Artforum International, October 1992

Denise Marika/
Akin Gallery


Denise Marika’s installation, consisting of three site-specific sculptures, used photographic and video projection to transform the gallery space into an interactive multimedia arena, juxtaposing and counterbalancing advanced technology with mundane physical reality. Electronic video images were projected onto sculptural materials and pieces to create multidimensional works. In familiar but highly lyrical images, “Projections,” 1992, explored the human struggle with identity and autonomy in an increasingly desensitized voyeuristic culture.
“Projections,” like her previous work, brought intimate human activity and personal ritual to the forefront through a creative blending of image and sound. Using video and photographic portraits of her own nude body and those of her two young children, Marika explored various psychological states. The resulting “video sculptures” dramatically and very palpably invoked a range of contradictory emotions: struggle and ease, aggression and vulnerability.
Hang, (all works 1992) the most ambitious and visceral of the three pieces, featured a video image of the artist’s nude torso, projected onto a raw hide hanging from an aluminum bar. While the audience was invited to use the other eight bars like trapezes, the central image of a taut, androgynous-looking nude, hanging and dropping down from the trapeze, was accompanied by various recordings of Marika’s labored breathing. A continuous 30-minute tape emphasized the exertions of this faceless person as she attempted to hold onto the bar and to recover from slipping off. The video and sound projections invested this endless struggle to persist at a ritual, almost animal task with a certain immediacy.
In Conveyer, 14 glass tubes, bearing photo-acetates of Marika interacting with her two small children, were cradled between 16 feet of fluorescent-red industrial rollers, arranged along the floor from the entrance to the back of the main gallery space. These cylinders, which were meant to be rotated by the viewer’s hands, revealed a mother’s traumas and joys as she lifted, caressed, and tangled with her toddler son and young daughter. A carefully positioned spotlight caused the photographic images to cast shadows onto the red rollers, in a manner reminiscent of early motion picture experiments. Also inspired by Near Eastern cylinder seals, this complex sculpture combined the industrial with the most basic of human emotions: mother and child, brother and sister, at play, in conflict, pushing, pulling, and comforting one another.
The final piece, Caught, incorporated the four pristine white walls and the empty space of the rear gallery to construct a personal metaphor of art-world vulnerability. A heavy sliding-wall panel opened to reveal an inner metal door frame sealed by a latex membrane. On it, a life-sized projection of an exposed but defiant naked woman pulling up her white panties appeared: the artist was literally caught with her pants down.