Maria Metsalu, Mademoiselle x, 2017-2019. Performance as part of Digital Gothic, CAC-La synagogue de Delme, 2019. Photo: O.H. Dancy.

Maria Metsalu (1990) is a performance artist who uses her body to explore contemporary issues, and often employs sexually loaded means of expression. Her work looks at the possibilities for self-mythologisation in the age of the internet, and the role of humans in the contemporary world from a wider perspective.

In her series of performances “Fuchsia”, Metsalu focused on the virtual as a way of seeing the contemporary environment and on the tension between abject embodiment and flawless hi-tech. The video series “Fuchsia 3” was exhibited among others at the online gallery Konstanet (2016) and at Tallinn City Gallery at “Wave on parquet”, curated by Tamara Luuk (2017, together with Peeter Ulas and Villu Jaanisoo). “Fuchsia” was also performed at Manifesta 11 in Zürich (2016), and NU Performance Festival in Tallinn (curated by Maria Arusoo, 2016).

Metsalu’s piece “Svakom” (2016) looked at personal identity and its manifestations in the virtual world. The artist highlighted the subjectivity of a young woman online, using her own body: how much can a woman decide for herself how she is viewed by others online. Metsalu later developed the work in the medium of video.

One of her most notable solo projects is “Mademoiselle X” (premiered in October 2017 at Kanuti Gildi SAAL), which was also exhibited in Art in General in New York as part of a show curated by Maria Arusoo. “Mademoiselle X” tells a story of the semi-fictional Mademoiselle X, who believes she is dead. With this, Metsalu evokes a zombified society. In the work she used elements of feminist discourse like the female body, violence, blood, references associating witchcraft and the devil with women.

Metsalu is one of the founding members of the performance group Young Boy Dancing Group (YBDG). YBDG’s work shifts borders of performance and visual art, carries a post-apocalyptic DIY-aesthetic, refers to fetish culture, and shows the modification of the human body through physical effort.

Maria Metsalu is a graduate of the School of New Dance Development (SNDO) in Amsterdam (2016). She has exhibited in Tallinn City Gallery (2016) and Art in General in New York (2018). Metsalu has performed at Manifesta 11 (2016), Kunstraum London (2017), Kanuti Gildi SAAL (2018) and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (2018). With YBDG she has performed at various events all over the world, including during their “Euro tour” in Europe (2017), at Baltic Triennial 13 “Give up the ghost” in Tallinn (2018), at Athens Biennale (2018), and during their “Anxiety tour” in Chile, Argentina and Brazil (2019).

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Selected projects

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