Every few months someone on Twitter will dig up a famously ironic quote from scientist Clifford Stoll in a 1995 MPR interview discussing the future of the Internet: “I think it’s grossly oversold and within two or three years people will shrug and say, ‘Uh yep, it was a fad of the early 90’s and now, oh yeah, it still exists but hey, I’ve got a life to lead and work to do. I don’t have time to waste online.'” Thinking about how wrong he was is either funny or chilling, depending on your own predictions for the future.
But not everything Stoll said in that interview turned out to be untrue, he even made some rather astute observations of what the internet would devolve into, “It’s a place for people to post both useful information and vicious, nasty messages. And they exist side by side. … Rather, it induces a very shallow, ethereal and ephemeral involvement and as such, I think it’s grossly over-promoted and there’s a great deal of hyperbole surrounding it.” The juxtaposition between news and trolling online has only been exacerbated in the 25 years since that interview with fake news and rage engagement being exploited for massive profits by a handful of tech giants.
Coincidentally founded in 1995, Chunky Move returns to the stage with a new multidisciplinary collaborative work exploring digital culture and the rapid acceleration towards the end. Using the aesthetics of a 90s rave or the retro revival street styles of today, Yung Lung imagined the future as an overrunning of the past. It was a hedonistic revelling in excess, sensory overload, and dancing to distraction.
Audiences entered the cavernous space and were invited to rotate around the central bulging island, designed by Callum Morton, made of giant merged heads; balding, warty white male busts fused together long ago. The lighting design by Bosco Shaw included acid green neon tubing like nuclear waste leaking across the island and red roving spotlights reminiscent of security lasers from a spy movie. Encircling the island was a ring of screens flickering with static and half-formed images through which snippets of internet images would later emerge.
Out of the darkness the dancers (Madeleine Bowman, Rachel Coulson, Marni Green, Samuel Harnett-Welk, Cody Lavery, Summer Penney, and Damian Meredith) emerged and mounted the island as Chiara Kickdrum’s droning sound design transformed into something more heroically divine. Throughout the performance the dancers cavorted, slithered, and climbed around the set with audience members following them for the best view. Atop the heads, a series of synchronised choreography was performed in a robotic, mechanical style that was a bit hip-hop, a bit b-boy, and a bit Dance Dance Revolution. These dance sequences were the strongest aspect of the performance as all elements from the costuming (P.A.M. [Perks & Mini]) to the choreography to the blinding production design came together with clear cohesion. In these moments the set was transformed into a TRON game-scape meets 90s video arcade that was simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic; an out-of-time digital universe.
Directed and choreographed by Chunky Move artistic director Antony Hamilton, Yung Lung was a lot on every level and enveloped the audience in its pulsing, shaking, out-of-control atmosphere. But as a performance, it was difficult to follow the motivation for each blackout scene transition as there was no discernible development in story or tone. The pumping music ebbed and flowed but even the video compilations by Kris Moyes remained thematically stagnant throughout the performance to the point that the screens became irrelevant to the movement on-stage. Perhaps without the COVID restrictions that prevented audience dancing, Yung Lung could have come across as a highly produced concert and leant more into the experience of the space rather than simply watching the dancers. But even in this state it makes more sense to view Yung Lung as an installation rather than a linear performance, taking in each element and allowing them to speak to each other simultaneously in an explosion of light, colour, movement, and sound.
Yung Lung ran at Carriageworks from January 20th – 23rd
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