Artistic Statement/ Biography

Karen Bernard’s Vinyl Retro | Performers: Barbara Mahler & Karen Bernard | Photo by © Paula Court | Courtesy of The Kitchen

Karen Bernard creates nuanced, movement-based work that explores divergent themes surrounding the female body—from motherhood to sex goddess to murder victim. Using sampled dance styles and episodic scenes, Bernard pits everyday life and current events against perceptions of the feminine mystique and aging. The work is developed in the context of location and an intuitive fusion of costuming, sporadic sound scores, video, and minimal sets. Unpredictable choices from the mundane to the extravagant translate into a form that compels my audiences to look at their own experiences from alternative perspectives which, in turn, can alter their actions and reactions.

Karen Bernard is a choreographer and interdisciplinary performance artist based in New York City. She began studying dance at age three with her father, Steven Bernard, a company member with 20th-century pioneer, Charles Weidman. She grew up in a household that incorporated her father’s dance school, with students crossing through the family space, so performance art has been deeply ingrained throughout her life. As an artist and the Founder and Executive Director of New Dance Alliance (NDA), she teaches, lectures, and serves on advisory panels across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. This cross-pollination strengthens an ongoing social dialogue among international artists, one that exemplifies her lifelong commitment to performance. That commitment is fully brought to life in NDA’s justly-renowned Performance Mix Festival, now in its 36th year.

Between 1986 and 1998, Bernard presented a series of solos in collaboration with Dia Center for The Arts developed through Fieldwork and went on to be presented at The Kitchen and Performance Space 122 (It Could Have Been Different) and Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, as well as, Dance Theater Workshop (now New York Live Arts) (Blue). These solos mark the passages of her life experiences as daughter, wife, mother, and artist – “spellbinding performer with unusual themes.” Jennifer Dunning, New York Times.

In 2004, incorporating old video footage, conversational text, and popular music, Bernard received critical acclaim for Removed Exposure, which premiered at Dixon Place in New York and went on to the Festival of New Dance in St. John’s, Newfoundland; Women in Transition, a festival in Vienna; then was remounted at Here Arts Center in New York. A handmade book of the same name, Removed Exposure, was co-created with Canadian bookmaker Gray Fraser.

Bernard has an artistic connection to Canadian artists and has enjoyed performing as one of the first Edgy Women in Montreal, Rhubarb and Hysteria Festivals in Toronto, and Festival of New Dance in St. John’s Newfoundland. She was awarded a residency at L’Annexe-A at Lac Bellecombe, Quebec.

In 2009, Bernard was awarded a residency at Wassard Elea, where she began Swimming Pool and continued to develop the work at White Oak and the Bogliasco Foundation. In Swimming Pool video images came from a laptop and a small projector with audio equipment manipulated on a movable cart explored the manipulation seamlessly integrated physicality. Since then a series of performances, video/installations has been further explored and included in works created through; Kitchen Dance In Process (Vinyl Retro, 2016), Cill Rialaig (Green, 2017), Brooklyn Studios for Dance (Showgirls, 2018), Chashama/Obras Foundation (Poolside, 2018),  L’Annexe-A/Obras Foundation (Lakeside, 2019).  She received a BAX 10 award for her invaluable service to artists in the founding and development of the Performance Mix Festival. She is a co-founder of E|MERGE Interdisciplinary Collaborative Residency at Earthdance.

Bernard has received support from the Electronic Media and Arts with support from New York State Council on the Arts AKA Experimental Television Center, Meet The Composer, The Field’s Independent Artist Challenge Program Grant, the Puffin Foundation, and USAProject Artist.