Dana Levy

ISR (1973). Lives and works in New York.


The Wake, 2011 Video, color, sound, 5’3’’

The Wake was recorded in the dark halls of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, a mysterious place where light from the fluorescents on the ceiling is reflected on the nineteenth century displays. It unavoidably alludes to Gothic tales of horror. The camera pivots left and right, recording the wooden cabinets and revealing rows upon rows of drawers filled with butterflies pieced with stickpins and organized by species, a collector’s obsession that goes back to the seventeenth century. The slow panoramic of long dead insects soon discovers a drawer where the butterflies are breathing with renewed vigor. They bat their wings little by little, as if awaking from a centuries- old sleep, and proceed to take flight and fly down the hall. The enormously theatrical fantasy gives us the impression of it being normal; the combination of the real and the supernatural elicits infinite associations.

Levy attempts to deconstruct the manner in which communication media simplifies and decontextualizes the desire for freedom, specifically through the use of images of
war, immigration, and displacement, topics charged with questions about life and death, history and memory. In approaching her subjects with delicacy, Levy eulogizes them unconditionally, demonstrating that in today’s visual culture there are ways of narrating and communicating happenings that go beyond the press media.