marcela levi


Katharina Koschorreck
The international artist database

A Matter of Perception

The dancer and choreographer Marcela Levi, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1973, completed her study of contemporary dance at the Angel Vianna School of Dance in 1996. For eight years she was a creative member of the company of the Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodriguez before beginning to develop experimental performances of her own as a cross between dance and visual art in 2002. This has led her to work with visual artists, photographers and other choreographers. Levi claims to use her body as 'spatial and working material', and her works are about identity (mostly female). She explores the body and its role in culture and ideology 'and creates relationships with viewers perspectives'. Thus in her performances, she finds room for transformation and multiple meanings.

Her first solo work, Imagem (2002), was created jointly with the photographer Claudia Garcia and begins as a game. Marcela Levi comes onstage wearing a top and blue shorts then takes them off and tries other possibilities out. Sometimes her shorts become her shirt, and her top covers her bottom. Sometime she is clothed fully, sometimes partly, sometimes not at all. This enables her, without much ado, to create memorable images about gender, femininity, identity, sexuality and beauty. Her body is both the medium and the message. The borderlines between certain notions seem to blur and others to harden. The female body is freed from the banal ideals of the fashion-industry and playfully revises viewers' perceptions.

Her performance Massa de Sentidos, (A Matter of Perception, 2004) was inspired by a work made by Marcel Duchamp in the year 1951. With the help of paste used by dentists in making synthetic teeth, Duchamp made a mould of his wife. He called the positive form Object Dard. By means of this object, according to Marcela Levi, Duchamp created relationships between inside and outside, hollowness and fullness - qualities which she likewise wished to explore in Massa de Sentidos. In her performance she reflects on femininity with the help of symbolic attributes like dough coloured red and matroshkas (a set of Russian dolls made of wood and encased one within the other). Thus the female attributes seem in various ways to become part of the female body, which - in the course of a thoughtful, leisurely performance - becomes merely an object too. The ambiguity of inside and outside also appears in the manner of presentation: A camera films Levi during the performance on the rectangular top of the stage and transfers the images from a birds-eye point of view onto a screen on a wall. Viewers are thus faced with the ambivalence between inner and outer. The screen shows the visible and outer, and the body in the limited space shows the emotional and inner. Inner and outer, body and soul, are thus shown as interwoven, multi-layered and to some extent interchangeable.

In 2007 Levi performed In-organic, which she had developed as the artist in residence at the Récollets n Paris. In it a 25 meter-long pearl necklace, an embalmed ox-head, hairclips, a dress and a bicycle's rear light were brought into relationship with her body. Onstage she ironically showed the war of the sexes. The performance refers to Brazilian society with a ritual in which cowboys lassoo the women they fancy: "He likes it, she likes it, and that's how it is". The performance shows a body roped by social rituals and embalmed in conventions: "In-organic offers reflections, research and practical experiments, beginning with a body (of a woman) which is aware of its weight or rather of its place or non-place or its place of transit... I use things (materials) as reasons for motion. What I look for in this meeting is a body (the woman) and an object or rather a "subjeto" (a word evoking in portuguese a play on words)... The "subjeto" may be an everyday personal possession displaced, de-functionalized and subjectified. I look for overlapping, for layers and shifts of associations conjuring other meanings (directions and significations) up." (Cited from M. Levi, source: