Local Studio Confronts Artistic Censorship Head-on With new Exhibition

Savannah Camastro

[email protected]

This Saturday, Bushwick’s Living Installation will be hosting one of New York City’s first public  screenings of “Portraits of Andrea Palmer” at their exhibition, “Bodies!,” as a way to combat cinematic censorship and promote the freedom of artistic expression.

The film, directed by J. Lyons and C. Huston, is an indie thriller about a cam girl who gets an unexpected Craigslist offer for a full-time gig. Hopeful, the protagonist accepts the opportunity only to find herself the victim of a scam. She then turns to sex work for survival, enduring violent and tragic interactions. “Portraits of Andrea Palmer” artfully addresses real, gritty issues that are often ignored by the mainstream.

The film is not without controversy, but this was not a deterrent to Living Installation founder and director Michael Alan. “We chose this film because art, out of all things, shouldn’t (but does) have a heavy-handed judgmental structure,” the Bushwick-born artist explains. “The film, in a sense, is about a journey, and now her journey is being censored.” It may be surprising to know that this will be The Living Installation’s first time performing with a film.  For Living Installation, engaging with this particular work speaks to censorship in art in general. “Censorship in art has driven me to create a platform where no contemporary rules apply.  I find that even a definition of a category or ‘what is this supposed to be?’ is the major problem in art,” Alan explains.

Almost since the beginning of filmmaking in the United States, censorship has been a challenge. The issue even made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1915 case Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission. The Court’s ruling determined that motion pictures were not protected under the First Amendment. Though this ruling was later overturned, and there are no federal agencies presently that have been tasked with allowing  or disallowing the exhibition of movies, films have been and can still be banned by city and state governments. After viewing this exhibition, the audience may develop a greater understanding of the artistic suppression that continues even in contemporary settings.

The event will be slightly different from past Living Installation performances; this time, the 16mm film will be projected onto two medical mannequins — which hasn’t been done before — during three consecutive screenings. The film is just part of the fun, however: Alan and his partner, artist Jadda Cat will be “reacting and integrating elements [of the film into their performance]…changing the way people view film, and view live art.”  Tim “Love” Lee, a close friend and member of the Living Installation team, will also be performing during the first viewing.  A final screening will begin at midnight sans performance, but will by no means adhere to the traditions that come with watching a movie. Alan says that he wants people to “feel free to laugh, cry; go in and out; come late — within reason,” rather than be forced to sit in silence for the film’s duration. Through this relaxed milieu, coupled with the incorporation of music, dance, painting and other art forms, Alan and Jadda Cat hope that this kaleidoscopic combination will inspire viewers to express themselves freely.

It has been, and always will be a goal for the Living Installation to keep art accessible to all. And, given the increasing commercialization of both fine art and media art, Alan and Jadda Cat hope to remind their audience that there is more to creative work than what lay within systemic boundaries. “[New York City] is currently in a stuck loop of plastic, repetitive and censored art. It’s a place that should be more open, as it was in the ’80s and ’90s as a  platform for everyone and anyone to express themselves in radical ways. This is what the Living Installation is to us now; this is why we continue this work,” Alan says.

“Bodies” will take place June 15 in the Living Installation studio. The first performance, which begins at 8 p.m., can also be streamed worldwide for online viewing. Tickets can be purchased for both the live and online screenings via Alan’s website.

Follow Living Installation on Instagram

Latest articles

Related articles