Theatre Preview: Digital Folk is chewy nougat wrapped in chocolate

Sep 16 2016, 4:45 am

Everything about the descriptor-heavy performance piece, Digital Folk, is completely mind blowing.

The show, which starts Wednesday and runs until September 25, describes itself as a “video game + costume party + music and dance performance + installation.” A lot of performances this adventurous have a reputation of taking themselves too seriously, but Digital Folk doesn’t give off that vibe at all.

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This creation comes from plastic orchid factory, a group composed of artists from a huge range of practices. Looking into the company’s history, you’re probably not going to find anything in the way of conventional performance or dance, but that’s a huge part of the draw. Boasting conceptual works that criss-cross different art forms it’s hard not to get sucked into the videos of their previous work.

Photos from Digital Folk look like Instagrams of an insane party that delivers on the fun without going overboard on the weirdness. When combining those photos with a poster depicting a cat wearing “Deal with it” sunglasses, Digital Folk gives off a self-awareness difficult to find in most abstract performance pieces.


image: plastic orchid factory

Plastic orchid factory’s Natalie Lefebvre Gnam and James Gnam, describe how the performance works hard to undo the “don’t touch the art” rule embedded in audience members.

“[W]ith Digital Folk, we wanted to be super clear about the kinds of interactions the spectator would or could have with the experience. Playing video games and putting on costumes or watching people do, this needed to be part of the public’s understanding of the work prior to coming to the theatre.

Digital Folk is a looping performance that functions as a game and everybody in the room is implicated. We have aimed to create an environment that parallels the world that these video games live in where we blur the lines between audience and spectator.”


image: plastic orchid factory

These experiences appear to be presented with the seriousness of a freshman college dorm but Digital Folk is undeniably purposeful in its partying.

“[W]e are looking at some pretty serious things like community and technology, digital folk culture, cognition, connection and disconnection between bodies and space. It’s some heavy shit…we need to weave these questions within the context of a party – a house party, a karaoke  party, a dance party, a costume party. Whatever – a party.”

“So, these bigger questions around how we engage each other, our communities and how we inhabit our bodies can be the chewy nougat that gets stuck in your teeth to work out later but is palatable because it was wrapped in the chocolate coating of fun and irreverence.”

Digital Folk

When: September 21 – 25

Where: SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (Gastown)

Dale MacDonaldDale MacDonald

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