Heidi, Midlife Crisis Trauma Center & Negative Media-Engram Abreaction Release Zone (1992) runs from May 2nd through June 30th at Jeffrey Deitch’s Grand Street gallery. Based on Johanna Spyri’s children’s story, Heidi, this exhibition represents the first vital collaboration between Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley; it has not been presented in the United States since a 2001 retrospective at the New Museum.
With Heidi… McCarthy and Kelley deconstruct a classic tale pitting city against country and create a quasi-horror film exploring related, albeit more expansive (and warped) themes: the bucolic vs. the horrific and American culture vs. European culture. The multimedia presentation of Heidi… brings together elements of sculpture, architecture, painting, and performance, which ultimately blur the boundary between what is real and what is not, leaving the viewer disoriented. As Kelley writes, “One of the things we were striving for was that the set itself maintain its presence as a sculpture, even when paired with the tape, and that the figures, props, and other items used in the production of the tape, in conjunction with the set, be seen as a whole…”
The striking props—which include countrified mannequins, complete dinner table sets (covered with faux food), colorful landscape tapestries, a model house filled with hay, and even a to-size goat recreation—do indeed amount to a cohesive environment within which McCarthy and Kelley execute the performance “as different characters, switching identities, becoming Heidi, becoming Peter, becoming Grandfather.” Heidi… subverts the motifs of the original story by not restricting itself to one medium or one epoch, and by unsettling its audience.
Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley: Heidi, Midlife Crisis Trauma Center and Negative Media-Engram Abreaction Zone
Deitch Projects (76 Grand St.)
May 2 – June 30, 2017