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'Replica' Review

The Modern Art of Performance

By Ada Castro
On April 13, 2016

Photo by Zack Tallent

“Replica” is one of the multidisciplinary performance works choreographed by Jonah Bokaer. Bokaer, U.S. native, became an international choreographer, and media artist illustrated by the New York Times as “one of the mystery men of American dance…both subdued and intense, alert and unfathomable, quietly graceful and utterly focused.”

Among Bokaer’s latest work, there is “Recess, Why Patterns and Replica.” Bokaer presented Replica during the 25 anniversary season Performing Art Series this past Wednesday, April 6 at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.

The performance was, in fact, mysterious, intense and utterly focused. One thinks of a museum as a space where nothing must move, in the conventional sense of the word, and everything must remain quiet and untouched. Bokaer’s piece broke all conventional concepts of a museum to create the sense of expanded space through dance, lighting, music and… sculptures!

While the dance piece was already different enough by itself, the surprise factor of the performance was the breaking of the sculpture sitting behind the dancers. Each dancer broke his or her way through the sculpture while the other one performed a solo for the audience. There is no question that this was the most interesting and innovative aspect of the performance.  

“Replica” was created with the intention of analyzing memory loss, pattern recognition and perceptual faculties as they apply to the human body. Therefore, repetition was a major component of the performance – in all elements: music, dance, objects, lighting.

At the beginning, it was unclear as to why there was so much repetition of movement and music, but by the time minute eight or nine hit the floor, the audience experienced the so-called “aha” moment. The pattern became identifiable: both dancers on the floor mirroring each other, solo on the floor while sculpture was being broken, both, solo, both …

It was without doubt anxiety-provoking. As the performance prepared for climatic moments, the traces of the representation of memory loss became clearer and clearer.

Although it was obvious that dancers Laura Gutierrez and Szabi Pataki had amazing technique, it was not completely taken advantage of during the performance. From a dancer and performer point of view, the elevations could have been choreographed at a higher difficulty degree to add some balance since the rest of the piece was so abstract.

It is my perception however, that Bokaer was trying to make a point, and it came across as clear as water by the end of the performance. All three elements by which “Replica” was inspired were present at some point during the piece.

I was left with thoughts that lasted for days, and more elements popped in my mind as I kept analyzing the performance. Gutierrez and Pataki could have been a replica of each other, as they emphasized through their costume choice. It could have been a replica of the moment, as well as the movement. Maybe it was a replica of the emotion, or the melody, a replica of the objects. The possibilities became infinite with the passing of time.

At first sight, I considered the piece to be longer and more confusing than necessary. Nonetheless, with some time to think and look back, it transformed the way I think of art in museums and, more importantly, the way I think about memory loss and pattern recognition.

The anxiety, stress and confusion caused by the piece were indispensable factors for the understanding of such a deep performance.

“Replica,” although dramatic and intense, was refreshing and creative: Giving modern art, a true new meaning.

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