Games Women Play: Two performers bring alive a video game character

Two performers bring alive a video game character in a show at a mall, turning shoppers into sudden audiences

Written by Dipanita Nath | New Delhi | Updated: December 1, 2014 11:06:50 am
The performance lends itself to multiple interpretations The performance lends itself to multiple interpretations

Some men like girls who have long legs and can kick butt without blinking — if only in video games. A male bastion until smartphones attracted women and children in large numbers, this virtual universe is populated by female assassins, shooters, fighters and commandos, who are shaped according to male fantasies. Feminists have frowned upon these Barbie dolls on a mission but artistes have looked into their souls.

Switzerland-based dancer Nicole Seiler, for instance, got under the skin of Madame K, a popular video game heroine in Europe — though little unknown in India — in a piece titled K Two a few years ago. “Madame K makes herself up, disguises herself. Her desire to seem is stronger than her desire to be. She’d love to get away from the reality of her body and flee its imperfections,” says Seiler. On Friday, she and co-dancer Kylie Walters from Australia donned their Madame K outfits and presented K Two in the open-air area of Select CityWalk mall in Saket. Organised by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, the Delhi performance was a part of the duo’s five-city tour of India.

The dancers began by standing still, with arms held out like opposite sides of a swastika as if they were throwing a grenade. A crowd of men whipped out their cellphones and converged around the performers. When they began to move, the dancers’ eyes remained glassy and unblinking and their body language more assertive than aggressive. With angular movements that emulated the bouncing strut of video game characters, the duo proceeded to enact a series of actions, from mock-punching an onlooker to drawing out guns to crawling on the ground like a horizontal Spiderman. The crowd was sure it was watching robots until a woman realised, “They are real people.”

Seiler and Walters mirrored or complemented each others’ actions as people discussed their interpretations. “It is a comment on consumerism,” said a girl, as the performers took position before a giant advertisement of Zara. The man with her suggested, “They are acting out our fears of war and danger.” As the performance moved from one spot to the next, the swelling crowd followed with their commentary.

“O teri,” muttered a voice as a dancer began to jerk forward as if the battery were running low or a computer bug had infected the game. The impromptu audience did not know about Madame K but entered into the spirit of the performance, largely because the actions were familiar and provocative although a narrative was absent.

“I like to criticise something by imitating it. I find the character of Madame K, this strange mixture of being a sex bomb and a war machine, disgusting. At the same time, I have a fascination for it because it is beautiful and this is the grey zone that I wanted to explore,” says Seiler, “but K Two is also about consumerism and violence and all the interpretations that the audience had made.”

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