“It was the wildest ride,” Bushwick-based artist Michael Alan blogged shortly after watching the new Todd Phillips movie, Joker. He followed the experience by painting a portrait of the movie’s star in the accompanying makeup. Following this, he announced the staging of a piece by his partner, a visual and performance artist who goes by Jadda Cat. The piece, called “Female Joker” will be held on November 23rd and she has committed to render some 100 versions of the character over the course of the four hour show.
“This is the Joker in 4D staring at you and changing your perspective on theater, performance, and live art,” Alan writes in a press release.
In his studio on one of the season’s first chilly days, Alan tells Bushwick Daily that he related in a deep way to Phillips’ movie and Joaquin Phoenix’s version of the comic book mischief-maker. He opines on its intensity, the issues that it brought to the fore of Hollywood pop entertainment (mental illness, social welfare austerity etc.) and while doing so speaks with a kind of preternatural innocence. The way he pronounces Phoenix’s first name comes out like jacques-queen and it brings to mind a French cafe pastry. His studio is a single room on the third floor of a former feather factory and his eyes are clear, blue and rove around the room while he talks.
The work is not Alan or Jadda Cat’s first go at working with jokers–the two did a project late last year called “CLOWNS AND TRICKSTERS UNITE.” When pressed, Alan describes much of his performance work, done under the guise of an ongoing project he calls ‘the Living Installation,’ as somewhat joker-ish.
“There’s a lot of injustice in the art system–that’s just our opinion–so we’re just trying to make a joke of it,” he says.
In some versions of this act, Alan puts on elaborate costumes and rides the train while ferociously sketching, something he likens to a bit Adam Sandler recently did when he busked incognito at a train station to promote a Netflix special. “People go ‘wait, I heard of that dude, that’s Michael Alan, why is he dressed like a chicken? What’s the point?’ There is no point,” Alan says.
Alan’s visual art is more moving. He has a wiry expressionist style that never quite breaks out of the representative mold but nods graciously at the idea of abstraction. The figures come through sketch-like, and occasionally bring star constellations to mind. In a sketchbook of his recent work, a portrait stands out: amid an inky cityscape of detailed lines, big buggy eyes peep out and look off the page expectantly. This, he says, is Jadda Cat, who declined to speak for the story.
A Village Voice review of a 2010 show at the since-shuttered Gasser Grunert writes that Alan’s drawings “suggest an artist enthralled by improvisation.” If this is still true, his recent work luxuriates in broadcasting the gestures and angles of its own improvised creation, as if he were capturing them in a state right before they could fully enter representation.
Alan talks with a certain mythical sense of self–a 2013 profile in Bomb begins with his birth “during the 1977 blackout,” the year punk happened and he mutters things like what happened to CBGBs in between thoughts. These days, he says he spends 14 hours a day in this small studio, selling the paintings himself online, avoiding the current art scene which he finds hard to relate to.
Performances offer Alan the logical and performative end of his improvisational ambitions.
“Jadda expresses complete freedom. It’s hard to really gauge what she’s really doing,” he says about his partner’s work. “She could perform for four hours for two people and she would be purely happy. It gives me hope for the release of greed and want and need that our society has. She creates a bliss of happiness from nothing. Does that make sense to you?”
Tickets are “$40 suggested / $20 minimum” and can be bought here. The performance will also be streamed live on the site.
Cover photo courtesy of Michael Alan
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