Gareth Pugh turns to video game designers for interactive costume exploration

3D virtual renderings of Gareth Pugh's Antigona opera costume designs

3D virtual renderings of Gareth Pugh’s Antigona opera costume designs

Gareth Pugh has created a digital experience to celebrate the launch of his costumes for the Opera Antigona, which opened at Staatstheater Kassel, Germany on June 10.

A means of showcasing and previewing the costumes in virtual form, the interactive project guides users through four acts related to the opera flow itself.

The key however is in the user experience. Pugh worked with a team of video game designers from a young London-based digital art studio called Werkflow, as well as Turner-Prize-nominated artist, Goshka Macuga, who is creative director across the opera, to create the platform.

There’s a distinctive video game quality to it as a result – users can pinch, scroll, click and drag on their devices (it’s optimised for mobile and desktop), in order to zoom into the 3D virtual renderings of the garments and orbit each scene. Clicking on a circle in the first scene sees an explosion of light; tapping on the pulsating icon at the bottom right of the screen in each, then takes you to the next act.

3D virtual renderings of Gareth Pugh's Antigona opera costume designs

3D virtual renderings of Gareth Pugh’s Antigona opera costume designs

Each scene is anchored by one of the opera’s key characters: the king Creonte, the two warring brothers Eteocles and Polynices, and finally Antigona herself. The story itself is a reinvention of the original baroque tragedy by Tommaso Traeto, reframed against a science-fiction-inspired backdrop.

Said Macuga: “To imagine this production having a second life – using the tools created by Werkflow – feels like an opportunity to illustrate a technological step in our advancement, as well as a chance to explore a change in our relationship with issues of creative intimacy, or a sense of reality and truth.”

Tom Wandrag, co-founder of Werkflow, added: “As a studio, we like to see how far we can push unconventional ideas using emergent digital technology. We often discuss the use of the ‘game space’ as a theatrical space, so the concept of reframing Antigona against a futurist backdrop seemed to us like a perfect opportunity to work toward taking Gareth and Goshka’s ideas beyond what is possible on stage.”

This is not the first time Pugh has worked on stage costumes – he did so for the ballet Carbon Life, which opened at the Royal Opera House in 2012, and for the opera Eliogabalo, which opened at the Palais Garnier in Paris in 2016.