Alexandra Marzella is an exhibitionist in the purist form – zits, bodily fluids, and armpit hair are all on full display. She is also beautiful, but eschews many of the expectations that society has for women: she rarely wears makeup, her eyebrows are unkempt and her selfies are the opposite of the countless duck face tragedies that bombard most social media feeds. Basically, she lets her freak flag fly and doesn’t give a fuck what you think. I first saw her perform at the Standard Hotel Miami back in December – in a little poolside bungalow – as part of an exhibition by Petra Collins presented by nightlife impresario André Saraiva. In a small, cramped room she writhed as she stripped naked, while getting water poured on her from friend, collaborator, and fellow artist India Menuez – Wet’s “Don’t Want to Be Your Girl” played in the background. It was exciting, erotic, strange and captivating – Marzella was not only stripping off her clothes, she was also stripping off parts of her soul and the audience was too close not to get splashed, which felt intrusive, but also incredibly viscerally engaging. It’s almost like Marzella has created a new form of art out of stripping. Indeed, Marzella, who is based in New York, is part of a new wave of young female artists that are using their youth, bodies, and femininity to say fuck you to the jock rapist culture that dominates the culture. Whatever she is doing, she should keep doing it. In the following text interview Marzella talks about her initial inclination to shun art, her time as a cheerleader and her take on nudity in performance art.
OLIVER KUPPER: I actually saw your performance at the Standard in Miami back in December, can you tell me a little bit about that performance...is it hard to prepare for such an intimate performance?
ALEXANDRA MARZELLA: It’s hard to prepare mainly because performance is so open ended and all-inclusive. That performance was my first solo piece and it was very much themed around Petra’s show and the concept of women not needing men.
OK: I read somewhere that you met Petra via Instagram…is that how everyone meets these days?
AM: It feels that way sometimes. I’ve made a lot of friends via social media. To be honest I don’t know exactly how I met her. It was inevitable I suppose. I think I might have met her at Capricious Gallery one night. But then we did a CK one campaign with Michael Bailey-Gates and got to know each other a lot better.
OK: How did your performing career start?
AM: It’s really just beginning now I feel.
OK: You were originally going to become a fashion designer, right...is there anything specific that is pushing you in the direction of performance?
AM: I didn’t want to be an artist on principal for a long time. I don’t know what I was thinking because now it’s all I can see myself doing. Performance is all encompassing, I want to do everything, and therefore it’s perfect. It’s terrifying and fun and has serious potential to move people.
OK: Why do you think you shunned art?
AM: I know I shunned it because my immediate family all did it. I wasn’t well educated enough and I didn’t realize there was as many life options as there always has been and always will be. I thought I’d study something that would solidify a career and future like I was told to do my entire life.
OK: Who are some of your biggest influences?
AM: No one. Peers maybe. Vaguely other art.
OK: How much of your performances are choreographed and how much is improvised?
AM: I’ve only done 4 performances so far that I can call my own or legitimate collaborations. There is almost always a mixture of choreo and improv. I’m a perfectionist in my own weird way so I tend to lean on choreography, maybe a bit too much. I was a cheerleader for six years so that might also have something to do with it.
OK: Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals?
AM: Lots of self doubting. I’m always asking people around me if it’s good enough if I should even go on etc. If there is choreography, running through that, and if there are other performers involved also running over details with them up until show time.
OK: Nudity is a big part of your performances...is nudity a medium or a means?
AM: I don’t really think of it as being naked or nude. I think about it as being human. It can be the medium, the means or both. Today people associate nudity with vulnerability, being human with vulnerability. But that wouldn’t be the case if everyone presented themselves in their most natural state more often. The last two performances I’ve done had no nudity, but also no hair, makeup or lights. I’m all about ornamentation but there’s something special to me about bare bones and still evoking emotion in an audience. Like if I can impress any single audience member using no costumes or props whatsoever that is an accomplishment.
OK: Okay, last question, what’s next?
AM: I hope a lot of things are next! I’m trying to do more acting, there’s something very romantic about it and I’m a sucker for romance. I’ve been doing photography for about a year or so now and I’m always trying to get better at that. I need to whip together a performance for an event taking place at Faith Holland’s solo show at Transfer Gallery curated by Giovanna Olmos this Friday. Maybe make some music this summer with a friend of mine from Snapchat. He’s always trying to get me to come to his studio, but I’ve been very slow at taking advantage of that. Let’s just say a lot.
You can catch Alexandra Marzella perform this weekend at Not Fleshy Enough at Transfer Gallery, as part of artist Faith Holland's first solo exhibition, Technophilia, along with other three other "digital-minded female performers" Shireen Ahmed, Monica Mirabile, and Giovanna Olmos (1030 Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn, NY). Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE