John Hogan’s Thoughts on Mike Kelley and Anita Pace’s Pansy Metal / Clovered Hoof

Mike Kelley, Switching Marys (2004-05). Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen, courtesy Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.

Mike Kelley, Switching Marys (2004-05).
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen, courtesy Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, via

Attending the Member’s Day Celebration of MOCA’s Mike Kelley retrospective with a brutal hangover was my way of opting into total immersion in the Irish Catholic shame Kelley is so famed for deconstructing. Or so my own robust Irish Catholic rationalization process would have me believe.

Mike Kelley with a hangover is like Lawrence Weiner stoned. Not only does it still make sense, it kind of makes more sense. Woozy videos of unwell vampires slumping around CalArts whining about how they’ve been on medical leave, or the slumped and dazed proles of Kandor milling around their pathetic cramped quarters within a swirling bell jar biosphere are all the more existentially poignant when one is prone to actual nausea.

As much as the sadistic barbers, spaced-out toddlers, and wine-soaked harem members of the exhibition felt consistent with my psychic space, my body needed regular doses of fresh air. So I spent a fair amount of time in the impromptu outdoor cocktail lounge set up for the event. At one point I decided to attempt to resuscitate myself with a hair-of-the-dog cocktail of vodka and “blood orange” mixer. It was a bad idea, as the afternoon sun began to bear down and I felt a little worse with each sip. Luckily, it was just at this time that Pansy Metal / Clovered Hoof began, and served as a shot in the arm.


In light of Kelley’s suicide in 2012, I couldn’t help but feel there was something a little funereal about the reception. There were drinks, and some people wore suits, and people didn’t know how to act. Pansy Metal thankfully obliterated this atmosphere.

The tribal metal rhythm of Motörhead’s “Orgasmatron” was played quite loud through the P.A., and in stark contrast with the pristine granite-top cocktail bar and the typically gorgeous midday Los Angeles weather, the music was dark and dirty. Rather than somehow transcending the absurdity of the makeshift bourgeois environment grafted onto The Geffen Contemporary’s parking lot, the confrontational nature of this piece simply incorporated the weirdness of this context and took it in stride.


The strength of the “Orgasmatron” track, sonically and lyrically, was such that it could not be compromised by the fact that there were bored children and over-dressed fashionistas standing around. Silk banners were worn by the dancers as body-cover scarves, their designs obnoxious and abject. One of the dancers (Erica Carpenter) wore a scarf featuring a drawing of a dick and balls made of turds. The men (Beau Dobson and Jos McCain) wore clunky hiking shoes while Carpenter wore ballet slippers.

The dancing was athletic and aggressive. It was kind of punk and paganistic, with zombie-like staggers and stomps, and repetitive shoving motions that suggested a violent take on “Walk Like An Egyptian.” Although the choreography was relatively simple, there was an element of sweaty endurance to the piece. Motörhead’s music and Anita Pace’s choreography were both two parts blind-driving repetition and one part virtuosity. As ornate screaming guitar solos swirled over the driving garage drone of the song, the dancers similarly took turns “solo-ing” elaborate kicks and spins.


The song’s lyrics, so unremitting in their nihilism, cannot be spun into anything providing conciliatory perspective: “I hold a banner drenched in blood, I urge you to be brave / I lead you to your destiny, I lead you to your grave.” Similarly, a dick made of turds is so stupid and ugly, it’s impossible to sentimentalize it, even if it is printed on silk.

Instead of closure or peace of mind, Pansy Metal offered us a summoning of darkness in the bright light of day. A spirit visitation by way of Anita Pace and three bodies who gave themselves over to the power of the Orgasmatron, an all-encompassing evil who holds our fates in his hands. It was Mike Kelley’s version of a Sunday afternoon.

One Response to “John Hogan’s Thoughts on Mike Kelley and Anita Pace’s Pansy Metal / Clovered Hoof

  1. thejohnhogan Says:

    Reblogged this on John Hogan Studio and commented:
    I wrote this review of “Pansy Metal / Clovered Hoof” for Another Righteous Transfer!

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