I did not know Don Cornelius and I also never met Mike Kelley. I suppose I can say that I grew up in Cornelius’s world and I grew into Kelley’s. When I read of their successive demise, while I was walking around familiar Hollywood streets this morning (streets that I have been walking around since the 1970s, when I listened to music from Soul Train, when art was only a rumor, when my father killed himself) I was shaken much more than I might have thought by the news. Don Cornelius was the more distant figure, I knew his work far better than I knew his name; Mike Kelley, even at the remove from which I was aware of him, seemed very like a friend, or a distant relation, he touched the life and mind of every artist that I know.
Suicide is an awful thing – the act is unimaginable to the survivors, and it has the effect of draining any possible meaning out of death: it leaves a space which we cannot fill, not by seeking answers. Of course the consolations surrounding death may be illusory at all times, but we need them because death is sad: one among us is gone.
It took me more than thirty years to mourn last time, so now I am feeling my way – like we all are. More than separating us in the uniqueness of our response, death joins us by its shared mystery – none of us understand. My experience of suicide does not give me special insight, but maybe accepting what is unknowable is insight in times like these.
I’m grabbing some images and quotes as I find them on Facebook and elsewhere. Thanks to the friends who posted them.
If I have been able, without scandalizing anybody, to enter cesspools, to handle putrid substances, to spend part of my time in refuse dumps, and to live, as it were, in places that the majority of men would close off as degraded and disgusting, why should I blush to open a cesspool of another kind (a cesspool filthier, I assure you, than all the rest), in the reasonable hope of doing some good by examining it in all its aspects?–Mike Kelley 1954-2012 (posted to Facebook by JH)
“Community is revealed in the death of others; hence it is always revealed to others. Community is what takes place always through others and for others. It is not the space of the egos—subjects and substances that are at bottom immortal—but of the I’s, who are not always others (or else are nothing). If community is revealed in the death of others it is because death itself is the true community of I’s that are not egos. It is not a communion that fuses the egos into an Ego of a higher We. It is the community of others.”
Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community (p. 15) posted to Facebook by SL