Post by Hannah Raisin.
Parallax is one of the shows I’m most excited about seeing in our 2018 season. Created and performed by one of Australia’s most innovative performance artists Megan Beckwith, the show combines science, dance and 3d animation to create a portal to new worlds. I was lucky enough to catch up with Megan to find out more about her creative process.
You describe yourself as ‘a geek girl who animates and dances’, can you tell me a bit more about your creative processes and how the digital and physical inform one another in the development of new work?
When I was training in dance at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), I was also going home and gaming (mainly first person shooter). So I was immersed in digital environments for long periods of time, I just loved it. I was also dancing all day and training to become a contemporary dancer, I also was loving my time in the studios at VCA. I wanted to mash the two things I loved together, I wanted to dance in the game and game when I danced.
I primarily see my artistic process as a choreographic one in which I use dance and technology to explore ideas. I use animation in the same way I create dance, it is a choreographic approach. Although, with animations there is no limitations to size, shape, movement, which for a choreographer is really exciting. I sometimes use animation to extend the dancers bodies, or give them an environment to be in. Animation of movement is only limited by time and budget, where as a real body does have strict parameters.
You describe your work as exploring ‘the idea of physicality and technology through the figure of the cyborg and augmented reality’, what a fascinating framework, can you tell me a bit about how you came to work in this space?
So while I was dancing at the VCA and gaming at home, I was also reading sci-fi and digital cyber culture that focused on cyborgs and the post-human. There is a famous essay called A Cyborg Manifesto that was written by Donna Haraway (1984). A Cyborg Manifesto blew my mind. Haraway’s cyborg represents the combination of physicality and technology which really resonated with me. I thought “wow” I am a cyborg! I am still exploring these ideas through my work, now. As new technologies emerge it gives me a whole new series of ideas to explore. I think these notions are important as we are increasing to live in a digital world.
I see you have worked with a range of different creatives including Jude Anderson, Alison Bennett and Jacques Soddell, do you often work in partnership with other makers and what do you look for in a collaborator?
I love to collaborate. As a dancer and animator I often spend hours working alone in a studio or at a computer. So I really gain so much from collaborating. It has been the collaborations I have worked in that have helped me move into my current artistic practice. It is always great to get a new perspective on what you create. My collaborators often inspire new directions or a different perspective on my work and I hope I do the same for them.
You present your work in a diverse range of contexts from galleries and theatres to public street scapes, are your works generally site specific or can they easily translate between different spaces? I’m also interested in how the different environments inform the works?
It isn’t the physical space I am actually interested in, my focus is on the virtual space and how we as humans can be in it. How does virtual reality affect how a dancer moves? That is something I am really interested in.
Presenting work in different cultural contexts can offer a range of new challenges, opportunities and considerations, did any of your recent international experiences impact on the way you consider and frame your works?
I performed a very early version of Parallax in Vancouver, and after the showing I had a very experienced and well known dance technology artist run up to me after the performance. He was so excited about what I was doing but suggested what I was doing was similar to work that was emerging in the 1970s and 80s, experimental, pushing boundaries and edgy. I have never thought about my work in parallel with artists of this time. In Australia we are isolated and it is sometimes difficult to see the connections and threads that artistically joins my work historically and culturally. For me it took someone with a different cultural context to highlight where my work sits and to draw connections with other choreographers’ work.
When audiences come to see a show like Parallax, is there a particular consideration or inquiry you’d like them to take away with them?
I really like to entertain an audience so I hope that the audience enjoys the work and has a great time watching Parallax. When I speak to audience members after the show, they often say they feel like they have been on a journey. The audience often feel like they have been somewhere or have had a different experience that is other-worldly. I think people feel this because of the combination of the body and the stereoscopic imagery. It really affects the audience differently than 2D imagery.
Parallax by Megan Beckwith is on Saturday 24 February at 8pm at Burrinja.
Save up your questions and join Megan and Dr Ross Farnell in a Q&A after the show.