“Leftovers” (1982, 2014)

Mike Kelley and Mike Smith

Photograph © Fredrik Nilsen

“Leftovers” (1982, 2014)

Original Mike Kelley audio cassette, 1982

In 1982 Mike Kelley and I were invited to participate in a national, 3-hour interactive satellite teleconference entitled “The Artist and Television,” with links in Los Angeles, Iowa City, and Manhattan. After much back and forth via post and telephone, we decided to do a live performance based on a mutually agreed upon theme,”Leftovers.” If my memory serves me correctly, we asked to be telecast (I think that is the term) on a split screen, from LA (Mike) and NYC (me), as we spoke in response to one another. Unfortunately, on the day of production there were some major technical issues and the final project was kind of a failure. The video documentation looked more like an auxiliary project of Mike’s ectoplasm photo series, rather than our new collaborative, live, television performance. Like many other early attempts to bring art and television together, public access looked refined and neatly packaged in comparison.

When I was contacted by The Enemy about work Mike and I had done together, I remembered seeing a cassette tape when looking through my Mike Kelley memorabilia shortly after he died. On it, printed with a ball point pen in Mike’s simple, discernible writing, was MIKE. Even though it was recorded some thirty years ago, it sounded as though he was in the room. I laughed and got a little teary-eyed as I listened to his caricatured Midwestern twang, wax eloquently about leftovers, augmenting his text with fitting, flatulent sound effects. It was pure Mike K.

When Mike recorded his part some thirty years ago, he left spaces between each line or passage, enough time for me to think about and/or add my contribution, comments, and bon mots to the collaboration. I thought it important to include Mike’s original recording, not only to share his incredible voice and sense of timing, but mainly because the tape is so great. Then, there is the new EQ’ed version mixed with my recently recorded voice. Except for a couple of new lines, I stayed pretty close to my original script. I hope that I’ve done justice to this timeless discussion about leftovers, and that it’s as relevant today as it was over three decades ago.

—Michael Smith, Brooklyn NY, 2014

“Leftovers” (1982, 2014) Engineered by Ying Liu
Audio courtesy Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts
© Estate of Mike Kelley and Michael Smith. All rights reserved.
Currently on view MIKE KELLEY at MoMA/PS1, and then at MoCA March 31- July 28, 2014