Two competitors compete in a never-ending series of rounds of an invented game – governed by a complex digital machine that registers and displays the winning hits, as well as recording the event with multiple automated cameras and microphones.
The Competition explores the relationship between live action, personal intention and remote intervention, via the digital mediation of an invented sport. At the heart of the project is a performance installation that takes its inspiration from competitive fencing to create a new rule-based physical competition and in doing so an allegory of conflict and negotiation. Inspired by the intense, balletic feints of fencing, we explore the idea of choreography as tactics, and sport as aesthetic. Using the digital mediations common at live sporting events such as saturated close-ups and repetitive replays we juxtapose the public spectacle and ritual of the competition with the inner intentions of the players.
The project was supported by Shoreditch Town Hall, National Theatre Studio and funded by Arts Council England.
Audience responses to the questions ‘what struck you most?’and ‘what impression were you left with?’:
‘the uncomfortable relationship between human & machine / technology. It’s a fantastically powerful work – visually exciting environment with a stunning soundscape’ ‘the sounds of performers breathing under a microscope, like I’d been immersed in the rhythms of competition – aggression then retreating repeatedly’
‘the body/machine element with almost sinister undertones’
‘sounds of people ghting alongside the very automated sound of the adjudicators’ voice and buzz when score made. Very graceful but deeply psychological. Beautiful production.’
‘I felt I was walking into a different, high-tech world. Intense throughout’
‘It was extremely focused and also overwhelming – and it was also disconcerting, the way one person winning took over the whole space’
‘the ritualization, the sense of danger combined with the ritualization of the ght’
‘I felt I walked into a future big brother where the game becomes the world that is strangely primitive / Concerned by how easily consumed I was by the idea. I like the intensity of the space. It is relentless which brings a level of anxiety and inhuman anticipation’
‘the intimacy of the sounds – the velcro, the breathing’
‘the interesting relation between the machinic apparatus, ‘athleticism’ and the neoclassical space. It made me think about ‘competition’ as a governing value’
‘the arbitrary rules. The seriousness. The reality and the sense that they have been doing this all day. That life can be like that – and its crazy’
‘the players are trapped in a loop and you can’t help them’