chillin with the alien

michael alan

michael alan is the brooklyn-based multimedia artist, whose work has been capturing the attention of the art viewing public and critics for years now. twenty thirteen was a pinnacle year for alan, when it seemed that everybody was on about his original art style. his line drawings twist and dart across the canvas in seemingly random directions, but purposefully bring together a series of overlayed objects embellished with vibrant colours that form a cohesive piece. he’s been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions since two thousand and four, founded the ground breaking art project living installations and even dabbles in the realms of music, collaborating with names such as the residents, tommy ramone and ariel pink.
interview with i.t.a.

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michael, cheers for speaking with powder. tis such a delight to have the chance to get the word from an artist, such as yourself, whose name is literally on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

you have a unique style that involves line drawings that capture various subjects, overlapping them in a chaotic blend of colour that forms one all-encompassing image. how do you describe what you do and how did you develop such an individual style?

I try not to describe what I do. I try to do what I do and it changes. Hopefully as other artists' work changes, my work changes. Just as life changes and time continues I make work. I can’t truly say that it’s all Michael Alan. There is definitely another force driving me and I don't want to attempt to figure out how it happens. I want to let it happen. The younger works that I made, that I forced, are destroyed. I ripped them up, threw them over a highway. The work I do now is about accepting and living. How far can a piece of paper be translated into an object? How far can a line drawing go? How subtle can a water color be? How hard can you encrypt your so-called technique to the point where it can never be understood? The artist is creating magic. And real magic isn’t a trick. It’s real. I have no idea why I've been selected to do this job. But I am very honored to be living and creating.

who or what would you say are your muses?

I see myself as a visual journalist documenting my human impression of the master-muse, Life. One minute I can be sitting under a tree drawing parts of the branch and then heading back to the studio mish-mashing it with all sorts of colors and effects and ideas, ideals, and situations and most of all working through struggle, working thru power, working thru whatever life brings you. I don't necessarily take advantage of going to a party or experiencing life without making art. Therefore my muse is always with me and I'm being highly entertained.

what led you down the alleyway of art? what was the spark that started you off and when did you begin?

I was born during the black out of 77, literally during the riots in Bushwick at Woodhull Hospital. As my mind recalls my first memories were crayon and paper and my mother, who I am still drawing. I am far from a Yale kid or from an artistic background. It was kinda an uncommon factor that I liked to draw and that led me down the alleyway of life. That’s been my navigation. It’s almost as if art has led me and I haven't forced or directed the path. Art gave me life, art saved my life, art is my life.

what projects are you working on now and what do you have coming up closer to the end of twenty fourteen?

I’m going to finally do a book of the work; 40 - 60 reproductions of a selection of drawings called Kill the Middle Man. The images are really detailed and super-layered and I want people to have the chance to sit with that. A gallery is kind of hit or miss for viewing pleasure. The computer crashes. Studio visits I’m not really feeling. This project is something that will take a lot of time and that I will put a lot of care into. I don't want to just make a book and have people tell other people I've made a book. For me art is about how many people you can touch.

what role would you say art and art installations, such as your own, play in the community? what would you say an artist does for society?

Every artist does something different and I’m not really a reference to say who or who isn't doing something. I can say what I think an artist should be doing and that leads me to a long overdue answer. I feel artists are created to impact other peoples’ lives with thoughts, interests, motivations, creativity, respect and push humanity forward at least to a degree of positive cohabitation. At the end humans can only go so far but with the ability of creating the mind and the spirit can go to untraveled parts. And this does give humanity a chance to exist on this earth. And there are also tons of artists who just want and need. There is no right or wrong but I know where I stand.

which artists do it for you? which have been your greatest influences and who should we be checking out on the scene today?

My honest opinion is that music is fine art and it’s really over looked in this narrow spectrum of gallery, museum, fine-art drama world. There’s just so much ground-breaking outsider art, artistic music that is being created and I would hope that there will become a place that people can gather just to listen. Music-pod galleries. Besides that visual artists, such as Svankmajer, Bacon, Giacometti, Philip Guston, Tanguy, Schiele, the Quay Brothers. Film directors, such as Michel Gondry, David Cronenberg, Terry Gilliam, Alejandro Jodorovsky, Mads Mikkelsen. Musicians, such as Alessandro Cortini, Jacaszek & Kwartludium, William Basinski, Skullflower.

you’re the founder of the living installations project, which you collaborated on with kenny scharf. you also directed the film about the project we are living installations, occupy yourself. the project delves into metamorphosing one’s body into a living, breathing art installation. what’s the premise behind this? what are you trying to demonstrate and practically what do the installations actually consist of?

I’m trying to demonstrate that we are more important than property, capital gain and traditional values. That we are living breathing potential fire. Practically, they consist of all types of humans beings being transformed live into full-living sculptures that perform and act out, practice and improv amazing stunts and fantastic tricks and jokes and magic. They border on the line of human art objects. The ability to transform and utilize as much as we can, as strong as we can in any situation. I believe in self-empowerment and empowering people around you. The system does not want you to be creative. The opportunity list is short and the entry-fee is high. I like to do the most I can to create strange experiences to make people think and remember, because mostly we consume and forget.

We are living Installations, Occupy Yourself from Michael Alan on Vimeo.

so you take your installations and artworks out onto the street. have your public art ventures ever caused you any trouble with the law?

Yes of course, and I’m not a fan of the Nazis. You never win with the Nazis. And all you can do is keep living the life you want to live, the way you want to live it.

your health took a turn for the worse last year. can you tell us a bit about that and also the effect it has had on your work?

It’s made my work stronger. I definitely take my time more seriously, not that I didn't in the past, but really when I work I feel a lot more than its physical discomfort or a sense of mortality. Like in a movie when a scene is intense and then all of a sudden it’s a lot more intense because some kind of dramatic situation has taken place on a bus and now people are more aware of their mortality. I am dealing with four different illnesses and injuries that ironically reflect the frailty in the line of my signature drawings.

besides your artistic creations, you’re a musician. you’ve been collaborating with the residents, tommy ramone and ariel pink. how’s this been? how would you describe your music? and what’s your instrument of choice?

I grew up in New York helping major punk bands load in while I was causing mischief in the parking lot. I’ve played all types of instruments and will play any instrument but mostly love my mouth brush. I love creating voices and sounds and beats with my mouth. By the way my mom would say I'm not a musician, she would say we, me, my mom, my dad are a band.

I’ve really been blessed to work with some of my personal favorite musicians. The one who touched me the most of course is Tommy. He and Claudia collected my work and I have a great repour and friendship with Claudia, who I consider like a second mother, so for me it’s a very touchy subject, it’s very sad. With Tommy and Claudia it was more than collaboration, they were giving me love and encouragement in a cold city.

and when michael alan isn’t in the studio working on a new piece, how do you unwind? what’s a night like out in downtown brooklyn with the alien?

That is how I unwind. A night out with the alien is highly creative, deep, a lot of conversation. I try to make jokes and a whole lot of criminal mischief.


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scope michael @ gasser and grunert

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