Immortal Equations: Michael Alan’s Marathon of Muses

February 27, 2015 | Bucky Turco

Artist and New Yorker Michael Alan has been turning humans into art pieces for over a decade in his now-famous Living Installation series. Part draw-a-thon, part performance art, the exhibition space turns into a figure drawing party that involves a lot of artists, naked models and paint. ANIMAL has written about the shows on more than one occasion, so when Alan contacted me about his latest one, Immortal Equations – The Living Installation, — which had just wrapped at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Gallery — I was kind of ambivalent. Haven’t we seen this a thousand times before?

Then he sent the photos, and it dawned on me: It’s not just the same performance that gets rehearsed over and over, like a Broadway play. Each event is unique in its own right, turning every exhibit into a singular art piece that cannot be duplicated or enjoyed ever again. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has misunderstood Alan’s work over the years, so I asked him to explain how the series has evolved over time and what might inspire him next.

How would you describe your Living Installation series?
I consider it an experience that is hard to forget, rather than a regular opening or live show. Life moves so fast, I forget most things myself. I want to create moments after moments of pure creation. Live moments that can’t be redone. The first mark on the canvas cannot be redone. We have many elements that make up this happening: movements, live creation, action, live music on set, crowd participation. I remember my old New York and showing up at an ELF (RIP) show and I never forgot his happening. It’s in my DNA — growing up around the 80’s and art — and now I enjoy creating these pure moments and sharing them. Life is short. Art is life. Art is living.

How often do you do them?
They were every week for years, but there is no funding. I take care of the existence of this DIY event, but I have burned holes in my pockets and brain and body, so we rock every few months.

What makes this latest draw-a-thon/ Living Installation different than previous ones?
Every one is different due to the models, sounds, and ideas planned into it. This last work was at Tanja Grunert Gallery, who reps my work. The show was called Immortal Equations, the ideas behind the math of my art, so on one wall you had a curated gallery show by Mitra Khorasheh and the other side were the drawings coming to life in the all encompassing Living Installation.

Do you ever tired or bored of doing them?
I’ve been frustrated with the fact that this is the longest running happening and we get zero help from New York art institutions and yet help many. And the project really involves a lot. So yes, I see that. But I am a New York kid, so I just use that energy to push the work. I honestly have always really enjoyed these 300-plus exhibits under my belt.

Where do you find the models?
I don’t find anyone at this point. It’s more of a group, like the Wu-Tang of art. We will do the wildest stuff, and there is no faking. Mostly friends, or random run-ins while drawing.

How many other artists show up to draw?
It’s more people coming to escape for a day and night; more viewers than artists. It’s hard to tell, I go into another space during the process.

Are there any models on your bucket list that you’d like to paint?
Not at the moment. Maybe the mayor?

(Photos: Kristen Collins)