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November 2011: Michael Alan - the Living Installation @ Gershwin Hotel

Michael Alan, the Living Installation, Gershwin Hotel, New York


Michael Alan @
Gershwin Hotel

The backroom of the Gershwin Hotel was enveloped in red velvet. The room itself was dark, save for the flickers of blue projection light and a dimly lit bulb here and there. One could make out figures wrapped – or unwrapped – in various fabrics, cloth, and paint, walking around each other on the minimalist stage area. Faces were unrecognizable and body parts seemed to weld themselves together in the blur of droning music and flashes of color - this was Michael Alan’s the Living Installation.

The audience surrounded the stage on three sides, watching and drawing the art piece in motion. Relational aesthetics came to mind as observers documented the scene, putting pencil to paper for hours. It was like something from a warped Midsummer Night’s Dream. The painted, ethereal women twisted about each other, perhaps guided by the chants of an older, bare-breasted lady. A man with a horse’s head moved within the mass – bewitched by the forms in torn colored cloth weaving about around him. They moved as people do in an unrehearsed dance; slowly brushing past and around one another without any definitive motion or penchant to be in anyone place at anyone time.

When they finished, the break down was as much of a performance as the piece itself; a sad deconstruction of the fairy-like world Michael Alan had created. The audience was no longer expected to sit back and merely observe, but asked to help in the rolling of paper, the folding of fabrics, and the sweeping of glitter. It was the first time that night that the observers put down their pencils and crossed the fourth wall onto the stage for a participatory experience. The Living Installation in its entirety confused me in a sense, though one of the painted women clarified for me discussing her love for her friend, Michael Alan and her desire to do anything to create the energy he needed for his work. The documentation became as important as the installation itself, for the sketches of the act would continue on after the ephemeral piece was all swept up.

Michael Alan's Living Installation, Gershwin Hotel

Michael Alan's Living Installation, Gershwin Hotel

Leah-Emily Schlackman


Leah-Emily Schlackman is a New York based writer and editor for Whitehot and NY Arts Magazine.

 

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