blog - opening performance mike kelley
15 Dec 2012

blog: Menno Dudok van heel

stedelijk|performance - “Pansy Metal/Clovered Hoof” (1989)


I am the one, Orgasmatron, the outstretched grasping hand
My image is of agony, my servants rape the land

Yesterday, the outstretched grasping hand of Mike Kelley (1954-2012) took possession of the entire new wing of the museum. Today, Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad writes: “Mike Kelley retrospective crushes and chastens’. An apt description for the exhibition as a whole, and Kelley’s artistic practice in particular. Including the performance in the retrospective despite the artist’s recent death, proved a far-sighted decision.

The first – and only – performance of Pansy Metal/Clovered Hoof was in 1989. And during the opening of MIKE KELLEY last night, Anita Pace, one of Kelley’s long-time collaborators, once more created the choreography of the piece. Along with dancers Eilit Marom, Evelyne Rossie, Miguel do Vale and Niels Weijer, she gave the performance a new vibrancy and urgency, 24 years after its first presentation. The audience was stunned by a staggering visual spectacle. Clad in silk banners, the dancers stormed through the auditorium like hypnotized ‘servants’, accompanied by the throbbing menace of “Orgasmatron” by British heavy metal band Motörhead.

Obsequious and arrogant, clandestine and vain
Two thousand years of misery, of torture in my name


The performers’ vacant gaze, the crudely finished stage and the stamping of feet on the wooden boards struck a harsh contrast with the pristine interior of the auditorium. One audience member felt that this museum setting was alienating. Staged at the Stedelijk’s auditorium, the piece has a very different feel to the original performance, which you can see on YouTube. Presented in the context of the exhibition, Pansy Metal/Clovered Hoof offered a chance to consider this work in a new perspective, as part of Kelley’s multi-faceted oeuvre.

Hypocrisy made paramount, paranoia the law
My name is called religion, sadistic, sacred whore.

Nothing is sacred. Everything is open to question. The first couplet of “Orgasmatron” paints an unequivocal picture of Mike Kelley’s raw, unorthodox artistic practice. Rather than directly critiquing religion, politics or the art world, Kelley often delivered his message in an unconventional brew of darkly humorous imagery. Nowhere is this clearer than in the series of ten banners, eight of which are used in the performance. An array of iconic images represent the world of Mike Kelley, a world of controversy, sexuality and rebellion.


The exhibition MIKE KELLEY (which also includes registrations of a number of performances) is at the Stedelijk until April 1 2013.