She is alone.
performance lecture with participation
She is alone stems from the series Ruins of Achelach, a body of research, performance, and artifact mined from rational and irrational sources scanning the history of Jewish Poland and immigrant life in NY to serve as a growing, living document of women from oblivion.
A chance trip for Michelle Levy near the Czech border of Poland sparked a vivid déjà vu related to her grandmother. Since then, a seemingly invisible hand has led Michelle on a path of genealogical inquiry, back and forth across the ocean, memory, time, and the internet, investigating the limits of what can be uncovered from spaces left unavailable to us. Her latest, most stirring discovery—the survival testimony of a cousin who intrepidly navigated around the holocaust at the age Michelle is now. No other record of this woman exists beyond this testimony, archived in Krakow at the end the war. The introductory notation written by a third party in the upper margin begins, “She is alone…”
Michelle had been looking for something else when her unknown cousin’s story found her, powerfully demonstrating that history does not rest and the past continues to uproot itself.There is urgency to share and learn from this predecessor, yet such disclosure is a sensitive practice—much of her story remains illegible and omitted through layers of interpretation, as its passed from one translator to the next.
Who was this woman?
She is alone is possible thanks to the Jewish Historical Institute (Warsaw), Asylum Arts + POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews (Warsaw), Patrycja Dołowy, Bartek Remisko, Elisabeth Smolarz, and Michelle Levy’s grandma, Rae.
A theatrical presentation of Michelle Levy’s Ruins of Achelach was developed with and directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde, presented by Dixon Place in October 2016, and by Theaterlab in January 2017 (New York City). An earlier iteration, Before Poland (Achelachl) was included in Theaterlab’s Solo Sunday Festival in August 2016.
Michelle Levy is an interdisciplinary artist and storyteller using performance, images, storytelling and collective ritual to investigate the mediated space between reality and fiction where identity is constructed. Her subjects, explored in art and life, exist out of place and time, mined from nostalgia, loss, cultural fragments, hope, and a little bit of magic. Levy has performed at venues including Dixon Place, Flux Factory, Glasshouse Gallery, Gowanus Studio Space, Littlefield, Magnet Theater, Pete’s Candy Store, Secret Project Robot, Spectacle Theater, and Theaterlab in New York City, and Machine Project in Los Angeles. She received a BA in Studio Art from Wesleyan University, Connecticut, and an MFA in Digital and Interdisciplinary Art from The City College of New York. She has studied contemporary drama at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and improv comedy and storytelling at Magnet Theater, New York. Honors include a CCNY Connor Travel Scholarship to study in London, support from the Czech Consulate for a curatorial research residency at MeetFactory in Prague, and recent participation in the Asylum Arts/POLIN Museum Poland Retreat for Jewish Artists in Warsaw. Since 2008, Levy has been the creator and Program Director of EFA Project Space, a contemporary art venue that is part of The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA) in Manhattan, where she also founded the SHIFT Residency for artist/arts-workers.