Device Not Detected (2023)

Center for Performance Research, Fall Movement Festival

Device Not Detected is a two-part performance work combining visual art and minimalist movement to explore the feminine mystique and aging. A commentary on the ways we perceive aging and its limitations, the piece incorporates humor, costume, music, and projection to explore darker themes of aging, uncertainty, and death–all with a touch so light it caresses. In Part One, Karen Bernard, at age 74, is both performer and choreographer, using self-manipulated lighting and projection elements to create a space where gestures of collapse and struggle are juxtaposed with fluid and playful movement. The seeds of the work came as Bernard practiced falling and recovering. This repetitive action illuminates the ways we perceive the limitations of aging and the longing to be visible. What began as a physical challenge surprisingly became expertly executed. The staging includes white and black Marley, a vintage theatrical spotlight, and colorful party-like ambient projections. The score ranges from silence to groovy dance music. Bernard’s body shimmers in a black and sequined gold jumpsuit. Does she dance for herself or her spectators? Her intimate interior life becomes the interrogated subject as she offers herself a collection of changing possibilities as a surface to be projected onto and as a light that is spectacularly reflective, a brilliance that will finally disappear in a flash. There are inevitably technical glitches when manipulating hand-held equipment. Part Two echoes Part One and uses spare, stark lighting on Bernard as she wears a plain black jumpsuit and executes pared-down, essential movement as her body becomes a cinematic moving sculpture. Physical items leave the stage, leaving only the body, its gestures, and light to reflect upon letting go of the material world. Following on the heels of Poolside and Lakeside, Part Two was partially developed at Chashama and the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, Italy where the canals are busy and quiet and the water changes colors and glistens depending on the time of day. Development Consultants, Jil Guyon and Lisa Parra. Costumes by Karen Bernard and Hwa Park.

During her career, Karen Bernard has created introspective movement-based pieces that explore the contradictory labels assigned to the female body and women’s roles in society. As both choreographer and performer, her emotionally charged works challenge underlying assumptions about gender while interrogating spectatorship. Using sampled dance styles and episodic scenes, she juxtaposes everyday life and current events against cultural conceptions of the feminine mystique and aging. Developed through this signature process of experimentation, discovery, and play, Karen Bernard’s Device Not Detected conveys an emotional truth so personal that it speaks to us all as a metaphor for the way older adults in America have to struggle with their place in society, the healthcare system, and independence more than in previous generations and decades.


Creation and Performance: Karen Bernard
Directorial Consultants: Jil Guyon and Lisa Parra
Costume Collaboration: Hwa Park
Lighting Consultant: Dylan Phillips
Graphics: Travis DeMello
Press Representative: Janet Stapleton

Support was received through residencies at the Emily Harvey Foundation (Venice, Italy) and Chashama (New York City).

Device Not Detected in the press