Interview of Marcela Levi and Lucia Russo

Anne Naukkarinen interviewed Marcela Levi and Lucia Russo. In October 2017 Anne did her working practice participating in Marcela’s and Lucia’s working in Rio de Janeiro, after which she made this interview of them. Marcela’s and Lucia’s work Iron Mouth visited Side Step -festival in Zodiak – Center for New Dance in Helsinki in February 2018.


Let’s start with the easy one;)! Could you tell for us who you are? Where do you come from? And what do you do when you do something?

Marcela Levi: It is not easy to answer this question. ”I is other,” said Rimbaud. I come from Cairo, from Volta Redonda and I was born in Rio de Janeiro. When I do something, I do not know that I am doing it because I am in the event, “I” is in the act. I think of the act as repetition, insistence. To be there until the self disappears. People call me Marcela, I’m a choreographer and performer.

Lucia Russo: I was called Lucía.
I was given birth in Argentina.
I was raised in arid patagonia, between wind, chicken shit and rotten apples.

When I do something I am in something and something is in me. When I perceive the impact that your question provokes me, I realize that suddenly the question bounces on me, it resounds, and suddenly I am IN writing, I do not simply have something that I think, some hands that transcribe and some words that I see being written. The question concerns me, occupies me. The question takes me and transports me. It makes me think that when I do something I get involved as a child, I enter that something, a kind of whirlpool, until something suddenly pulls me out of there.

AN: So you work together, how did you meet each other? How is it to work together? How do you work together? Do you have specific roles for both of you in the making processes?

ML: We met while a traveling, working, in the middle of work we fell in love. We are two strong workers, passionate about reflection, words, the flesh, the routine committed to the inauguration. We work together because we are different, there is a lot of confrontation, but there is also a shared utopia, an intellectual friendship that allows us to fight side by side. The roles – papers, at the beginning, are blank. Black signs, the writing, in our case, are the experience. But experience, writing, only occurs in relation to the white paper, the void. So everything depends on the day, the moods, the horrors, the joys, the sweats and the tears of each day. One thing is certain, we work every day, or rather, the work invades us daily, this can not be lacking.

LR: We are still meeting each other… that is the most exciting thing. Is a “present continuous” let’s say. 8 years with Marcela, but it does not seem to have been with the same person. Sometimes I do not think it’s all that time, just because day to day is a day­ to­ day, every day is one, not given or taken for granted. And that demand that we have in a certain way in the work, of not entering into automatisms or inertia, we demand of ourselves: it is a work that works in relationships, in our relationship, in the places we occupy and vacate (as well as in our training we talk about empty space being my place). It is necessary (paradoxically) ”to maintain a certain instability”, a certain doubt about who is who, or what is the place that each one occupies, to work so as not to be fixed in our own clichés, to dismantle them and dis­assemble (get off the horse, not being knights but become a horse). It is demanding. It’s present (in Portuguese “presente” means at the same time “present” and “gift”). It’s di­verted.

I saw a video of Marcela’s work, and with the collective I was working with we invited her, as well and Gustavo Ciríaco and other artists to Buenos Aires, inside an exchange project called Diálogos, that I was involved between 2006 and 2009. There we started discussing and talking. And when in 2010 I went to work with Gustavo in Rio, we met again, fell in love and continued talking until today.

How is it to work together? Challenging, enhancer, animator, exciting, sometimes maddening, questioning, tight, important not to feel alone or to recover the desire when it seems that I find no sense, intense, explosive. Co­direction is roller­coaster helter­skelter!

How do we work together? Inopportunely, untimely, stumbling over each other, helping us to get up or out of a hole where we fell, messing, bumping, pushing, braking, teasing, laughing, accompanying us (thinking of the etymology of company as sharing the everyday­bread), arguing, asking, as I can ­ and sometimes as I can not, demanding, dirty­ing, embracing, talking, fighting, jumping, discordant, exceeding, restraining, infecting.

