marcela levi


Katja Praznik
Obscena Magazine
March 2008

Women addressing the object
Massa de Sentidos and In-Organic by Marcela Levi

The two dance performances Massa de sentidos and In-organic by Brazilian artist Marcela Levi that were part of the program of this year's festival Complicitats in Barcelona can be as all more complex performances approached in many different ways. I'm going to approach them as female spectator and participant of the festival in order to address the issue of how the performances of Levi are bound to articulate the innate coherence of mind and body or to put it with the words of Elizabeth Grosz how "bodies and minds are not two distinct substances or two kinds of attributes of a single substance but somewhere in between these two alternatives." In order to invert the usual hierarchy of body and mind and the long history of somatophobia Grosz is using a model of Möbius strip when rethinking the notion of body/mind in relation to subjectivity and corporeality to show "the inflection of mind into body and body into mind, the ways in which, through a kind of twisting or inversion, one side becomes another" and "the torsion of the one into the other, the passage, vector, or uncontrollable drift of the inside into the outside and the outside in the inside."
These are also the issues that Levi is explicitly approaching in both performances Massa de sentidos and In-organic.

In Massa de sentidos, she is using a very specific reference to conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp's Object Dard, in which Duchamp used the paste that dentist use to make false teeth to make a mould of his wife. Levi therefore takes not the actual paste but bread dough colored in red (that opens another level of meanings in the filed of masculine - feminine stereotypes) as the dialogue partner in the performance where all the materials, objects as well as the artist corporeality are taken as equal partners in the production of a sensorial, physical images. Besides the objects she is using the wall projection that shows in the bird's-eye perspective what Levi is performing in the square area on the stage floor. With the use of this element the spectator is confronted with the above-mentioned intriguing ambivalence or passage of the inside outside, the screen representing the visual outside and the body in the square presenting the corporeal emotional inside. The notions of inside and outside thus present two crucial components that are interchanging through various elements in the performance, producing images that we encounter not only with our gaze but also with the emotional, physical experience. The torsion of the inside and outside, body and mind, visual and corporeal is complexly intertwined and multileyered as the matryoshka dolls that present a material metaphor in Levi's piece.

Even though on the first glance Massa de sentidos appears as a very formal and visual performance, because of the very considered use and structuring of visual elements/objects in connection to the calm and precise body movement, producing kind of bodily tableaux, a range of socially determined elements are evolving throughout the images that pertain to the female imagery. Combining the conceptual field of inside and outside with notions of female body Levi opens up embodied experience of corporeal subjectivity that is not unified but in the process of constant becoming, reshaping and change. This idea is embedded also in the form of the piece itself as it has a sort of cyclic touch that could be done over and over again.

A similar tendency is visible also in In-organic, where very specific objects connected to Brazilian social condition are used, again in the dialog with the body. This time we are dealing with pearl necklace, embalmed head of an ox, bicycle rear light and hair clips that function as a stain or noise that enters the female body. The stain/noise of social and political issues of everyday life produces a different kind of body as in Massa de sentidos. In In-organic what we deal with is a body not in process of becoming but a body tied down with constraints, social rituals and conventions, a body that is contradicted by the inside and outside in a hierarchical, imposed manner. This is no longer a fruitful or constructive forming of ambiguous relations with corporeality that functions productively, but an open question that through the performer's body and its relation to the objects shows how the social completion of the human body is often completely unreflected and therefore highly problematic.