Performance by Marília Soares
Text and translation by Danielle Cascaes
On November 29, 2022, Marília Soares performed a piece called “The Mark” as a result of the Performance course taught by Prof. Dr. Karine Jansen at Escola de Teatro e Dança da UFPA (School of Theater and Dance of UFPA)/ ETDUFPA. Inspired by the works of Marina Abramovic, a globally renowned figure in the field of performance art, Soares embarked on a deeply personal artistic exploration. Her motivation stemmed from the need to express her feelings regarding traumatic experiences, endured violence, and feelings of abandonment.
The creative process of “The Mark” posed a significant challenge for Soares, and she shared her reflections: “One of the biggest challenges for me was overcoming my aversion to being in the spotlight. However, I desired to transcend my own boundaries,” she confided. Finally, the artist acknowledged that exposing her naked body was a monumental challenge, not only due to her shy nature but also because of the social barriers surrounding nudity. With this understanding, she embarked on a meticulous research that culminated in three pre-performative acts:
In the first phase, which unfolded over three days, Soares wore revealing clothing in all environments, including her home, the streets, and at the university. In the second phase, she gradually undressed, exposing parts of her torso and hips that are typically concealed. The third act involved Soares undressing completely in front of family members and some close friends. She shared that her family had difficulty accepting her partial and complete nudity at home, without fully understanding the purpose. Nevertheless, Soares persisted. Both the creative process and the subsequent performance can be characterized as self-assertive (Schechner cited in JANSEN, 2004), as the artist reaffirmed values about herself during the research and in the final outcome.
These three stages were crucial for her to define her final vision for the public performance that would take place at ETDUFPA on November 29, 2022. On the day of the performance, Soares entered ETDUFPA’s back bathroom, the chosen location for her performative act. The performance began inside the restroom, where the artist undressed in front of her friends and handed them tubes of paint to write painful words on her body. Subsequently, Soares exited the restroom and positioned herself in the hallway between the female and male bathrooms, entirely naked, her body marked with words like “WHORE” and “DIRTY,” as well as handprints on her breasts and other parts of her body.
Pedestrians who tried to access the bathrooms encountered the artist standing still in the hallway, vulnerable to the gazes and judgments of those present. A sign behind her displayed the phrase: “LIVING LEAVES US SCARS, MARKS THAT WILL NEVER FADE. What marks you?” leading the onlookers to a blank notebook with a pen. Those observing the performance could, if they wished, write about a mark they had, sharing pains and joys with the artist. Soares transformed the bathroom space into an integral component of her performative act, following one of the characteristics systematized by Schechner, called “Special Places,” in which the space is appropriated and transformed by the performance (Schechner apud JANSEN, 2004).
Soares’ work can be understood, according to Carlson (2010), as a “Performance of Resistance,” primarily based on autobiographical experiences and often dedicated to giving voice to individuals or groups who were previously silenced. Carlson notes that the performance of resistance is an artistic practice predominantly adopted by women and LGBTQIA+ people as a way to express their experiences and concerns.
Soares reports hesitating before leaving the bathroom, fearful of exposing herself so rawly to people she was not intimate with. However, her friends and classmates encouraged her to go ahead. She also faced challenges related to concentration, as she was so nervous that she felt like laughing. The biggest shock came when she was confronted with the surprising number of people present to witness the performance, a situation she did not expect.
I thought there wouldn’t be many people, especially because of the location, which is not very busy. But many people showed up, and it made me feel desperate inside. However, I remained steadfast in my position. After about half an hour into the performance, I wanted to give up due to exhaustion and knee pain, but after reading the shared accounts, I felt that every minute standing naked was worth it. I needed to express what I was feeling, not just for myself, but for so many others. (SOARES, 2022)
Marília Soares’s performance, “The Mark,” was a courageous and impactful act of self-expression, resistance, and questioning the social norms surrounding the naked body. Her artistic exploration challenged taboos and prompted deep reflections on the meaning of marks and scars in her own life and in the lives of others. The artist reported having very deep marks that she still can’t talk about. The performance in question was a way to try to free herself from personal ties, from issues that, even today, she is not ready to talk about. But the performative act alone silently screams and purges everything she is not yet capable of saying.
CARLSON, Marvin. Performance, uma introdução crítica. Belo Horizonte: UFMG, 2010.
JANSEN, Karine. Belém Apaixonada: a construção do corpo devoto nos processos performáticos das Paixões de Cristo em Belém do Pará. 2004. Dissertação (Mestrado em Artes Cênicas) – Programa de Pós-Graduação em Artes Cênicas, UFBA, 2004.
SCHECHNER, Richard. Public domain: Essays on the theatre. Indianópolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1968.
SOARES, Marília. Relatório para a disciplina Performance. Não publicado. 2022.