Visual artist Claudia Bernardi, choreographer Kimi Okada, and the modern dance company ODC/San Francisco collaborated to create Flight to Ixcan, a new work addressing how humans deal with death and personal loss in times and nations of political repression. The piece was inspired by actual events in Central America in the mid-1970s.
The artists shared an intimate connection to the work’s content. In 1976, Kimi Okada’s brother, a San Francisco physician doing humanitarian work in Guatemala during the time of a repressive political regime, was killed in a mysterious airplane crash. Lead artist Claudia Bernardi, a native of Argentina and resident of San Francisco, is a member of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. She has worked extensively in Central and South America, exhuming grave sites to determine war crimes. In her art making, she is deeply influenced by her field work.
Bernardi created a set design and props while Ms Okada structured the choreography into five sections that referenced actual places (the Guatemalan jungle, gravesites), events (the plane crash, congressional hearings, presence of the military), and familial relationships–juxtaposing them with fragments of remembered and imagined images from the past. Composer Jay Cloidt created a multi-dimensional sound score that incorporated a collage of found music (Central American folk and modern), Spanish newspaper texts, and transcripts of Congressional hearings. Lighting design was by Alexander Nichols.
ODC/San Francisco is a leading Bay Area modern dance company and a center for dance and contemporary performance. Kimi Okada has long been Associate Choreographer with the company. A native of Argentina, Claudia Bernardi’s works as both an artist and a human rights activist. She calls her technique “frescoes on paper,” a distinctive method she developed by applying layer after layer of pure pigments to wet paper and running that paper repeatedly through a printmaker’s press. Upon and between the layers of pigmentation, Bernardi uses a porcupine quill to engrave images and words. She also incorporates shards of bone, fragments of clothing, and other artifacts in the work.