Considering Sustainble Design @ PQ 2011

Historically, the Prague Quadrennial has been an international exhibition of scenography (stage design), where countries come together to display the best of their theater work and the spirit of their design methodologies. It’s a mass of gatherings. It’s discussions and performances and lectures and guerilla moments in the streets (is that a performance or a conversation? Is she injured or just creating an interesting shape? Is that a flamboyant dress or a costume?). It’s also Scenofest, the educational arm of the Quadrennial, featuring a series of workshops and organized talks.

At DAMU, the Czech Academy of Dramatic Arts, CSPA Executive Director Ian Garrett gathered with Nick Moran of the Central School of Speech & Drama and myself to discuss sustainability in design on a panel led by William Mackwood of York University (best known for hosting the Staging Sustainability conference earlier this year). While no one walked in with a paper dress or noisemaking speakers, some fascinating discourse ensued regarding the nature of performance.

Ian Garrett started off with a powerpoint overview of green practices in the arts. He’s extensively acquainted with the overall carbon impact of the average theater production: length of run, power consumption, material. In the years that he’s been building the CSPA, he’s also been gathering a mass of information on the complexity of the arts’ environmental impact. Garrett brings into the discussion issue of audience transportation (a huge factor in carbon footprint) vs. the potential impact of audiences if they had just stayed at home that night. He also discussed the work of groups like Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company and the Broadway Green Alliance.

Following him was Nick Moran, who focused on the resources on the site Julie’s Bicycle and the need within the green movement to make changes on a small (and totally unsexy) level, like type of toilet paper, while continuously pressing for systematic change in arts production culture. He discussed everything from tungsten lamps to fuel cells from the standpoint of a lighting designer who fiercely believes in sustainability.

I stepped up and discussed my obsession of the past several years—ecologically restorative art, including works from Xavier Cortada and Mierle Ukeles, and some of my own work.

Then Mackwood wrapped up presentations with examples of his current work and research at York and Out of the Box Productions, including a greening of “Opera Erotique,” which used all-LED lighting. He discussed design qualities unique to the famously energy-efficient lighting, including cut-lines on dancers, strobe capabilities, and the ability to fit an entire lighting rig in the trunk of a car. What followed was an interesting and brief discussion of LED design. Nick Moran brought up the fact that, unlike tungsten, LED color properties don’t change as they fade. “Imagine that you’re in a world where, for the first time, your lights change color as they fade out. WHAT?! What have you done? Change it!”

In the roundtable following, balance was a key issue in discussion: between medium and message, between creative and financial needs, between work and decompression.“You’ve gotta make good work, otherwise there’s no point: worthy, dull, theatre does not change anyone’s mind,” said Moran. The audience was a point of debate. Are we trying to change their minds, or just give them more sustainable spectacle? Are we trying to address the needs of their transportation, or just present eco-theater? In a field of limited resources it’s all about priorities, and needs are complex. As performances exploded all over the streets of Prague, a very grounding discourse took place at DAMU. Like every conversation about sustainability, it leads to more questions, more conversations, and a grab-bag of actionable items. Regardless, it’s refreshing to be in a room with sharp minds that are focused on this issue, and there is potential for a wider impact at the next PQ.

etIntersection: Scenography Expanding


Scenography Expanding

Symposia 1-3

Riga – Belgrade – Evora 2010


Scenography Expanding

Invitation and Call for Papers

Throughout the past decade, scenographic practice and performance design have continuously moved beyond the black box of the theatre toward a hybrid terrain located at the intersections of theatre, architecture, exhibition, visual arts, and media. This terrain and its spaces are constructed from action and interaction. They are defined by individual and group behavior, and are contrasted by distinct behavioral patterns.

It is proposed here that spaces that are staged in such a way –  spaces that are at the same time hybrid, mediated, narrative, and transformative – result from a trans-disciplinary understanding of space and a distinct awareness of social agency. These two factors of “expansion” are seen as the central driving forces in contemporary scenographic practice and thought.

With the aim of initiating and hosting an active and trans-disciplinary discourse on the notion of an expanding scenography, the  Prague Quadrennial for Performance Design and Space issues an invitation for participation and a Call for Papers for the symposia and workshop sessions, Scenography Expanding 1-3 in 2010. Grouped under the overriding and programmatic title of Scenography Expanding, invited academic papers, artist’s presentations and expert workshop sessions will be looking to engage with notions of spectatorship, artists/authors, and curating in relation to the diverse artistic positions in contemporary spatial design.

In preparation for the Intersection Project of the Prague Quadrennial in June, 2011, we invite researchers in practice and theory (artists, curators, programers, directors, dramaturgs, critics, and theorists) to participate in 3 international scenography symposia held in Riga, Belgrade and Évora during 2010. The overall aim of these symposia is to unfold the wide range of disciplines, genres, theoretical, and artistic positions that comprise the relationships between spectator, artist/author and curator in contemporary scenographic/performance design practice.

