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Alexandra MarzellaPetra Collins

Petra Collins selects Alexandra Marzella

Why selfies are love and narcissism and art were made for each other according to the performance artist

As part of our new digitally-led US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. It only seemed right to hit up New York's art 'it girl' Petra Collins for an insider take on US creativity right now. In this five-part series, Petra Selects, the prolific photographer shoots and interviews her favourite underground creatives set to steal the scene stateside.

You might have spotted Alexandra Marzella (AKA Rosey Diamond/artwerk6666) in the steamy new Mario Sorrenti-shot CK One video that surfaced last week, starring alongside Kelela, Evian Christ and Dev Hynes. But Marzella is no stranger to getting in front of the camera, the performance artist who recently graduated from RISD and is a part of the DisCrit 89Plus gang, creates tongue-in-cheek dance videos for the selfie generation, stressing "This is not a joke. This is very serious". Her love of cheerleading and dance are central to her art: "I was pretty active as a child but dance and cheerleading really solidified my relationship with my body. Health is pretty much everything. My potential is out of control". Here she tells us why selfies are such a crucial artform and why we all need a little narcissism in our art.

Fashion plays a huge role in your output, including in your thesis collection in 2012. How do you see fashion’s role, outside the commercial realm? What else can it stand for?

Alexandra Marzella: Ornamentation is lovely, the capitalism behind the industry is unfortunate. 

Performance artists who feature themselves in their work are often leveled with accusations of narcissism – at least, any of my friends who work in similar ways to you have done, even by their own art tutors. What is the positive nature of narcissism in art?

Alexandra Marzella: I think you have to be somewhat narcissistic to make art in the first place, there's nothing wrong with loving yourself, everyone should.

You’ve said that you believe in the “selfie” as an artistic medium. Why? What role do “selfies” play in your work?

Alexandra Marzella: Selfies are love, everyone should take more selfies. Promoting a positive self image is a good thing, ideally it's somewhat realistic, but in general I think being able to confidently share our images with one another is important. 

Dance as performance art reached the masses recently with Sia’s video for Chandelier, starring “Dance Moms” star Maddie Ziegler – plus a performance on Ellen. What were your thoughts on that? Does it still count as performance art if it’s on daytime television, or is the YouTube space special?

Alexandra Marzella: I mean that video is amazing, the song is wonderful and Maddie is insane. I feel like dance has been a part of performance art for a long time. I'm one of those people who will argue that anything is art, so yeah, it's all performance art.

What’s next for you – do you have any collaborations coming up? Or is the nature of your work – concentrating as it does on the self – necessarily solo?

Alexandra Marzella: I'm always working with friends – little things, here and there, often constantly. But i've been doing a lot of prepping and I have a way to go but I want to really concentrate on my work and a consistent studio practice which I have yet to do since school.