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Pierre & Baby discuss the “superficial swipe-culture” in their new work “achilles” at Ugly Duck

[Photo credit: Pierre & Baby: 'achilles' by Danilo Moroni]

Pierre & Baby are a London-based queer dance collective. Their work explores issues within the queer community, focusing on the hyper-sexualisation of the male physique within gay culture and the effects technology has on the mental well-being of those in this community. Their work has featured at the V&A, Wellcome Collection, The Place, The Yard and queer spaces like The Royal Vauxhall Tavern and The Chateau. Pierre & Baby present achilles, a live performance that fuses dance and digital projection, exploring the contemporary struggles and liberations in the human pursuit of love. We caught up with them to talk ‘the superficial swipe culture’ and their new work.

Have dating apps hijacked modern relationships as we know it? When the possibility for connection exists on so many platforms, can you still find a meaningful one IRL [in real life]? With a reported 8 million users in London on dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Grindr & many more; the landscape of dating has changed hugely over the last 10 years. Has the seemingly unlimited choice and instantaneous nature of these apps become addictive? Has it changed how we interact face-to-face? We want to address these themes in a fresh and engaging multi-disciplinary performance.

Working with film makers Emily McDonald, New Brook and motion graphics designer Kieran Finch on the projection, we wanted to highlight the pressure image-driven apps have contributed towards issues around mental health. Not only with dating apps, platforms like Instagram have also heavily contributed to pressures of attaining a body that is stereotypically considered ‘desirable’.

Going deeper within the work, we want to highlight how heavy partying, abuse of drugs and alcohol and an unhealthy relationship to social media are all factors that we believe contribute towards anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia. These subject matters are particularly prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community, that can stem from repressed emotional trauma and internalised homophobia. achilles draws on personal experiences, as we feel an importance to create work that is contemporary in its nature, artistic expression and subject matter.

[Photo credit: Pierre & Baby: 'achilles' by Danilo Moroni]

During our rehearsal period we developed material through movement research, focusing on the themes of addiction, cyclical habits and desire. We experimented with contact improvisation, club dance, gabber [hard core techno music], and studied statues and art that glorifies the male physical form. Collaborating with dramaturg Martin Hargreaves, motion graphics designer Kieran Finch and DJ Sam Parkin, helped us re-evaluate all the elements that we were working with and elevate the work so that all the elements such as music, lights and projection became of equal importance to that of the dance. The soundtrack, features an eclectic mix of musical artists, such as: Arca, John Tavener, coucou Chloe, Sarah Vaughan and Ryoji Ikeda. The soundtrack purposefully plays out similarly to a DJ set you might hear in a club, but with an experimental edge that takes a more sinister and unexpected turn as the piece develops. Lighting designer Berta Pibernat Trias worked with us to transform the space at Ugly Duck into a club-cum-cruising spot, using the whole of ‘The Garage’ space to bring a multi-directional feel to the work. We encourage the audience to have the freedom to walk and explore the unique space during the performance and find different ways to view the piece. Stay on the periphery or come close and see the sweat drip from our bodies. There will be no direct interaction with the audience but we want to give them the choice to fulfil their own needs during the experience.

achilles is part of Ugly Duck’s latest creative season “In Transition”. Ugly Duck works with artists to create amazing events in unusual, underused spaces. This work will be performed on the 26th and 27th of July in ‘The Garage’ with a DJ set after by Sam Parkin. Tickets available here: uglyduck.org.uk