Scenography Expanding 1-3 will be followed up by a peer-reviewed publication comprised of selected speakers` contributions in the form of academic papers and visual essays.  Guidelines for authors will be available shortly via download from www.intersection.cz.

Scenography Expanding 1: On Spectatorship

February 25 – 27, 2010

New Theatre Institute of Latvia, Riga, Latvia

Speaker presentations, panel discussions, and workshop sessions engage with effects of the proposed “scenographic turn” on notions of spectatorship in performance design and space.

How are contemporary theories of spectatorship expanding by the increasingly hybrid spaces that we inhabit – in theatre (performance), architecture, exhibition, and media?  Is “space” becoming a governing factor in the negotiation between performers and spectators?

Do hybrid spaces invite new agendas to be explored, performed, exhibited, and constructed? Does an expanding notion of scenography challenge/confirm established notions of live-ness and re-mediation?

Deadline for registration and submission of abstracts (please download the application form at ww.intersection.cz): 15.12.2009

Scenography Expanding 2: On Artists/Authors

July 9 – 11, 2010

BELEF Center and Festival, Belgrade, Serbia

Speaker presentations, panel discussions, and workshop sessions investigate the question of the identity of the artist/author in the conceptualization, construction and participation in hybrid scenographic and performance design spaces.

Who are the artists and teams responsible for creating contemporary scenographies in theatre, performance, architecture, exhibition, installation, and media? Is and/or how is the trans-disciplinary nature of scenographic teams reflected in the theoretical discourse on scenography? When does audience become a co-creator? When does a curator become a co-creator?

Deadline for registration and submission of abstracts (please download the application form at www.intersection.cz): 15.3.2010

Scenography Expanding 3: On Curating

September 27 – 29, 2010

Festival Escrita na Paisagem and Centro de História da Arte e Investigação Artística (CHAIA), Évora, Portugal

Speaker presentations, panel discussions, and workshop sessions are concerned with the complex role of the curator in exhibiting spatial practice. A range of models, examples, and future perspectives are introduced and discussed. How is scenographic practice in theatre (performance), architecture, exhibition, installation, and media framed in order to curate, program, communicate, display and reflect? When does an artist become a curator? Who is the author of the space? What are contemporary perspectives on the display of ephemeral practice? Between Badious’ call for “decidedness” (2005) and Bourriauds’ relational aesthetics (2002) – where do we stand?

Deadline for registration and submission of abstracts (please download the application form at www.intersection.cz): 15.6.2010

Symposia Conveners

Sodja Lotker, Prague Quadrennial Artistic Director

Thea Brejzek, Prague Quadrennial Curator for Theory

Please send abstracts of 300 words max, and a short bio to: sodja.lotker@pq.cz and thea.brejzek@zhdk.ch (please download the application form at www.intersection.cz).

We will inform you within two weeks of the submission deadline whether your proposal

has been accepted.

More information, including registration forms and the full program (keynote speakers and speakers, publication details, etc.), will be updated on: www.intersection.cz.

Join our mailing list to get the latest information: pq@pq.cz.

The symposia are part of the Intersection: Intimacy and Spectacle – a special international project of the Prague Quadrennial that explores performance and performativity as important elements of diverse art and cultural disciplines, focusing on performance design and scenography as interdisciplinary fields.  The project will consist of two central parts: research symposia as well as interactive installations/performance that will take place in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Latvia, Ireland, Great Britain, Estonia, Finland, Norway and Portugal during 2011 and 2012.

Intersection project is organized by the Prague Quadrennial (CZ) in co-operation with the New Theatre Institute of Latvia (LAT); the Irish Theatre Institute (IE); the Victoria and Albert Museum (GB); the BELEF Festival (RS); the Kretakör Theatre Company (HU); the National Theatre Prague (CZ); Ente Teatrale Italiano (IT); Kiasma Theatre, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (FI); as well as the Institute of Design & Technology, Design Department, Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK (CH); the Escrita na Paisagem’s Festival de Performance e Artes da Terra (PT); the Centro de História da Arte e Investigação Artística (PT).

With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union.

The Prague Quadrennial is organized by Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and Arts and Theatre Institute.

Video Chat in Artistic Endeavors

skype-iconIt goes without saying that the travel associated with our artist endeavors is not the most sustainable. I’ve been to so many conferences this last year, mostly traveling by plane. Next week I’m off to Europe where I’ll be staying in Copenhagen for COP15 and Wooloo.org‘s New Life Festival, but I’m also headed to London for the Future Arcola Launch and, it’s looking like Prague as well, to check in with a project for the next PQ in June of 2011.

