Denise Marika, "Effaced 1"
Denise Marika's latest work contains 100% less Marika flexing her naked body, an image that had once been the photographer/video artist’s hallmark. “Detritus” (2005) superimposed her exposed and writhing body over a video of a building being torn down, and “Hanging” (2002) depicted her nude torso suspended in the air over a blank background.
But in the aptly titled “Effaced 1,” a new installation at the Howard Yezerski Gallery, she doesn’t appear at all—save for one scene in which she portays a corpse being rolled into a river. Her passion has now shifted from ideas created in the studio to the larger struggles of cultures the world over.
“I’m not interested in fine arts for fine arts’ sake anymore,” Marika says. “I feel like that’s not enough.”
“Effaced 1” strings together a series of unique events, each with their own narrative arc and a hypnotic soundtrack taken directly from sounds recorded at the scene. The opening shows a wash-bucket filled with either dye or dirt in which clothes are constantly being taken out and replaced, the level of water continuing to rise all around. Another vignette depicts feet walking on sand while what sounds like muffled, moaning voices can be heard.
She’s hoping her efforts might help some people to better their lives, but this is of course a tall order. Though extremely engaging, her films are decidedly abstract when it comes to conveying a specific message. For example, “Conversations,” a short piece shot in Cambodia, features a rich soundtrack of throat singing and robot voices.
The final and longest sequence involves slow-motion cuts of a group of white-clad youths running around frantically picking up sticks as colorful clouds waft in from both sides of the frame. After a while the images become superimposed and doubled, giving the impression of a moving painting or kaleidoscope.
“That part was inspired by a ceremony in India based on a myth in which people cover each other with pigment,” Marika explains.
When filming it, she had to get the figures to move extremely fast in order to have the right look in slow motion. In order to get real reactions, she didn’t tell the participants in advance that they were going to be pelted with paint and rain and so on. Talk about getting caught up in art.
“The only instruction they got was that they are supposed to be searching for something desperately because time is crucial,” says Marika. “It echoes the images we’ve seen of people digging through the rubble in Haiti, or at the site of any kind of disaster.”
After this showing, Marika plans to take a seven-month trip to show her work internationally. It’s not the full Marika monty, but the artist is still very much about exposing herself to the world.
“Effaced 1” runs from Jan. 7–Feb. 8 at the Howard Yezerski Gallery. Check out more of Marika's work at denisemarika.com.