Shop Looking Into The Abyss: Essays On Scenography (Theater: Theory Text Performance)
With his artistic strategies, as well as in numerous lectures and interviews he gave in the English-speaking world, Svoboda maintained that scenography is an inseparable component of theatre work and argued that it is distinguished by the necessity of integral collaboration between all elements.
Both of these works consider the first and the most important problem of understanding the visual aspects of performance: their very essence. Rather paradoxically, these two authors focus on this visual element of performance in order emphatically to testify to the inextricability of the ocular spectrum from wider phenomena within the theatrical register. Action, as the essence of theatricality, does not in such a formulation need to be carried by a human, but by decoration, costume, light, sound or any other element of the structure, whereas the ability to carry action in the course of a performance permanently passes from one element to another.
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These essays, both written in , place visual aspects of performance on the same level of importance as other components and open up the space for their next elaboration. Providing telling examples from practice, Jindra attempts to outline the principal properties of each developmental phase. It should be noted, however, that rather than creating a historical survey, Jindra traces transformations of the function that visual components have held within any given historical performance.
The first phase — dekorace decoration , represented by stereotypical general patterns of a given locale e.
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This 7 All translations from Czech are mine. In such a definition, creating scenography requires a conceptual approach and interpretation. The art of scenography thus involves directorial and dramaturgical work as well as skills and artistic vision in the plastic and creative arts. This perspective suggests that the expressions signifying the visual elements of performance are not just freely interchangeable synonyms, but define particular authorial approaches, genres as well as evolutionary stages.
Scenography itself is thus both a phase of historical development and a specific treatment of performance as well as of its visual elements. Jindra further elaborates on what distinguishes scenography from other not only visual disciplines.
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This step is also substantial in the process of creating the range of critical tools suitable for understanding it. According to Jindra, it was the Russian theatre reformer Konstantin Stanislavski who realised that a painted image is not identical to a scenic one, and therefore must undergo an inner alteration into spatiality so as to hold its meaning in a theatrical context. The situation regarding architecture is similar, because just as with theatre art, theatre architecture shares the category of theatre space, significantly intervening into the structure of the visual components of performance.
Architectonic elements, used on stage, are always subject to dramatic, not architectonic organisation. Similarly, a sculptural object must go through a structural reconstruction in order for it to be able to function on stage as a stage object. It is thus clear that mechanical assimilation of critical methods from architecture, painting, and so on cannot be by nature functional as means of deconstructing and comprehending performance. Scenography — or rather performance as such, as we shall see later on — needs its very own sets of critical tools.
Material sub- components are related to the often neglected, nevertheless defining, pragmatic aspect of scenography the economic, technical and organisational conditions of theatrical realisation , which, according to Jindra, prevents theatre work from becoming a source of impulses towards stylistic changes and in the framework of stylistic evolution, is thus shifted aside into the role of passive receiver.
The main significance in the sense of evolution is then carried by immaterial sub- components, among which are: space, time, movement, rhythm, light, colour and sound JINDRA Only such smaller elements can come into contact with extra-theatrical and extra-artistic fields, mainly philosophy, because they are the originators of the transformation. Immaterial sub- components are the purest and moreover non-divisible elements of the theatrical artefact; they represent its constants, penetrate all layers of its components and form the basis for acting, dramatic text, direction, staging and music.
They are exclusively its matter. In the structure of a performance, they exceed their original use into principles, and all of them not only time and space dispose of the ability of integration.
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The idea that immaterial sub-components form the theatrical artefact is not new. In the days when Craig dreamt of this ideal theatre work, such a synthesis was not achievable in practice. It will be obvious at the same time that the criteria of this perspective will not be essentially different from the analysis of performance as a whole, including the human both actor and spectator , who also participates in acts of performance.
As Jindra suggests, what really makes the differences and pushes forward the development of the visual elements of theatrical performance is the relation between these and other elements of theatrical representation. From that point of view, the twentieth century witnessed a gradual fusion of all elements into a rather complicated total synthesis, as represented by the work of Svoboda and others.
The Routledge Companion to Scenography is the largest and most comprehensive collection of original essays to survey the historical, conceptual, critical and theoretical aspects of this increasingly important aspect of theatre and performance studies. Editor and leading scholar Arnold Aronson brings together a uniquely valuable anthology of texts especially commissioned from across the discipline of theatre and performance studies.
Establishing a stable terminology for a deeply contested term for the first time, this volume looks at scenography as the totality of all the visual, spatial and sensory aspects of performance. Arnold Aronson, a theatre historian and professor of theatre at Columbia University in New York City, writes on scenography as well as modern and contemporary theatre.
He has a long history with the Prague Quadrennial, the international exhibition of theatre and performance design and architecture, serving as President of the Jury in and , curator of the US exhibit in and General Commissioner in The Routledge Companion to Scenography.