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Built for Detroit, Mobile Homestead Eyes Greenfield Village

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Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard

Part art installation, part community space, and (quite literally) part trailer home, Mobile Homestead is now semi-permanently located at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Why semi-permanent? Because the front portion of the structure detaches, Transformers-style, into a trailer that's completely street legal. That's an important feature, as part of the project's original vision was to sit in Greenfield Village's parking lot for "as long as is legally possible."

The complicated design is the work of the late artist Mike Kelley, its exterior a near-perfect replica of his childhood home in Westland. The installation has several identities. When docked at MOCAD, it's a bland community space. Its second identity, however, lays just below your feet. A basement of "labyrinthian hallways" was designed as a juxtaposition to the sterile home above, meant to be sort of a private artist lair. Kelley had planned on hand-selecting artists to use the subterranean studios, but his 2012 suicide has left the basement's purpose up in the air.

Mobile Homestead makes the most sense when it's actually on the move. In an essay describing the project, Kelly writes that he wanted Mobile Homestead -- the epitome mass produced American design -- to travel west down Michigan Avenue through Detroit, a city nearly destroyed by thousands of homes just like it. Mobile Homestead would head towards Greenfield Village, the collection of famous American historical structures brought together by Henry Ford. According to Kelly's plan, Mobile Homestead was to sit in Greenfield's parking lot for "as long as legally possible," serving as an ironic tribute to average Americans. Mobile Homestead is viewable at Thursday-Saturday at MOCAD.

· Kelley's Explanation of Mobile Homestead [MOCAD]
· Mobile Homestead [MOCAD]