I personally love traveling. I feel guilty, yes, but I love going places. I also feel there is no substitute for in-person discussions. The spontaneity and intimacy of direct contact is important and this is easiest to accommodate face-to-face and in the flesh. And, even when it’s not about having a one-on-one, there is also that just showing up most of the time is a big deal. I maintain that our “success” with the CSPA is due to persistence and “showing up”.

Two weeks ago, I was in Orlando for LDI for a full day of Green Sessions for the show technology crowd put together by Bob Usdin and Annie Jacobs from Showman Fabricators. There I had the chance to meet Bryan Raven of White Light in the UK again. We had been on a roundtable panel at the Theatre Materials/Material Theatre conference at the Central School of Speech and Drama‘s Center for Excellence in Theatre Training in April of 2008. That previous conference was also when I was able to meet, and have a drink with, Ben Todd from Arcola. Ben, who was not able to come to Orlando, and was instead in Stockholm (maybe you saw his post early this week) , was present via a video chat to talk about Future Arcola.

With the ubiquity of broadband connections, more and more people seem to be relying on video conference/chat technology to get other busy, high profile, greener guests to be able to be in two spaces at the same time. And, as it tends to shake out, the resident technophile/ show technologist, I get the pleasure of making a lot of them work.

Google_Talk_icon_by_hungery5Last night, at California Institute of the Arts I set up a video chat audition for guest artists that will be in residency at REDCAT, CalArt’s downtown LA space. The Artists of Invasion from the Chicken Planet, are based in New York and, though of no sustainable intention, weren’t going to fly out to audition some of our actors to use in their residency for two hours.

The day before, we had tested the connection. We used the same computer with the same software on the same network (hardwired into the wall) that we’d use the next day. We tried Skype, which was too choppy, garbled and had a couple seconds delay that made it less than ideal. We then switched to iChat with AOL Instant Messenger accounts and after realizing another computer being connected was preventing a decent video link, it proved the smoothest and most immediate.

So last night, when we moved the computer into the room that we would be conducting the auditions in, we configured the machine the same way, but were not able to make a connection on iChat. Skype had the same issues. At the prompting of a student director who was assisting, we tried Gtalk Video chat. It ended up working immediately and with excellent quality.

Earlier in the year, at Earth Matters on Stage (EMOS), when Moe Beitiks had tried to link up Brent Bucknum to present his bio-remidative work via video chat, we tried ooVoo, which we gave up on in favor of iChat again. We had almost just given up, but I only thought to use iChar from the decent chats I had experienced with my brother-in-law who was living in Edinburgh at the time. Also at EMOS we had a video conference in the University of Oregon library with a panel in London arranged by the Ashden Directory, which used their dedicated video conferencing package.

aim_logo_2.jpgIn both situations the video wasn’t great, but we could sort of communicate. The Ashden Session involved each end of the discussion/video conference going into another room to watch a video and then coming back to discuss together. But there was lag and the video wasn’t particularly clear. The Brent Bucknam session was not bad, but very one-way. For Green Day at LDI, the audio was great, but in one session, with Seema Sueeko from Mo’olelo Performing Arts, the video was minutes behind the audio connection.

Having now had extensive experience with video conferencing in less than ideal situations, I do long for the day when we’ll be able to turn on whatever client we’re using to video chat and it works smoothly and immediately, let alone with high resolution. But, that day isn’t particularly close. There are a lot of variables in the way of making that happen. Network connections, equipment, client servers, client and local network traffic, sunspots, radio waves and the phases of the moon. Even when we tried to eliminate as many of those variables in Eugene as possible, it still didn’t work ideally. Or, what was ideally was not enough to convince.

Will our broadband video connections be able to save us the footprint of air travel for conferences and internationally collaborative meetings of the mind? Not yet. There might be some expensive corporate system out there, but we lowly green artists aren’t going to hold our breath waiting for that. Oprah’s skype seems to work fine, but I’ve never had such luck, so I leave that package just to replace my need for international phone calls.

I’d still rather sit and talk to you, especially when we aren’t both staring at our monitors in our Pajamas.

Also yesterday, Enci Box of Rebel Without a Car Productions came to speak to my and Leslie Tamaribuchi’s class, Sustainability Seminar. She can to talk about producing a short film as sustainably as possible. This included not using cars and transporting everything by bike with the help of the LA Greensters (green teamsters). She made the trip from East Hollywood, in the center of Los Angeles, to the edge of the county, where CalArts resides in Valencia, without a car. She came up on a Metrolink commuter train, biking from the station to campus. She and I had worked out the options for getting there and she had the time to dedicate to coming up. Also, she was lucky to had met a guy who regularly made that journey to visit his girlfriend at CalArts and could relay the benefit of his experience. She then went back home, via bike. all roughly 30 miles of the trip. Coming up to CalArts, it took 2 hours. Returning was supposedly going to be one and a half hours. All for a 45 minute presentation.

