Replica, Jonah Bokaer, NYC

Written by:
Michael Wade Simpson
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Jonah Bokaer, Daniel Arsham and Judith Sánchez Ruíz
The New Museum
New York, New York
December 10, 2009

Photo: Michael Hart

Space is ripe with drama in Jonah Bokaer’s Replica, recently presented as part of the RE: NEW RE: PLAY residency series at the New Museum in New York. Replica examines duality, the power of two, suggesting the mythic tension of the opposites. Coupling and uncoupling, joining and parting, edges between bodies, surfaces, and projected images appear and fuse, creating generative new forms. With space comes time, and there’s that too, in an evocation of memory, the pull of the past and the push of the future.

In Replica, choreographer and media artist Bokaer collaborates with visual artist Daniel Arsham, choreographer and performer Judith Sánchez Ruíz, composer ARP/Alexis Georgopoulos and video editor Nicoletta Massignani.

Replica features a white cube-like structure with visible fissures designed by Arsham, who also performs in the piece. A fractured, angled set of white walls sets up a tension that becomes a central thread throughout. Bokaer is joined by Ruíz  in another potent pairing. To say they finish each other’s movement sentences would be an understatement; their duet passages speak to a call and response rhythm—a bodily listening that brings with it an uncanny intimacy. What makes this pairing so curious is that it straddles a fine line between a sensual and functional union. They seem to be answering each other’s kinetic questions with an earthbound chemistry. Both move with a refined quality of efficiency and understated elegance. Ruíz, stunning in her solo sections, assumes the role of Bokaer’s double and a separate presence. She plays with the lightness of a curve amidst a sea of lines in these luminous passages. Bokaer, also a marvel to watch, dances with an accuracy that doesn’t disturb an extra space molecule. He’s like one of those Olympic divers who enters the water with the least amount of splash.

Visually, the piece offers much for the viewer to decipher, from Rorschach projections to intricate partnering, to the dismantling of space itself. Bokaer possesses an eye for scale, carefully considering the larger container of the work. Visual ideas are so well framed that a delicate intimacy develops as the piece builds to its final resolution. As with most of Bokaer’s work, seamless transitions between film and live performance render a completeness rare for media-based work. For a piece so full of action and image, it’s surprisingly uncluttered.

 In Replica’s lighter moments, Arsham dislodges the cracks in his structure, dropping chunks of wall and creating a cavernous hole in his cube. The wall scraps, possibly  pointing to our fondness for making memory concrete, lie strewn on the floor. True, the past is a crumbling thing. The hole beckons, like a vortex, eventually luring Bokaer and Ruíz through its tempting portal.

Nancy Wozny

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