This month, Auto Italia’s Marianne Forrest talks to Michael Clark Company about discovering the work of Michael Clark and his longterm collaborator Leigh Bowery:
Until I was 24, my main experience of Michael Clark Company was through obsessively watching YouTube videos. I’d been through a phase when doing my art AS Level of trying to copy Cindy Sherman pictures I’d found in a library book; making sped up videos of me applying makeup, becoming a sad clown. Soon after this I found out about Leigh Bowery and my neatly packaged 16-year-old self’s ideas about what performance and drag might be went out the window.
I think I discovered Michael Clark Company through watching a clip from a 1988 episode of The Clothes Show. After parading through a restaurant in front of bemused diners, Leigh Bowery dressed in a floral gown with jewels, a train and full fabric face covering sits down with Caryn Franklin who asks what he would wear for a special occasion. Bowery replies that actually he does wear the outfit for a very special occasion: Michael Clark’s current show at Sadler’s Wells. From then on I was hooked “ watching clips from Because We Must, Hail the New Puritan, The Fall and Michael Clark performing, and any fan-made montages I could find.
In 2012 I finally got to see Michael Clark Company perform live for the first time at the Barbican. After years of piecing together my own fangirl interpretation of the work seeing a live performance was incredible and oddly nostalgic. Exploring Michael Clark’s work as a teenager in Yorkshire gave me access to a whole new narrative of what art could be and what collaborative production can enable, and remains for me both a huge inspiration and a reminder to break rules.
Marianne Forrest is Co-Director of artist-led project Auto Italia.