I suppose we could have had her “skype” in (even if we don’t typically end up on skype), but having her there in-person was a much greater thrill and much more in the moment for the students and for her. Instead it took dedication to not leaving a footprint, and finding alternatives to get to the class. I’m very much indebted to Enci for making the journey, which some might say was epic, to present for a fraction of that travel time. But, I think it far surpassed our alternatives.

The 2011 Prague Quadrennial will take place in a new space – the Veletržní Palace

Time and place – these two variables have been set for the next Prague Quadrennial (PQ), the largest international event dedicated to stage design, performance, and space. The 12th PQ will take place in the Veletržní Palace (the building of the Czech National Gallery) from June 16th to June 26th, 2011. The Veletržní Palace is only a few hundred meters away from PQ’s previous location, the Industrial Palace within the Prague Exhibition Grounds. In 2011, the functionalist building of the Veletržní Palace become the center of the PQ as it hosts the two main sections – the Section of Countries and Regions and the Student Section. Aside from the expositions, which will be spread on among several floors of the building, there will be a number of lectures and classes, as well as many other events. In addition, the artists will also visit the city center, as many shows, exhibitions, and performances will take place directly in the streets of Prague, on the piazzetta of the National Theatre, or in the building of the Theatre Academy.

”As for the Prague Quadrennial in 2007, there were almost 30,000 visitors and more than 5,000 professionals and students from all over the world. One of our aims for the upcoming PQ therefore was to look for a new place, which would not only correspond to the growing interest of the public, but would also be an important source of impulse for the PQ itself. The connection with the National Gallery offers new context for the Prague Quadrennial, which presents scenography as an artistic discipline between visual and performing arts,“ says Sodja Lotker, the PQ Artistic Director .

The main objective of the PQ is to draw attention to current works of scenographers and architects to the broader public. Apart from the professional aspect, the PQ’s organizers are planning to introduce a number of events meant for the general public and kids. At this moment there are 57 countries signed up to participate in the next PQ. There are a number of traditional PQ participating countries registered, such as the USA, Germany, and Norway, but also countries like India and Kazakhstan. For more detailed information, please go to www.pq.cz/en.

Preparations for the next Prague Quadrennial are already in full swing. Great attention, however, has turned to the new PQ project, the Intersection. It is a unique project combining workshops, symposia, and last but not least, the artistic event itself. The Intersection is clearly the most extensive project of its kind, connecting various fields and genres of contemporary art, related to performance and performance design – theatre itself, dance, art installations, video art, performance, body art, fashion, new media, architecture, and site-specific pieces, among others. As a result of several years of effort, there will be a performance/installation in the Prague city center, where people will be able to see performances throughout the day, or where one can see installations or video art. The importance of this project is not only marked by the participation of 8 other important institutions as Victoria and Albert Museum or Kretakör Theatre Company, but also the fact that the project was awarded the Culture Grant of the European Union, where it succeeded among 296 applications. The first part of the project – the international theoretical symposia took place in Autumn 2009 in Amsterdam and Zurich.

The quintessential element of the PQ program, however, will traditionally be connected to the Section of Countries and Regions. Individual country’s concepts will represent all current stage design directions: the stage, costume, lighting and sound design, etc. and their mutual connections. As in previous years, plenty of space will be also dedicated to the Student Section. Aside from the expositions of particular art schools from around the world, this section will also host the Scenofest – an educational project based in workshops and site-specific performances. The question, “what is a theatre now?” will be the main topic of the Architecture Section, which will mainly focus on the diversity of forms of theatre space in the 21st century. This section will not only take spectators from the theatre building to site-specific spaces and all the way to virtual space, also it will also create dialog among architecture, scenography, and contemporary performance.

The three main competitive sections of the Prague Quadrennial, where participating countries and artists may win the main prize, the Golden Triga, as well as other awards, will be accompanied by several programs meant to address the broadest international public. There will be a new project concerning costumes, a sound and light project, and the traditional PQ for Children project, which will take place directly in the streets of Prague.

The Veletržní Palace is one of the most important functionalist buildings in Prague. Built by Josef Fuchs and Oldřich Tyl, the building was completed in 1928 and was, in its time, highly praised for its size, modern concept, and unusual façade. The six floors of the building served its original purpose until 1939 when it began to be used for many different purposes. Destroyed by fire in 1974, the building was reconstructed in the early 1990s and today it serves as the home of 20th and 21st century art for the Czech National Gallery.

For more information please contact:

Ondřej Kopička

International PR

Prague Quadrennial

M: +420 608 540 360
E: press@pq.cz