Theaterwissenschaft München



International conference "The Art of Scenography: Epistemes and Aesthetics"

An international conference titled »The Art of Scenography: Epistemes and Aesthetics« will be organised in order to dedicate itself to a central aspect of the issues illustrated here, namely the question of scenographic notation. The conference will interrogate the communicative, structural and steering functions that scenographic notation (such as drawings, sketches, scenographic scripts, storyboards or scores) undertakes in performances and performative processes. The cultural techniques of devising work will also be examined, with the question of process and artistic strategies of scenography (in the sense of ›agency‹) spanning the tense ground between directives and realisation/transformation. It will also touch on the question of »phenomenotechniques« (Bachelard) in scenography and the question of ›scenographic knowledge‹. With regard to these issues, scenography has only been explored sparely, if at all, although the importance and cultural productivity of notation, among other issues, is currently under discussion (cf. von Amelunxen/Appelt/Weibel 2008).

It is the goal of the conference to examine scenography as a »compositionist« form of reflection and practice that creates space for action and perception in which experiences of space and a changing knowledge of space can materialise as well as become reflected and negotiated. The focus will be on the issue of design and scenographic scores and notation. According to Bernhard Siegert, notation, like writing, can be understood as a basic cultural technique: »Cultural techniques start at the convergence of the humanities and technical studies and are understood as an absolute prerequisite of culture« (id. 2011, 95). Indeed, writing is etymologically closely linked to the concept of scenography (a composite of the Greek skene, stage backdrop, and graphein, to write). In Sebastiano Serlio’s architectural works, the concept was later associated with perspective image construction as a term for the design of stage sets according to a typification that has been connected to literary theatrical categories (tragedy, comedy, satyr play). In contrast, the iconoclasms of the historical avant-garde broke with tradition and introduced new directions benefiting various modular, devised, dynamised (including by mechanical means) spatial configurations (Brejzek/M. v.d. Haegen/Wallen 2009, and others). In the wake of performance art, Fluxus and Intermedia, scenographic thinking was ultimately transferred into public (urban) spaces (cf. Arnold Aronson’s concept of »environmental scenography«, 1981); this heralded the idea of not seeing the city – tel quel – as ›stage‹, but to investigate it as an aesthetic and (according to Henri Lefebvres) socially creatable space (id. 1974/2000), using scenographic devices (intervention, »action scenography«, cf. Groendahl) – a concept that has continued into the »spaces« of public media (cf. Wiens 2014). As a result of these seismic changes, cultural techniques and methods of scenography have significantly transformed: compositional processes have taken the place of painting and image reproduction, with which scenography, to a certain degree – on the level of work and its aesthetic appearance – has become »invisible« (cf. Scorzin 2011): the conceptual idea that ›directs‹, so to speak, the aesthetic development of spaces, their narratives, atmospheres and (material, visual, acoustic) effects has relocated to an operative level that articulates itself in notation, such as design sketches, story boards, ›performance scripts‹ and scenographic scores.

Up to now, scenographic notation has hardly been discussed, although its scholarly significance has certainly been recognised (cf. McKinney/Butterworth 2009). As a subject, it is barely documented or archived – particularly as the artistic status of the sketches, drawings, models, sequence plans or other prepared ›scores‹ that are its artefacts is difficult to determine – therefore working with them requires not only committed research and material sourcing but also, as the next step, the devising of a method of analysis. The goal of this conference is to deliver a fundamental contribution to this study.

Research project as part of the Heisenberg Programme, DFG, LMU München,
Department of Arts Studies, director: PD Dr Birgit Wiens, assistant: Ulrike Geiger.
The conference will take place during the 2016-2017 winter semester in Munich Organised by LMU München, Department of Arts Studies/TWM (theatre studies Munich), supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), in collaboration with the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München (Academy of Visual Arts Munich)/course in stage design/Prof Katrin Brack.

Planned venue: Akademie der Bildenden Künste München/Coop Himmelb(l)au-Auditorium. The conference will be held in the English language.