The internationally acclaimed artist Mike Kelley is being celebrated in a big way right now by the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and ten thousand other cultural heavyweights. But over here in Detroit, Kelley's last work of art has been taken over by a bunch of kids who are making it over into Plato's cave -- where it's not the shadows that matter, but good questions, the search for truth, and our own native wonder.
I wrote about it for Architect Magazine (which also features a couple of very rare published photographs by me):
Plato’s Philosophy Club meets on Saturday mornings inside the last work by artist Mike Kelley. Mobile Homestead is a full-scale replica of the suburban Detroit home where Kelley grew up—a one-story ranch with vinyl siding and blue shutters—and it is on permanent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Settled outside the museum on lush mown lawn, it is shrouded by Detroit’s high-traffic thoroughfares and century-old brick buildings.
Plato’s Philosophy Club gathers in a sunny corner, seated on blue stools with paper and pencils on their lap. The average age is eight. All is quiet: Alyson Jones, a Detroit educator who organizes this group, has asked the kids to write down a question about stories. “We’re thinking of questions like Plato thought of questions,” Jones says. “Something you don’t know the answer to, but wonder about.”
Zsahlyn, a girl with a brimmed hat adorned with a flower, props her chin on her fist. “I like how you’re thinking. I can see the wheels moving,” Jones tells her. After many long minutes, the group offers its questions to one another. “Who was the first one to write a book?” “If all the pages are torn out, is it still a book?” “Should people show scary books and movies to kids?” Jones pins all their questions to a bulletin board.
In Plato’s Philosophy Club, it is the questions, not the answers, which matter. Kelley’s installation is the right site for a Socratic dialog—a bewildering place that is itself an unresolved idea.