Last night I attended the Monday Night Lecture where Mark Allen was the guest speaker. He runs a nonprofit, artist collaborative called Machine Project where he provides a space in Echo Park in Los Angeles for events and workshops and also collaborates with his group for shows in museums. His shows are mostly participatory where he uses music, performance art, media and other exploratory methods to study interaction in museums.
Although I don’t know very much about performance art, I admire Mark Allen for 2 things that I think he has accomplished as an artist. He is able to create whimsical and lighthearted art that has a purpose and well thought meaning behind it that people are interested in. I thought his art was shallow entertainment at first and even stifled my laughter at his wacky projects of educating kids on auto theft and holding dog operas in his gallery space. But as he began to describe the meaning behind his work and his thought process, I began to be inspired by his creativity and how he allowed his imagination to run wild but translate it into art. He created paper mache replicas of the art in the LACMA and tried to reverse smuggle them back in to imply that antiquities are always being recreated. He held a plant vacation at the Hammer Museum where he allowed plants to stay overnight to experience a cultural experience to explore how different audiences experiences are subjective and varied.
I think his second accomplishment is translating his art to experiences that museums would be interested in without compromising the nature of his art. The Machine Project came from a small community project with unique methods of producing art and Mark Allen explores the museum space and the museum experience and tries to solve problems within the museum while still preserving these methods. He still holds synthesizer and other random workshops in museums and tailors his performance pieces towards small intimate audiences. By replicating an ancient arch from the LACMA and holding a metal concert outside underneath it, he was able to create his art in a creative way while still working under the constraints of the museum. I was definitely inspired by his unreined imagination and ability to turn it into lighthearted but meaningful art.