When you think of a baroque opera written in the 18th Century and based on a tragedy written by Sophocles in 441 BC, what comes to mind? Space? Robot wars? Segues? Probably not, no.
But that's the opera Gareth Pugh has just designed costumes for. Costumes that he's worked with video game developers to translate online, so you can have a 3D gander at his designs in all their robotic, video game-esque glory. Hard to explain, easy to do -- just check out this link. Go on.
Like most good collaborations, it came about in a sort of serendipitous way. The son of a colleague moved in a couple of doors down from his Somerset House studio, and this son happened to be Tom Wandrag of digital arts studio Werkflow. Pugh says, "He really wanted to do something like an editorial based project with this new technology based on my last show, but that kind of felt a little bit like we'd already been there done that. And then this opera project came up."
This opera project is Antigona, opening 10 June at the Documenta Art Fair in Kassel, Germany. The visual design was done by Turner Prize nominated artist Goshka Macuga, whose idea it was to set an old opera in a futuristic spacescape -- which Pugh was as surprised by as you probably are. "When I first met Goshka, she was worrying me by showing me lots of videos of robot wars with the baroque music over the top. It sounded insane. But when you put them together there's a certain discord there, which i think also is the sort of discord that runs through Antigona."
This discord being that the protagonist is a badass woman who gives zero fucks about authority, who "believes what she believes, and she believes what she believes is right." And then has to suffer the consequences. Because like real life, the chaotic world of a futuristic baroque opera isn't always fair on women. But also like real life, this won't stop women from doing what they think is right - consequences be damned.
"Antigona's one of the first pro-feminist anarchist female characters. She's quite formidable. And I liked this idea of putting her in armour, but also something quite protective, and something you can see the female form through," Pugh says. And though you mightn't be able to jet over to Germany for an IRL look at the costumes, you can cop a decent look at them on the URL. Take a look. It's pretty fun.
Text Georgie Wright