homestead, the artist's final public project launched on 11 May on a site in Detroit near MOCAD, the city where Kelley spent the first two decades of his life. A permanent art work, it is a full-scale replica of the 1950s Westland suburban home where he grew up, relocated to the city centre in a reversal of the 'white flight' following the uprisings known as the '12th Street riot' in 1967. 

Plans and a site for the project had been signed off by Kelley in late 2011 before his death in January 2012. He envisaged the ground floor of the homestead functioning as an open space for diverse community activities. At the same time, he designed a labyrinthine basement complex for more covert activities – what he called “private rites of an aesthetic nature.” The completed Mobile Homestead houses these co-existing public and private functions mindful of Kelley’s typically challenging contention that “one always has to hide one’s true desires and beliefs behind a façade of socially acceptable lies.”

The first stage of the project – a mobile home designed to travel around the city and dispense various kinds of socially useful services – was 'unveiled' in 2010. Its maiden voyage from downtown Detroit to the ‘mother ship’, the original Kelley home, was part of Kelley's final video work filmed in 2010 and completed just before his death.

The trilogy of documentary films premiered at the Whitney Biennial in New York on May 15 2012 in dedication to Kelley's memory. They were on view at MOCAD until 31 July 2013 alongside a display of documentation materials related to the project and then at Site Gallery Sheffield from June to July 2013 for the exhibition Mobile Homestead Videos. They also screened over five days at Tate Modern in London in May 2013 and returned to London November that year for a run of screenings at independent cinemas.

In Detroit, MOCAD’s Department of Education and Public Engagement is programming the ground floor of Mobile Homestead as a community space, as Kelley intended. It is home to projects, events, gatherings, conversations and displays that are created by and for a diverse public. Removed from public view, the basement complex, with its characteristically Kelley-like crawl spaces, will from time to time be used for secretive sub-cultural activities. Jim Shaw and Cary Loren, Kelley's long-time friends and collaborators, notably in the infamous band Destroy All Monsters, were the first to venture down below prior to the May 11 launch.  

Mobile Homestead is artist Mike Kelley's first public art project anywhere and the first major permanent installation of his work in his hometown. This project is also the first commission by Artangel in the United States.

Mobile Homestead is commissioned by Artangel in association with MOCAD, LUMA Foundation and Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts with the generous support of the Artangel International Circle. Community programs in Mobile Homestead are supported by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.