Challenging Perceptions of a troubled world

The Boston Globe

November 1, 2007

“The blind don’t often frequent art galleries, but Denise Marika is courting them, along with sighted visitors, to come to “Downrush,” her video and Braille installation at Axiom. At once stark and lush, “Downrush,” the centerpiece of “Witnesses,” a small group show, compels viewers to consider what it means to be a witness and what it means to turn a blind eye.

The lighting is dim, so it’s hard to see the Braille text that runs over three walls of the installation and beneath the two video projections. You have to touch it to experience it. The text comes from passages that reference witnesses in the Torah, the New Testament, and the Koran. It runs through the installation like the commentary of a Greek chorus.

The large-scale videos face each other. In each, a body bound in a cloth bag rolls down a set of wooden bleachers, heavily thudding over each step. That’s Marika, who usually does her own excruciating stunts. Much of her work addresses the limits to which we can push ourselves; her body becomes a stand-in for the soul and its trials.

Low wooden bleachers like those in the video stretch across the gallery. When you sit on them, you become a spectator. And as you feel the seat give beneath your weight and hear the thud of the falling body, you can imagine yourself in that body bag. But you’re not in it, so there’s a sense of complicity, or responsibility; Marika makes you a witness….”