On Saturday, October 7, Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood will play host to the Riverwest Artists Association’s Artwalk, as well as the inaugural Riverwest Gallery Night. Roughly 20 galleries, studios, and venues will open their doors to the public, inviting attendees to experience everything the eclectic neighborhood has to offer. But one stop on the tour, 4 Wheels Studio (824 E. Locust St.), will be home to something a little different, a little wild, and a little hard to describe: Michael Alan‘s weird, wonky, and can’t-miss “Living Installation.”
“The Living Installation is where human beings become living sculptures and living works of art,” says Alan, who is based in New York City. “Through masks, props, and live body painting, we create characters, personas, dialogue, and punk theater. This form of art developed, and is still developing, from ideas in my paintings and drawings. I create drawings, paintings, and sculptures and work with some great people and bring them to life for an audience of all. The body and performers bring my art to life, and the art becomes, and is, them. [It’s] collaborative art work, live punk-y comedy shows!”
Alan hatched the idea for Living Installation in the early ’00s, as a way of bringing artists of every ilk together in one event. Originally a one-time deal with a few friends, Living Installation soon blossomed into 200-people multi-media gatherings complete with live art and music (the latter provided by Alan, as well as the likes of Tommy Ramone, Jello Biafra, Japanther, The Residents, and more). The event is now a weekly occurrence in New York City.
“There was a high demand for art community in New York, or a lacking of with the gentrification and major changes,” Alan says. “In that time period there was a whole lot of gallery shows, life drawing, and same type of one-sided shows and segregated things. I wanted to get all kinds of people together to jam out. It was a good way for artists, musicians, performers, and art lovers to get together, and a way of giving the life models a chance to perform. I really felt they wanted to say something, more than standing still, from all my times life drawing.”
For its Milwaukee installment (dubbed an “Alien Symphony”), Living Installation will take over Riverwest’s artist-run 4 Wheels Studio. One of the studio’s founders, Skully Gustafson, came across Alan’s work while in Brooklyn in 2011. “He had a bunch of models at that first show I went to, it was in a big space, and there were some other guys doing music while Michael tripped out the models,” Gustafson says. “I remember him going up to me in the audience and wrapping me in toilet paper, and the person next to me saying, ‘You guys are buddies now.'”
One of the models at Saturday’s show will be Cat Ries, best known for her work in NO/NO, Rio Turbo, and Pleasure Thief. Ries sees Living Installation as not only a can’t-miss event, but the kind of event that is exceedingly rare in Milwaukee.
“Being a resident ‘weirdo creative type’ and connected to the pulse of creative performance art in Milwaukee, I was contacted by Skully to be a part of what he called a ‘wild live six-hour art installation’ where I’d be nude and covered with paint,” Ries explains. “If ‘wild’ and ‘art’ didn’t get me, than ‘nude and covered with paint’ definitely did. I expect to be able to lose myself a little in whatever character is collaboratively created by Michael and myself, and the other folks modeling, but that’s about as far as my expectations will go so I can keep my participation as authentic and spontaneous as possible.”
Ries continues: “It’ll for sure be one of those things where you’ll be bummed you didn’t see it, especially for Milwaukee where we’re often over-saturated with the same kinds of parties.”
The party begins at 6 p.m. and runs until midnight. Tickets are $10, and can be purchased online or at the door. (Masks made at this show will be used in Alan’s next show, “Vampira,” October 14 in New York.)
“I think it’s going to be a really fun show,” Gustafson says. “Our space has a good vibe and we’ll let Michael do whatever he wants.”