On an agitated sea : Dana Michel

Fortner Anderson
October 13

Few people were able to experience Dana Michel’s relational piece which took place off to the side of the evening’s events on Saturday night. Sitting in an infant’s inflatable bed, Michel involved participants in a long intimate conversation. When I stopped by to look at the work in the intermission after the action of Jacquelin van de Geer and Jean-Phillippe Luckhurst-Cartier, the line of those waiting to talk with Michel stretched back twenty or thirty people deep. Of these only a tiny handful experienced the meeting with Michel even after waiting an hour or more.

The piece took place under difficult conditions. The main performances were occurring a few feet away; the Atelier was filled to capacity which meant that Michel’s bed sat much of the time in an agitated sea of drinking and socializing. During performances, Michel and participants needed to speak in whispers to prevent disturbing the other events.

At the intermission, Michel and a participant, a young man in short sleeved shirt and baseball cap, sat close together facing each other in the bed. Between them lay a plank of wood on which sat a single orange. Both Michael and the young man held cotton swabs (Q-tips) with which they lightly touched the orange. It looked as if they might be consulting a crystal ball, or attempting to transfer their most private thoughts via the fruit, or trying through it to communicate with a parallel universe.

Strewn in the bed were Michel’s childhood effects, a cuddly blanket, a favorite book, a dress from an aunt. Next to the bed lay a platter holding several different kinds of fruit. As I watched the intense but also playful conversation between the two, Michel moved suddenly and covered herself completely with her coverlet, peeking out from beneath it in a quite childlike gesture.

As Michel described to me as she packed up after her three hour intervention, a motif of divination ran through the piece. Within the work she revealed to participants aspects of their personalities, hitherto unknown to them. Her childlike persona melded with a thousand-year old soul looked at me and said that I incarnated a steak sandwich with plenty of green peppers. With participants this revelation of their inner foodstuff led to a discussion of food and a sharing of Michel’s favorite recipes, which were consulted in a thick black binder also found in the bed.

Unfortunately, I was unable to talk with participants who experienced directly this action. Our own encounter was cut short by the preparations for the Viva party, and I am still ruminating on the knowledge that I, long past my childhood years, now embody a Philly steak sandwich.