Voyager II

by Sway Benns

WIFE: A Trinity of Illusory Performance Makers, One Eye, One Tooth, Ancient Technology, Destruction.
WIFE is the amalgamation of choreographer and dancer Jasmine Albuquerque; choreographer, dancer, performance artist, and teacher Kristen Leahy; and dancer, choreographer, animator, editor, projection mapper and illustrator Nina McNeely, converging in a single identity. Henceforth, in the spirit of this very idea, we’ll choose to refer to Albuquerque, Leahy, and McNeely as a collective entity, cogs in their own Cerberus machine, batting back those methylation increases, moving.

The trio uses video projection and animation to explore mythic themes and archetypes via intricately—and tightly, almost claustrophobically (“some of our movement is so subtle [that] it’s almost shocking or jarring to the audience, because it looks almost like a painting accidentally cracked or the sculptures that come alive. We’re realizing more and more as we work with this kind of choreography that it can be so powerful to do something really small”)—choreographed performances of elaborate movement, color, and light. Their themes are founded in mythology, their performances facilitated through the use of ancient technology, a term they define broadly, volleying between electricity: “Projecting onto someone is old technology. Performers have been using projectors and using their bodies as canvases for projections for other artists. Well, to us seemed to be such a new concept when really it’s not new at all,” and sleight of hand: “I think, also old technology to us just means illusion.”

WIFE maintains their own species allegiance, seeming to sidestep the clinical, electronic hand willing our appliances to sit, stay, and roll over. “For some reason it just made me think of puppets and CGI: puppets because they’re being controlled by humans.” WIFE continues, “I like that [it] has a spirit inside of it, and when you get to a CGI level you can see that it has no soul, it has nothing shocking inside of it. Just like how a film can be really moving and intense, but there’s nothing like the presence of another human: being in real time with them, feeling that energy.”

WIFE adds, “When you project onto a building or a flat surface or some inanimate object that object can’t react.”

Here are some facts: based in Los Angeles, WIFE’s work has featured in gallery shows and live events across the United States and Europe, has been the driving engine of video clips for the band The Acid, and for fashion designer Raquel Allegra’s 2013 ready-to-wear collection—as well as being featured in electronic musician Amon Tobin’s compilation box set.

WIFE’s set and costume designs appear to take the place of post-production manipulation. Instead of the performance being consumed by digital, the digital appears to be slowly injected into the physical performance, as a result: it’s tactile. “We all come from live performance backgrounds and we just noticed that projecting on the body was so much more magical than projecting on a screen. Our bodies become the sculptures, with these canvases translating the stories we’re trying to tell. But then I think we also make a conscious effort to create more of an organic feeling with the technology that we use. It doesn’t feel four-dimensional, and it doesn’t feel like just a visual thing: there’s a lot of emotion involved and there’s always a story.”

So now we’ll tell one. Something of interest, maybe, drawn away from that creation reference to the tale of Graeae, (adapted by WIFE in “The Grey Ones,” which premiered at TEDxSoCal in 2011): Three sisters that shared between them one eye and one tooth. Their formal value? Directions to tools of destruction.

WIFE will tell this story and others. They’ll be made happy by the machine. They’ll make the machine happy.

WIFE manipulating metaphysical matter in “The Grey Ones,” (2011).
WIFE bathed in Nina McNeely’s animations from their short film “Untitled,” (2013).