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Preview 2: Maria Nilsson Waller talks video games and the creation of tiny universes

Fri 15 May 2015

Preview 2: Maria Nilsson Waller talks video games and the creation of tiny universes

Where does the name of the piece, ‘Blanca’, come from?

We had this idea of working with video games and we had created a kind of video game character within the piece, so we were looking for a name for her. We tried a few different female names and ended up with Blanca, which is nice because it plays with the word white – we felt we had something unwritten, a blank page to work with.

What sparked the idea for the piece?

I was asked to make the piece by a theatre in Jämtland, northern Sweden, and they wanted a piece that was small and portable enough to tour the inlands of that area. So I needed to make something basically 3 by 4 metre, which is really, really small - so that was a huge influence. It resulted in the desire to bring in live musicians and a video designer to try to make something more of such a tiny space - to make something really rich, an entire world or universe.

Another big influence was these dance workshops I’d been giving to kids in that same region of Sweden, driving around from school to school. At the end of each workshop, the children were asked to create a little dance about something they’d experienced. And a lot of the kids, especially the guys but also some of the girls, made video game dances - they’d come out and do a little dance like a Minecraft man or other video game characters, so that was obviously a very real experience to them. I think it’s great the way a video game is a full on adventure. We wanted to make a piece that would be an adventure for the audience - that would suck you in, that would engage your senses.

What’s the mood of ‘Blanca’?

I think the mood is really influenced by nature and all those hours I spent driving through forests and this abandoned, snowy landscape in northern Sweden. I really wanted to try to capture the mood of the landscape of that region.

You’ve mentioned the Sami (a Swedish nomadic people) and creation myths as influences, along with video games. What interested you about these themes?

I’ve always been interested in nomadic people and the idea that we are influenced by our surrounding environment, everything we see… that’s been following me for a couple of pieces now, and this time it felt natural to look at the Sami people, who are local to this area. I think it has to do with questions of sustainability and nature and how a nomadic approach seems more sustainable perhaps. Maybe I’m questioning the way we live now.

And then, I think the creation myths and the video games… It all comes from this longing to create a universe on stage. When researching, we read a lot of creation myths from a lot of cultures, including the Sami people’s, and they all talk about creation in different ways. Some start with a water world, and maybe there’s the sacrifice of an animal, or maybe a god speaks, the sun comes… there are so many rich and very different stories. It’s a really multi-faceted way of how we explain the world we are in as human beings.

And those questions are the same in a video game – you land in this new world and you don’t know where you are or where you have come from, what’s your mission, and you try to discover the world as you go. Those questions, where am I, where am I going, are kind of linked between video games and creation myths.

So you’re working with live musicians and a videographer. What does working with collaborators from different disciplines bring to a creative process?

Firstly, it brings all the skills I don’t have, such as music and video, but it’s also the richness of trying to create a world as full of details and with as many elements as possible - four minds are better than one.

Has the contribution of videographer José Miguel Jimenez’s work then influenced the direction of Blanca, or was it a response to what you had already developed?

Even though I knew I wanted to work with a video game designer from the beginning, I didn’t know it was going to grow into something as significant in the piece as it did. The visual stuff has really created the matrix of the entire work, so it’s really as present as the dance and as the music. But José’s also doing the graphics live, just like the musicians and myself are performing live. We wanted to keep an element of liveness to it, like a jam session. It wasn’t the original plan to have live video elements, but it works really well.

 

Blanca runs from May 28th - 30th in Project Arts Centre, Cube - book tickets here: http://bit.ly/1HU7UPJ

Words: Rachel Donnelly - @racklette

Photo: Patricio Cassinoni