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Boston Globe, January 19, 2011
Shock and Raw
By Cate McQuaid
"The video installation artist Denise Marika’s gorgeous new piece “Effaced 1,’’ at Howard Yezerski Gallery, is hypnotic yet jarring. Marika repeats gestures, which makes them ritualistic and opens them to deeper meaning. There’s a suggestion of violence and frantic loss underlying certain passages in the nearly 20-minute work, yet the ritualistic quality and the sheer beauty transform what might be disturbing into a work that is both elegiac and mystical.
Marika, a Boston-area artist who exhibits internationally, has shifted her focus in recent years. There’s always been an element of violence and physical endurance in her videos; as the central performer in earlier pieces, she has used her body as a metaphor for human suffering and fortitude. Lately, her installations have questioned how individuals respond to violence and prodded viewers to be witnesses to loss, rather than passive consumers of her imagery. Often it is audio that drives “Effaced 1,’’ which features four distinct segments. In the first, we look down into a metal bucket as clothes are dunked and dyed. The water is inky blue. The clothes slosh. The water splashes and reflects light; when it’s spilled on the ground, the puddle mirrors the blue sky. In the next scene, water laps in a shallow pool along the shore. Gleams of light ripple over it and coalesce into text, barely legible. I made out “people fled.’’ Then we see a body, wrapped in an orange shroud, being roughly kicked along the sand and into the water; we have moved from dunking clothes to drowning someone. From there, we’re in the desert. We hear the thump and rush of footsteps in the sand; they seem to moan. The visual is grainy, speeding about, what someone barely conscious might perceive. In the final passage, several people scramble and search in a thicket. They’re dressed in white, and they move in slow motion. Sprays of colored powder explode and splatter over their clothes. They look like a single organism, clutching at the soil, digging and scratching for something they never find. Alternately lulling and shocking, “Effaced 1’’ effectively draws urgency out into the eerie stasis it takes on following a trauma...."