I keep thinking about the video game Zelda. I am at Dance Italia in Lucca Italy. Let me explain: Lucca is misty and medieval like the game world of Zelda. The Zelda world combines King Arthur-like quests and Never Neverland imagination. Lucca is a conglomerate of Medieval churches, a Roman amphitheater, a Renaissance defensive wall, and archival traces of everyone from the Etruscans to Ashkenazi Jews to Napoleon. Shigeru Miyamoto, one of Zelda’s inventors, cites childhood explorations of the caves and villages of rural Japan for the infusion of nature's secret wonders into the game world. Like the lands of Zelda, Northwestern Italy is a puzzle of rivers and caves and mountains and sea. Lucca’s Serchio river is a waterslide of smooth blue stones. The hills that rise and fall around Lucca like sleeping dragons.* Moreover, the deeper Zelda-ness is in the Italian, or at least Tuscan, or at least Lucchese value that being busy doesn’t make you cool or important. Taking time to linger and get lost is the way to advance to the next level and unlock some cool magic.
Dance Italia in Lucca has an Overworld, just like in Zelda. The Overworld is the zoom out, the macro. In this case, Northwestern Italy. In the Overworld, multi-directional movement is possible, the player can choose where to engage next. No one event/threat/force pushes the plot forward except for the players interest. I have to choose to enter a town, talk to a stranger, pursue a princess, read the news. Like the Overworld, I can not go wherever I want at the start of the game, my options are contingent. I have to pass through B to get from A to C. I may want to move from Florence to Pisa on the weekend, but I will need to get the right advice about the train strike that starts tonight. Zelda’s main hero Link travels via the Overworld to villages, secret places, dungeons, etc to gather critical items and experience in order to save the princess Zelda. Learn: a bottle of water and a glass of wine are equivalent in cost. Unless I can find one of the ancient marble fountains freely offering chilled drinking water. Beware: The streets are confusing as hell. I will need a map. Alert: Things close for nap time in the middle of the day. Important: I can refill my life meter by spending my gold coins on caffé. This summer, the major bosses are Countertechnique, Flying Low, and Gaga.
My superficial online research (#wikipedia) confirms the basement theories of my few video-game loving friends; Zelda pioneered many elements of today’s video game industry. Most notably is how the player thinks. To play Zelda requires a heuristic approach; learning by discovery, rather than direction. To be frank, I don’t play video games (I don’t like suspense, blood & guts, or sitting down.) But I did watch a friend demolish most of Twilight Princess. Props to Miyamoto and the game’s makers. I live my life as an artist, for better or worse, on heuristics. My experience of the artistic process and career is that it does not feed on efficiency or productivity, which makes it a less popular way to live inside of Western cultural norms of success and security. When my artistic process ‘works’ is when I hunt around, spend time with riddles, piece together, attempt and fail, change variables. This is the same of my experience learning to dance, in all of its incarnations, of finding dance in my body/mind. It’s not linear or efficient, I have to gather little bits, keys and maps and riddles, and try them in different doors, in different environments, untangle their meaning as applicable to where I'm at, my dimensions, my physics, my proprioception (handy word for awareness of one’s own body in space). This isn’t NBA Jam (the only video game I remember playing as a kid) with clear rules and a progression of instructions to follow, where specific actions have direct predictable outcomes. This is fucking Zelda: my discoveries come from my own investigations, aided by wizards, goddesses, and total weirdos along the way.