Between material and perception: towards an aesthetics of scenography

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The thematic framing for PQ2019, ‘imagination, transformation, and memory’, speaks to a cycle of creative processes at the heart of both performance design and reception. More deeply, the central idea of transformation points to a kind of radical instability that is fundamental to scenography. This paper explores the stakes at play in scenographic transformations to posit an aesthetics of performance design that is rooted not in the visual, but in the confluence of the experiential and the material. It will argue that the ever-present possibilities of change in a constructed, or curated scenographic encounter, generate a sense of instability through which the active experience of perception is brought to the fore. Thus, the aesthetic experience constitutes - as Martin Seel argues - a radical sense of presence in the here and now (2005: 33). Seel’s project is to reframe understandings of philosophical aesthetics by attending to the appearing of objects, rather than their appearances, thus rendering aesthetics a quality of experience rather than of form. From this framework, this paper sets out an aesthetics of scenography grounded in temporal encounters with the unstable. Moreover, I will argue that the experience of scenography is in itself a site of instability, eliding as it does between the aesthetic framework articulated by Seel and those contained in Graham Harman’s ideas of object oriented ontology (2002; 2012; 2013). I propose to examine how the instability of performance materials constitutes a unique form of aesthetic experience in scenography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-25
Number of pages17
JournalTheatre and Performance Design
Early online date25 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2020

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  • scenography
  • object oriented ontology
  • Aesthetics

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