Focus on: Eight

Michel van der Aa attempts to capture the infinite nature of life using virtual reality

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 17 Feb 2020

In his virtual reality piece, Eight, composer and designer Michel van der Aa has the lofty ambition of capturing our lives, in all their constant renewal and colour. His protagonist? You. 

"It is predominantly a very individual journey that I want the audience to take," says van der Aa "and there is one key voice that takes you through that.” This key voice is that of Kate Miller-Heidke, whose mezzo-soprano is set to a backdrop of Nederlands Kamerkoor, the chamber choir conducted by Boudewijn Jansen.

The piece takes you through the life of a 3D film projection of a woman, who features in the piece at three different stages of her life: birth, midlife and old age. "You can almost help to trigger one of her memories by touching the virtual walls, these elastic walls act almost like a uterus, they give birth to her life… You are a protagonist; you basically trigger the next step in the storyline. Sometimes her memories are good, sometimes they are bad."

Van der Aa has been labelled a pioneer and Eight certainly shows you why. It is one of the first classical pieces to be paired entirely to virtual reality. "I wanted the audience not to be limited, I wanted them to walk through an actual real life space," says van der Aa. "We are surrounded by visual culture. It would feel incredibly artificial for me not to reflect that in my work, it is part of our modern language. Part of our DNA. It is one of the most important tools in my toolbox because it is a language that people understand."

Eight, Hetzel Lecture Theatre [Adelaide Festival], 27 Feb–15 Mar, times vary