Allison M. Keating is a visual and performance artist operating in an expanded post-theatrical space, experimenting with all the possible mutations and recombinations of experience, technology, installation, live and immersive happenings, curatorial collaboration and anonymous interiority that she and her cohorts in Wild Art Group can imagine. Currently, she’s crowdsourcing a theatrical work called The WorstBest Day of My Life, producing conceptual outdoorsy podcasts, the occasional puppet show and a new online performative work, Performing an Actor, which follows the absurdist faux-glam fame-chasing adventures of ambitious super-cis ingenue Stella deLongpre. Keating and deLongpre’s Instagram bios are “Fierce actress making her move,” and “A contemporary artist who likes to get away from it all.” Which is really which, we wonder?
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ALLISON M. KEATING: When I performed Rumplestiltskin in our backyard with a bunch of other neighborhood kids and brought down the house. As a teenager I was too scared to become an actor, so I became a set designer first, and then a theater director. But the theater world has always been a little too traditional for my taste, so I tend toward performances that more easily exist in a visual art context.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I have recently started using the term multidisciplinary to describe my body of work, because I choose the artworks form based on what will best illuminate the subject matter for the audience. I mainly choose performance as my medium because of its heavy emotive power and sense of danger. I have created (in order of scale) podcasts, art books, videos, archival artworks, performances which exist entirely online, performance art, visual art exhibitions, and large-scale experimental theatrical productions.
[Especially now] during this mass COVID-19 quarantine, I might suggest taking a look at my Hiking Podcast, which I made with an amazing experimental music collaborator, Justin Asher. It’s a magical, meandering hike through Joshua Tree National Park. You can find it on iTunes or at our website wildartgroup.org. We will be releasing a new series, Hiking Podcast — Channel Islands National Park, in a few weeks too.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Twice I tried to not be an artist. Both were massive failures, so I don’t think I can do anything else… Once I was a whitewater rafting instructor. That was pretty fun.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I was in New York City for 10 years. I thought I was just going to take a three-year California sojourn, get my MFA from CalArts, and return to the NYC downtown theater scene. Unexpectedly, I met so many amazing collaborators at CalArts I just couldn’t leave them behind. I formed a performance company called Wild Art Group in 2015, am now part of a co-working performance space called Thymele Arts in East Hollywood, and can’t imagine moving back to New York City. I also love to hike. L.A. lends itself to an outdoorsy lifestyle while still being plugged into the contemporary art world. That doesn’t exist in New York.
When was your first show?
I started out my career as a set designer and company member of 3-Legged Dog Media & Theater Group in New York City. We were creating plays with 23 projectors in the air and experimenting with holographic video screens in the early 2000’s. The company produced my first play Rods & Cables when I was 26, which I wrote and directed. The best day of my life was when I heard actors read my text aloud for the first time. After that I realized I couldn’t be a set designer anymore for who at the time were mostly male directors. I had to use my own voice and create my own art as a woman.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I just launched a new trans-media performance this month. It’s called Performing an Actor. This is my second durational performance (a year-ish in length) where I blur the distinction between a crafted identity and my real identity. I am currently living a parallel life as Stella de Longpre, an aspiring actress with fame as a sole motivation. Stella just moved from New York to L.A. and the audience can follow her narrative online through social media @StelladeLongpre. Right now she just has an Instagram account, but soon she will have a Facebook page, live stream on Twitch, and the audience will be able to Snapchat with her. She will attend acting classes, try to get an agent, audition, all of which will be disseminated through various online platforms.
With this project I’m interrogating our culture of anti-authentic crafted personalities, the power of femininity in a male-dominated industry, fantasy and narcissism, and perhaps most relevantly looking at how we perform our genders on social media. Stella as a character is created along the guidelines of what will make her famous; heterosexual, feminine, interested in beauty, exploiting predictable markers of femininity, appealing to the male gaze and dominant culture. I am bisexual, gender-non-conforming, and masculine in aesthetics. It’s going to be a real challenge to pretend to be straight again, like I had to when I was younger. By following both Stella and myself online, the audience will be able to see how I question my sense of self by asking what makes my actions “real” versus “crafted” while I perform Stella.
Website and social media handles, please!