SHADOWS: MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE
VERNITA NEMEC AKA VERNITA N’COGNITA
“SHADOWS: Memories of the Future” is a performance piece I presented at Ceres Gallery at the invitation of the photographer Masayo Nishimura. The work aimed to cast a mood about the power of special memories to haunt and remain unresolved.
The first scene is set in one distinct memory of the afternoon sunlight casting a shadow of lace curtains on the carpet of my grandmother’s living room where, as I told the audience, when I was a young girl, I would lie on the floor looking at art books—particularly a picture book of Salvador Dali paintings. Dali’s painting of a tiger, Persistence of Memory, haunts me still; and so in the performance I climbed into a tiger suit and mask and was at once a cat and a woman, while transforming back and forth in time between then and now. I remembered both past experiences and the threatened status of the tiger species today.
Shadows of memories linger into the future, sometimes becoming a reality never to be forgotten. These memories are the ‘set,’ the context for this performance, and the lighting cast shadows of the lace as I moved to echo the memories. I spoke briefly about the time I, sleepwalking, walked into my parents bedroom and tried to lie atop my sleeping father. I was just nine years old. Like Proust, my memory is different each time I remember it and I can no longer be sure what is true or what really happened. As I moved Butoh-like, slowly, the musician played intermittently on a xylophone, evoking the one my father once gave me. The performance is both about memories we all have and our universal longings.
My performance work falls under the genre of performance art, but comes from a visual art background rather than a theatrical one. Though I have performed at Judson Memorial Church, Dance Theater Workshop (now Live Arts), and Franklin Furnace, I frequently perform in gallery settings, sometimes using the art as a set, sometimes not (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernita_Nemec). In my work I often incorporate personal transformation through the changing of costume. Only rarely revealing my face, I wear a plain yet evocative white mask in order to embrace the universal female. My movement is often called ‘transformative Butoh’, for I move slowly to allow the viewer space to contemplate the images and impressions I am presenting. I feel all my work explores female nature.