Tuesday, February 27, 2024


Digital Performance Season

Outlines is the inaugural season of video works displaying boundary-pushing artists and technologists who are reimagining the future of performance. The works are designed to connect both physical and digital worlds and feature artists who both utilise and disrupt digital platforms to bring new forms and challenging questions.

The program includes works from “Beyond Black” from the Korea National Dance Company (2020) and “Dream” (2021) from the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as two original Sydney Opera House commissions, “Apotheosis” (2021) and “R+J RMX” (2021). Each of these performances is prefaced by an explanation of the process explored through the video work and an often very thought-provoking reflection on what the process means for not only the future of dance but also of humanity.

“Apotheosis” is a real-time capture performance in which Lydia Kivela explores a hyper-real 3D environment created by Serwah Attafuah accompanied by an original score (ptwiggs). A young girl takes the universal journey from innocence to experience embracing darker thoughts as she explores a desolate neon-lit Western Sydney. While a common enough theme the score, the images chosen and the hallucogenic treatment gives the sense that her rite of passage is pre-visioned, a prior knowledge carried in the psyche.

The introduction to the “Dream” (Pippa Hill, Robin McNicholas) claims it as “an amazing hybrid of gaming technology, orchestral music and theatre”. While the stage relies upon conventionally accepted signs, this “Dream” can take its audience into a forest, wander with Puck among trembling leaves, be with her to cross a rushing brook and pluck a rose. And the moonshine, which always has to be assumed on stage, is a soft glow illuminating the pale flowers, trunks and stones. It is evident that the video’s makers fell in love with the magical and curious world they created from Shakespeare’s original inspiration.

“Beyond Black” disrupts the traditional basic concepts of creation through a comparison between dancers’ bodies expressive of emotion and dance generated by Madi, a program created to choreograph using AI. While the clean outlines, speed and energy of the performance are mesmerising, the conclusion offered by choreographer, Shin Changho, is one that might make some of the audience nervous. While he doesn’t consider AI choreography can simulate the intensity of human performance at present he believes that “if AI continues to evolve and develop, it will be able to create [true] art, which is considered as our own human realm”.

For personal reasons, “R+J RMX” (Joe Couch, Kate Armstrong-Smith) was the most appealing. A tool based on Omelia, a revolutionary new AI technology built for gaming and Hollywood, capable of generating a vast number of variations on a script and audience preferences, became the means by which the remarkably talented performers generate new story possibilities. It has always seemed so unfair that two young people should be annihilated whose only fault is impulsiveness (compared to the greed, pride, jealousy and ambition of other tragic personae), and who are dependent upon two totally incompetent life coaches and the bad luck of a messenger who could have prevented their deaths but was quarantined(!). Storytelling technology to the rescue, but how will it influence art and the performance of the future?

Watch Outlines … engaging, thoughtful and hypnotic, and each a possible response to Covid-19.


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