The Skaters project began not with a study of ice skaters but as a study of children’s Internet gaming habits. Looking at the computer games that many played online, I noticed that many were based on extreme sports that children were unlikely to experience themselves.
In one game for example, players had to challenge themselves to play Olympic level figure skating. I became interested in exploring the relationship between player and avatar and in 2009, visited a large ice rink in the north east of Scotland where the skaters who had provided the 3D motion-capture data for this digital game practiced.
I photographed theses young skaters, using the heightened artificiality of the ice rink as a mirror to reflect on their roles as the avatar in this computer game. From sessions at the ice arena, I produced a series of images that depicted the skaters as small figures suspended, mid-action. In their frozen state, they resembled frames from a paused game or figures held in suspension or awaiting the instruction to move forward. In her essay ‘Illusio and Mimicry in the Age of the Avatar’ [Bell, 2010] sociologist Vikki Bell describes these images as ‘like bodies yielding to a powerful force – a gust or blast that propels her off her feet’. The gusts or blasts that Bell describes in Avatar (i) are produced not by the actions of the skater, but through a combination of my own consciousness and the algorithms of the computer.¹
The Skaters were first shown in 2009 at ffoto Gallery in Cardiff, where they formed part of an exhibition and publication of the same name.
¹ The Skater – Wendy McMurdo’ (monograph).
Authors: Bell, Vikki; Drake, David; Roberts, Russell, Holmes, Paul; McMurdo, Wendy. Publisher: Ffotogallery, Wales, Cardiff. ISBN: 978-1-872771-73-1. Date: Aug 2009. Illustration: 30 colour. Published to mark Ffotogallery’s 30th Anniversary .