Entertainment Hive 2020

Enter the world of gaming through dance

By Honey B

Larissa McGowan’s latest dance work, Mortal Condition, is inspired by the vocal gymnastics of Mike Patton (Faith No More) and the world of video gamers. McGowan explores a very human relationship and what might materialise from it in a virtual gaming world. Twisting a domestic conversation between two people into a quest and a battle of avatars, Mortal Condition is fast, punchy and full of hi- scores and multiple deaths. Following Larissa’s highly-acclaimed Alien vs Predator inspired Fanatic (Sydney Dance Company’s De Novo), Mortal Condition uses Patton’s ground-breaking, raw experimental album Adult Themes for Voice and a lush cinematic   score by DJ TR!P  to take you to the edge of a reality and back. McGowan’s work is a journey into identity, video games and cinematic adventure. Who is playing who? Find out what McGowan has to say about her latest dance piece here:   What attracted you to the world of gaming? “I guess it was out interest and intrigue about the virtual world. I was fascinated by how much it drew people in. It is a fantastical, vivid, yet strange world to me. “I am not a gamer myself so I wanted to explore the vast expanse of pixel games through to the highly realistic 3D ones. As well connect with people who are gamers or even game developers. “This gave me insight into the amazing world of gaming but also revealed how extremely different the virtual world is from reality.’’   How did Mike Patton’s soundtrack happen to be running through your head during this time? “I have always been into Mike Patton’s music. He seems to be able to do anything. But when I found this album I was quite taken by how strange it was. It is distorted vocals with a gutteral feel and evoked a strong sense of conversation. “It made me want to try to choreograph movement to it, in order to make sense of this strange sound score. The album just seemed to work for my ideas around the real world within the dance work. “It complimented the abstract movement and naturally directed a conversation between our bodies.’’   What did you observe during your time watching gamers? “The games themselves, the objective of the game, glitches in programs, shortcuts, deaths, KO’s, maps, the screen interface, devices, avatars. I suppose it was about the program, devices and ways you interact with them. “We looked at how we are transported into another world and why we create them. The virtual world is so much more vivid than reality and it does also reflect on ways we escape from reality. “We also tried to explore ways of being the characters within the games and looked at skills, power play and big battle moments.’’   Tell us about the premise of this piece – at its heart it’s about the human condition even through this virtual world... “Yes. We are looking at reality vs the virtual world and the more we create games that seem strangely real the more reality becomes dull in comparison. It is amazing how games can transport you. The two worlds we have created are definitely about communication  and the tools in which we use to connect.’’     What would your gaming avatar be like? “Probably everything I am not. I would give it all the attributes I feel I lack and live out, in the virtual world, all the things I wish I could do.’’   What do you love about the virtual world? “I guess I am still exploring that. Sometimes I can get into it, other times I just feel terrible at gaming. But that’s because I kind of am! I do love and appreciate the skill of the designers to make such incredible work. The detail is just insane.’’   How do you dancers move in this virtual space? “We tried to learn skills from avatars, traversed the space in strange ways while exploring the virtual landscape, battle each other, die and restart, and take on all manner of characters. “The movement is highly virtuosic and intricate. And it was a great challenge to do things that are almost impossible in reality.’’   Tell us about the two distinctive parts to this piece. “The first part is a conversation between two people working closely to the Mike Patton soundtrack. It shows the range of emotions we go through in our everyday interactions with each other. The second part is an escape from reality. “It explores the world of gaming and all it’s levels, objectives, avatars we create for ourselves and perhaps reflects on a place where we are free to explore and in control.’’   You watched all sorts of games – what did you take from the old and new? “I love the simple goal within pixel games. You generally have one main objective and I guess this suited someone like myself with little gaming ability. But I found myself drawn also to the extremely real and vivid 3D games.’’   Do you like to break down rules in dance as part two of the show does in the virtual realm? ‘’I guess so. I don’t think there are rules in making contemporary art. I like to be clear about what I am saying within a work but I also want to push the boundaries of movement exploration and find as many new ways of moving as I can.’’   Do you hope some gamers will get up off of the couch and go out and see your dance work? “I would definitely like gamers to come and check out our show. I think it is the kind of work that is more accessible to a broader audience and I’d love to chat more with those that might not traditionally see dance.’’ Mortal Condition Part I: Condition Part II: Mortal Condition, presented by Larissa McGowan and Insite Arts as part of Adelaide Festival Centre’s inSPACE program , Adelaide Festival Centre, Space Theatre, May 11 to 14. Bookings: BASS 131 246
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