In your work the focus is in the question of the body ­ what is your relationship with the body? What is the body for you?

ML: A matter to be sensibilized, used, experienced, a field of forces, intensities, moods, a receiver, a catalyst, a matter crossed by its context. A body without vibration is a carcass. The visible body is there, but what inflates this visible body? Oh… this is our work.

LR: I could talk about parts of the body, split body, divided, never whole or indivisible. Diverted, dividual. Excessive. With tensions, articulations, associations, disagreements, contradictions and ambiguities. In relation: to each other and to the outside. Body as waves of intensities, impacts, affecting one or another part, molecularly, chemically, nervously, that vibrating leather / flesh, that sensitive and nervous material. That whatever that is contagious and contaminated when it comes into contact with others, it multiplies. It is invaded or crossed by things, by others, by intensities, by words. That continually becomes disorganized, destabilizes, overreaches, explodes. In a way, it is a medullar work (spinal cord as nervous ”medium”).

Do you have some practises or methods that you are following? Could you tell something about those?

ML: We work with a specific practice plundered from a Polish theater director. In fact, our work is made of looting and stacking of other beings. Assemble, disassemble, reassemble. Put things together temporarily. However, it is not just put together. The junction should reveal something, surprise us. This practice has a desire to break a pretended unity of the body, it is quite strong. It is required to wish to get lost, it is a kind of depersonalization that is played in this practice. It is a non guaranteed work, that pursues the dissolution of the subject and seeks the event. I believe that when something is happening, we are not spectators, we are act, we are the thing itself.

LR: The warm­up is a way of pre­disposing, of changing temperature: becoming a hunter (like a hunter of perceptions, a state of listening and attention that is sharpened and re­ active), isolating joints (un­blocking, not being a block or a whole, dissociated parts, body impacted by internal / external intensities that destabilize it). Performative practices nominally tend for example to a passage from ”I move” to a ”moved being”, to be medium and not an end in itself (part to part, fragmentarily, intensively). Decentralization and reception of the action and non­execution / control / manipulation from a central ”I”, individual: what interest is the performativity of whoever occupied by things, moved by intensities, and who in a certain way disintegrates, disappears in that process. It ”de­ personalizes” and multiplies at the same time. Blown up.

How do you work when you work? How is your weekly timetable? How do you start your working day?

ML: At Improvável, ­ name of the association created by me and Lucía in 2010, ­ we work five days a week, six hours a day in the studio. At the moment, we are five people: Tamires Costa, Icaro Gaya, Taís Almeida, Lucía Russo and me. We start walking, experiencing what we call ”becoming hunter”.

LR: I start waking up, that seems obvious but it is not easy. I choose a different cup for coffee. Look if the plants changed (if something bloomed, or died, etc). I sometimes play with my greeting to same­every­day­ people (changing the tone, inventing a nickname for someone, answering something unexpected). Sometimes I look more up or look for something new in the same­every­day­way to work. I exchange the shoulder where I carry my bag. I try to wake me up as a “life hunter” or an “extra­ordinary” seeker! And get out of inertial (bed) position (let outside forces to keep my “matters” on the move).

In studio, with all group, Thursday to Saturday, from 10 till 15.30. Researching, reading, production, talking, preparing rehearsals with Marcela (outside studio): depending on the moment, several hours per day, almost every day.

What is the relation in between the practise and the final creation?

ML: The relation is fundamental. I believe that creation is done in practice, in experience, creation is done in us and not the other way around. ”Throw the body into battle,” Pasolini said. I think that, finally, creation is the residue of practice, what survives it, what has not been digested, what remains to be done, which is still unknown. In the end, the spectacle is not a product, but a synthesis of a process, which should be activated and traversed again and again every day.

LR: What we do every day and how we do it is what makes the thing. The “piece” (as its name says) is a little apparent part of what happened in studio. But in some way, everything practiced or imagined or thought during a process operates as a substratum, and can be “sensed” although it is not shown. And all practiced, supports the performance.

