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Recto VRsoArt / HeritageInterview

Margherita Bergamo unites dance and virtual reality

L'artiste Margherita Bergamo danse son oeuvre de réalité virtuelle "Eve"

Margherita Bergamo is exploring virtual reality in her contemporary dance performances.

Crédits photos : Julia Gaes / Compagnie Voix

Margherita Bergamo is a regular artist at the Recto VRso digital art festival, presenting dance performances in virtual reality. Her main piece, Eve, invites spectators to become actors of the performance by making them dance. Returning for the 2023 edition of the festival, she will present the third version of Eve, more participative and poetic.

Can you introduce yourself?

I am a dancer, choreographer and researcher. I focused myself on contemporary dance and I finished my studies of choreography in Barcelona after a professional career within the Italian rhythmic gymnastics team. Then, I worked with the dance company called Erre que erre, and I was co-artistic director of the company Les filles Föllen.

I have been working with immersive digital technologies and virtual reality since 2017, date on which I created the Compagnie Voix. The creation Eve, dance is an unplaceable place (2018), co-created with Daniel González-Franco, won the Laval Virtual Award Recto VRso 2019, the Grand Prize of the Kaohsiung Film Festival, and is part of the Digital Catalog of the Institut Français. I also had the chance to collaborate with diverse XR productions, for Trizz Studio, Atelier Daruma, Digital Rise, Tamanoir, and I worked with dance companies Seesaw Project and Zeit/Geist Eva Bauman.

Currently, I am conducting a PhD research on the topic of the experience of body in motion applied to immersive digital technologies, with the research units Scènes du monde EDESTA of the University of Paris 8, and Visual, Performative and Media Arts of the University of Bologna.

Why did you choose to use technologies in your art?

I have always been intrigued by the experience of the spectator during theatrical performance, both in conventional and none-conventional locations. In my creation process, I have searched for different ways to engage the public and involve him in the scenic experience, in the creation of choregraphies, in the implication of his body during the scenic play.

Meeting with Daniel González-Franco and the BeAnotherLab group in Barcelona in 2017 opened the doors of virtual reality to me and made me think about the perception of the body of the VR receiver when there is a multi-sensorial illusion of incarnation of a virtual body. Several creative ideas emerged from this encounter, and I am in the middle of researching and thinking about this great potential.

You already exhibited at Recto VRso. What does the festival mean to you?

Recto VRso is an annual reference event for artists who work with virtual reality and immersive media. We had the pleasure to exhibit our creations in 2019 and 2022, so this is our third experience. Recto VRso has become important to me to confront myself with the work of others, to update, to keep experimenting, and where I have always felt a family atmosphere and mutual trust.

The Recto VRso festival always uses exhibition locations that are out of the ordinary (a chapel in 2022, a school-museum in 2019, a virtual world in 2020…). Does the place influence the way you exhibit and the scenography of your work?

Each year, we exhibited in a different location, and the preparation of the exhibition has a lot to do with the adaptation of the artwork to the proposed site, in terms of dimensions, repartition of elements in space and public circulation. This year in particular, we are using two different spaces: one for the day exhibition and another for the night performances. The proposed locations have always been welcoming and given us interesting ideas for the staging of performances.

This year, in addition and for the second time, I was asked to prepare an ad hoc performance after the awards ceremony, to accompany to public to the exhibition area and to present all the artworks. It’s also an interesting challenge, which is an opportunity for me to know and make known the curatorial line of the exhibition. I must confess, I love conceiving site specific performances!

Can you describe the new artwork you will exhibit at Recto VRso 2023?

The experience is an immersion with a subjective point-of-view of the character called Eve, a traveler who will create a space-time shift. Eve guides every participant in a different story, during which they are witnessing the story of someone who has a problem. The stories are introduced in a live performance and then continue in VR, where participants are invited to the dance movements, and come to embody an important character who ultimately helps overcome the problem.

You won a Laval Virtual Award during a previous edition. What did it bring you as an artist?

The prize we received during the 2019 edition allowed us to confirm that our researches were going the right way and that the system we have put in place is a proof of concept, on the basis of which we can continue to work. Since 2019, we have been presenting our virtual reality and dance performances in many different contexts and countries. The meet-ups and discussions were an opportunity to grow up and enrich our professional education and to give birth to new ideas. The same collaborators that we have today with the current project are the result of the encounters carried out over the last few years, of artistic exchanges, research, methodology, vital and social objectives. It seems to me that from this day on, the year begins in April in Laval!

Do you try to deliver a message through your works?

Eve 3.0 reflects on common and widespread extreme states of consciousness such as dependence, anxiety, depression, obsession, jealousy and paranoia. The message is to be open to dialogue, to the integration of non-verbal body communication, and to creativity that our body has to offer, which can enrich our relationship with ourselves and with others. To another level of interpretation, we want to communicate the idea that we can all find ourselves in problematic situations and that support of others is important.

According to you, what do VR and new technologies bring to art?

Virtual reality brings an immersive experience and a sort of entrance in a new dimension that distracts us from the real dimension. From the moment you isolate yourself with VR headsets, you enter a parallel dimension, and you barely think about reality. 

That’s why the artistic choices are very important for the transmission of a message and an experience, because the spectator is fully available and can hardly divert his attention unless he takes off the headset. In my research in particular, I am very interested in the perceptive experience of having a body that’s not yours, with the idea of making a kind of “body jump”.

How did technologies change the relationship between the artwork and the spectator?

Digital technologies create an interaction, and so an integration between the technological format and the choices of the user/spectator. They are close to the body, but they often need mechanical and repetitive postures and movements that dry our creative and physical potential out. The artistic propositions can offer interesting variations, play differently with digital technologies, and create new paths of integration in the use that we do of them, to bring the experimentation of the artistic field into a daily use.

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