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Vernita Nemec: Vital and Visionary

Vernita Nemec, aka Vernita N’Cognita, is anything but incognita. Her travels as a
performer encompass the United States, Hungary, Japan, Ireland, Mexico and France. In fact, she is a force to be reckoned with. “All my performance work,” she says, “concerns womanly issues—beauty, aging, or love.”

This year, she will be part of the annual Arts in Odd Places (AiOP), an event entitled “Invisible” is scheduled for October 17-20. The route runs from 14th street between 5th and 6th Avenues all the way to the Hudson River. Nemec is slated for Friday, the 18th from 3-6PM.

Entitled “I Still Am,” Nemec’s performance art embraces the very fabric of life, including the greatest anxiety of all, especially for women: aging —one that resonates within everyone— the prelude, after all, to the unknown. Her performances for the past few years tackle that secretive subject—decrepitude. Her interpretations of its vicissitudes are nothing short of beautiful, brave, and riveting.

“Autobiography and what it is to be female is a constant thread, whether I am performing a word and movement piece…or creating a physical artwork.” Performance art is precisely that—a physical art-work. Aging, now the underlying thread, is the woof and warp of the tapestry interwoven within her very being, the reallife story line, such as Invisible Woman (2012). Invisibility, Nemec observes, is the lot of the aging woman. “No one looks at me,” she declared during that 2012 performance.

Discounted, older women disappear like still-living, breathing ghosts inhabiting our youth-oriented society. It is the truth we all face, men and women alike, although Nemec’s focus is clearly aimed at women. That said, Vernita N’Cognita, a striking woman, is not about to become invisible anytime soon—or ever.Most notably inspired by Japanese butoh, which she describes as an “avant-garde form of dance that arose…in the ’50s as a rebellion against Western and traditional Japanese dance.“ A highly fluid art, it is open to as many different interpretations as there are performers. “Even the Japanese can barely define it.”

It is difficult, demanding skill and discipline from the performer, whose face may be masked as is Nemec’s during part of her performances, then “taking it off to
reveal my true aging self.”

“So much of what I do…is intuitive. I don’t choreograph any of my performance work.” Selftaught, her artistic roots evolved from a visual art background, not
a theatrical one. Improvisation, however, is the backbone of her performances, only somewhat structured when performing with a partner.

She once wrote: “I use my art as a way to understand.” As do we, her audience, and with any luck, perhaps to accept.

Vernita Nemec is us.

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