You are travelling from time to time because of work. What is the relation between the art that you are making and the circumstances of the city and the country that you are living in? How does that affect the way you are working?

ML: One more time, the relation is fundamental, I do not see how it could be different. How to be unaware of what surrounds us? Are not we precisely what surrounds us? Are not we precisely what we reject from what surrounds us? Aren’t we?

LR: Within our practices there is the “becoming­hunter”. Rio is a city in which we must be attentive: not to be run over, robbed, impacted by a stray bullet. Walking alone at night in the street can be similar to the feeling of walking in the mountains or in the jungle. Walking alone in the day, in a ”wonderful” landscape, can be too. The context always affects us. The way to work, relationships with people, geography, the spaces we occupy, urbanization, traffic, the political situation, the modes of social functioning, all of it infiltrate in a certain way in our “makings”. Something about getting goosebumps, excitable, with a sharp hearing, with a certain nervous activation. Something of excess, of high intensity, of profusion, of invasion. Some of the conflict, the tensions, the possibility of an assault or attack. And at the same time, the desire and the work to stay sensitive, open and not defensive, work not to be closed on itself, protected behind bars, alarms or barbed wire. Effort to avoid entering into inertia, boredom, or obese subjectivity. To remain anachronistic, with the capacity to fascinate us, to occupy ourselves, to surprise us with the world that surrounds us. That we do not get used to it, do not normalize it, but open up questions. A work that is contaminated by candomblé and its macumbas / entities / medium­horses. Of the syncretisms. Of ”dirty” contact, side by side between the favelas and the upper­middle class neighborhoods, of that lack of space and silence, of the excess of volume, shots and music.

Could you name some artists that have had an effect on you? Or writers? Or people? Or things?

ML: Lucía Russo, Antonin Artaud, Grotowski, Nijinsky, Foucault, Hijikata, Kuniichi Uno, Maurice Blanchot, Deleuze, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Peter Pál Pelbart, Suely Rolnik, José Gil, Luchino Visconti, Pasolini, Michael Haneke, Federico Fellini, Fassbinder, Tunga, Jan Svankmajer, Bjork, Elis Regina, Sidney Magal, Roberto Carlos, Estamira, Bispo do Rosário, Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele, Nina Simone, Yórgos Lánthimos, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Cartola, Cildo Meireles, Lia Rodrigues, Vera Mantero, Josephine Baker, Valeska Gert, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Gal Costa, Lacan, André Lepecki and many, many others.

LR: I think of ”affect” more than ”effect”, some detonators, that at some point moved the floor, triggered me or threw me to another place, and to whom I return or who still accompany me: the wind, Marcela Levi, Marguerite Duras, Buenos Aires, Nathalie Sarraute, Antonin Artaud, Lucrecia Martel, Spinoza, the Patagonian steppe and the mountain range, Paul Valéry, Samuel Beckett, Jean ­Luc Nancy, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bjork, cartoons animations and fantastic stories, Georges Bataille, Laura Meradi, André Lepecki, Federico Fellini, Alejandra Pizarnik, funk, Maurice Blanchot, Laura Erber, Michel Haneke, Gustavo Ciríaco, Sade, Elias Canetti, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Federico León, Rio de Janeiro, Romina Paula, Cildo Meireles, Kuniichi Uno, Gyorgos Lanthimos, Silvio Lang, Luis Bunuel, El Periférico de Objetos, Mc Carol, Gastón Bachelard, Jan Svankmajer, El Descueve, Néstor Perlongher, Diego Gil, Rabelais/Bajtin, Macunaíma, the forest, my friends, the wine, dances and parties, and and and and all who are missing here.

What are the things that moves you? What do you desire for?

ML: to think, to feel, to talk and to do. I wish to lose myself in the midst of all these experiences.
LR: Those two last questions, = leave them to be found in between lines of the others!

Questions by Anne Naukkarinen
Answers by Marcela Levi & Lucia Russo

Photo: Elisa Mendes