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Aesthetics of Impermanence

This post comes from Ecoscenography

Sea_Change_fig.3.3

AN INTEGRATION OF PHENOMENOLOGICAL AND ECOLOGICAL AESTHETICS IN PERFORMANCE DESIGN

While much of my work these days is positioned outside of conventional theatre (in the realm of expanded scenography), my venture into sustainability began in more traditional spaces and practices. My latest academic paper: “The aesthetics of impermanence: an integration of phenomenological and ecological aesthetics in performance design” explores new ideas of aesthetics, using a design that I did for Sea Change at The Place, a contemporary dance venue in London in 2014. This post includes a moderated excerpt and summary from the recent paper. The full paper can be accessed here.

As a scenographer working across the fields of sustainability and performance design, the subject of impermanence and its impact upon environmentally responsible practice is both ubiquitous and complex. The ephemeral and specific nature of theatrical work means that most set and costume designs are only of value for the duration of the performance season—often a matter of days or weeks—before they are discarded. Even digital projection and lighting have hidden impacts that extend beyond a stage production. At first glance, the notion of designing for ephemerality while also considering a work’s extended ecological effects constitutes a certain irony—a contradiction of approaches rather than complementary perspectives that can enrich design aesthetics. However, whilst there are challenges to implementing sustainable approaches in theatre production, I propose that considering the impermanence of performance design and its aesthetic and environmental implications opens up exciting new avenues for exploration including new ways of designing for an ecological paradigm across disciplines.

Sea Change | Richard Osborne | Tanja BeerIn the field of the performing arts, considering the longer-term consequences of temporary design is rarely recognised as part of a scenographer’s responsibilities. Short-term decadence is generally not questioned in theatre design education, and is often encouraged if the budget allows for it. Scenographers are trained to work towards opening night. How we ‘get there’ or what happens to our sets and costumes after the production ends is often neither a priority nor a consideration. Our focus as designers have typically been to create ‘experiences of impermanence’—often extravagant spectacles with little regard for the more prevailing permanence of unwanted remains (seen and unseen) that persist long after the event.

Sea Change | Richard Osborne | Tanja BeerTraditionally, scenography has primarily been preoccupied with theatre design’s immediate visual, functional or experiential effects, with little regard for much else. While I propose that considering phenomenological aesthetics is key to any successful design, the ecological urgency of the last decade also urges us to consider the long-term impacts of our work. This entails developing a concern for the ecological impact of our ephemeral designs, including an interest in the often invisible (and more permanent) causations of material entanglement of sets and costumes—across bodies, substances and environments, well beyond the theatre. This shift brings up bigger questions of how we practice—of what it means to design for both the impermanence or ‘momentary spectacle’ of the theatre experience whilst also considering the more permanent and ecological implications of such work.

Sea Change | Richard Osborne | Tanja BeerIn my latest academic paper, “The aesthetics of impermanence: an integration of phenomenological and ecological aesthetics in performance design”,  I cogitate how engaging with both phenomenological and ecological notions of aesthetics can provide a context for ephemeral designs that also consider a longer view of effects. For example, how might the focus of visual and temporal aesthetics in the performing arts be expanded to acknowledge and incorporate a more explicit relationship with ecological values and ethics? Can the quality and success of theatre design be measured not only by the phenomenological or aesthetic experiences it yields, but also by the environmental and social systems to which it relates and contributes to over time? To consider a design’s greater ecological integrity, it is clear that scenography requires an extended aesthetic field that encompasses environmental, social and political advocacy.

Sea Change | Richard Osborne | Tanja BeerIn 2014, I conducted a practice-led research project through the design and development of Sea Change – a short dance piece about climate change by choreographer Richard Osborne – as part of the Resolutions Festival in London. Examining the relationship between materiality, ephemerality, sustainability and/in performance, my aim was to explore the potential of using both phenomenological and ecological aesthetics to guide the spatial design. By synthesising ideas of phenomenological and ecological aesthetics, Sea Change demonstrated how long term environmental considerations can be brought into the ephemerality of scenographic practice and how these two modes of consideration can also bring about a more unified design outcome.

Sea Change | Richard Osborne | Tanja BeerIncluding ecological aesthetics in theatre production and other temporary design practices requires that designers consider their co-extensive relationship with the living world beyond the experiential and ephemeral. This entails a concern for the ‘unseen’ effects of making temporary spaces and implies a kind of interaction with an ‘invisible design’ – that which may not be immediately evident in the making of the work (unrecyclable set elements, flame-retardant, spray paint and $2 shop props) but we acknowledge has causational potential to form a by-product of the ‘visible’ and ‘experienced’ (adding to landfill waste, air pollution and the production of child labour). At the same time, these ‘unseen’ consequences can also be acknowledged in a positive light, where the designer considers the evolutionary potential of a work to contribute to socio-ecological systems. This multifaceted and complex approach to performance design’s ‘aesthetics of impermanence’ remains at the crux of the sustainability challenge and will no doubt require substantial shifts in how we engage mentally as well as practically with the issue.

Sea Change | Richard Osborne | Tanja Beer

The full paper (including a summary of the learnings from Sea Change) can be viewed here.


The post, Aesthetics of Impermanence: An Integration of Phenomenological and Ecological Aesthetics in Performance Design, appeared first on Ecoscenography.


Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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On Expanded Scenography

This post comes from Ecoscenography

Expanded scenography is everywhere. On the streets, in hospitals, at airports, parks and shopping malls and most recently, in the form of knitted pink beanies and protest banners at political rallies. Space ‘performs’ in the everyday, quotidian, and the mundane, providing much inspiration for scenographers both in and beyond conventional theatre. While it could be argued that ‘expanded scenography’ has existed since the beginning of human culture, performance design’s focus on the ‘expanded’ over the last decade has opened up new approaches and artistic insights. Gone are the days when being a stage designer was restricted to ‘working on other people’s shows’ in traditional theatre spaces. Instead, scenography now represents an exciting pathway for imagining and inspiring new realities beyond the confines of the theatrebuilding and its (often elite) audiences (Beer, 2017).

I recently had the pleasure of editing the newest edition of the CSPA Quarterly on ‘Expanded Scenography’ with fellow ecological artists Ian Garrett and Meghan Moe Beticks. Expanded Scenography is an emerging area in the field of stage design that is being increasingly embraced.  But what is it? ‘Scenography’ is already a contested term, with multiple definitions, but essentially one that describes the art of creating performance environments. Since the last half of the 20th Century, the term ‘scenography’ has rapidly replaced ‘stage design’, ‘theatre design’ or ‘set design’ in contemporary performance scholarship, and now represents a progressive field that is moving far beyond traditional scenic illustration and naturalistic representation.

Publication previewI use the term ‘expanded scenography’ to acknowledge an increasing number of performance designers working outside of traditional theatre, and whose passion for socio-ecological issues is at the core of their practice. Expanded scenography uses scenographic strategies (i.e. spatial, narrative, dramaturgical, performative and multi-sensory) as a way of engaging with the world beyond the theatre. I like to think of expanded scenography as stage design that ‘has left the building’ to intersect with daily life. The idea of scenography ‘leaving the building’ can be both literal and metaphoical, but the central premise is one of questioning normative practices and re-imagining what scenography is and what it can become. It is not bound to the schackles of theatre buildings, disciplinary rhetoric and formal expectations. Here, the scenographer is seen as both a designer and artist in their own right (as well as a producer, facilitator and instigator of creative work).

Ecoscenography works across both in expanded scenography and ecoscenography, but it is in the ‘expanded’ realm that I am finding myself the most these days. Perhaps, it is because the ‘expanded’ allows me to be free to explore the possibilities of ecoscenography — to create new ways of working that integrate ecological thinking without the constraints of unsustainable conventions of the mainstream. For example, projects like The Living Stage and This is not Rubbish could be described as ecoscenography within the realm of expanded scenography.

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I hope that one day I can also create ecoscenographic designs in more traditional settings. I want to demonstrate that ecological projects can also take place in the beautiful theatres that first inspired me as a young artist. Regardless of whether designers want to work across conventional or more expanded contexts, one thing is clear: opportunities for performance designers have never been more diverse and inspiring. I look forward to seeing more scenographers using their theatre training to explore the potential to expand their practice outside of traditional contexts in the coming years.

Our special issue on ‘Expanded Scenography’ features artists who have ventured outside of the more traditional boundaries of theatre-making and performance design to find their own way of responding to the complex problems that haunt us in today. While incredibly diverse, it is our collaborative desire for contributing to the wider world and being part of the political debate as artists in our own right that unites us in this issue. We hope that this publication opens up discussions that reframe traditional perceptions of scenography and introduces new audiences to its potential. The full journal edition can be accessed here.

More information about Expanded Scenography can be found here.



The post, On Expanded Scenography, appeared first on Ecoscenography.



 

About EthnoScenography:

Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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Reimagining the Ruins of Scenography

This post comes from Ecoscenography

Happy 2017! I begin my first post for the year with an edited excerpt and introduction to my latest paper, ‘Reimagining the Ruins of Scenography’ (published in ASAP/Journal in 2016). The paper explores the role of the scenographer in seeking out the artistic potential of unconventional materials and discarded objects in and beyond the theatre. The full article can be downloaded here.

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Opening night at the theatre and the stage is awash with colour and spectacle, an awe-inspiring display of set and costume extravagance. Fast-forward eighteen months: this wondrous design has transformed itself into a mountainous ruin, oozing from a gluttonous skip deep in the bowels of the building. These contemporary “theatre ruins’” begin relatively harmlessly, hidden behind dusty staircases and at the back of storage units, crowding corridors and littering dressing rooms. But sooner or later, what doesn’t make it into the recycle bin is cast off to the land of “away,” where skips overflow into leaching landfills, and, inextricably, into our fragile ecosystems. It is here that we encounter the unsettling reality that our arts practices have consequences.

Image result for overflowing skipThe ephemeral and highly specific nature of theatrical work means that most set and costume designs are only valued for the duration of the performance season (often a matter of days or weeks) before they are discarded.  Designers are rarely contracted to consider the impact of their designs after opening night, or to build post-production possibilities into their creative processes. But does it need to be this way? Can the image of the skip as the final resting place of most theatrical designs instead be revised to find another endpoint where creativity and innovation can once again flourish? How might scenographers embrace cyclic rather than linear production processes to rethink the potential of art’s refuse?

Reimagining the Ruins of Scenography explores the role of the scenographer in seeking out the artistic potential of unconventional materials and discarded objects in and beyond the theatre. Here, extending the use of materials is not approached out of austerity but fuelled by a desire for invention and ingenuity—a way of rethinking design in response to ecological values. Moving beyond the transient nature of performance design, I ask whether post-production considerations can become an integral component of the design concept and thereby extend the legacy of the project. I consider how the temporarility of scenic design can be re-examined so that the “end-point” of production is no longer seen as waste, but becomes an opportunity (intellectual as well as material) for continuing the creative process itself.

Central to the investigation is a reconsideration of notions of value in and beyond the theatre. Instead of concentrating on waste reduction through the reuse of objects, the focus of this research is to examine how recycled materials and found objects can generate value and make a contribution beyond the restricted theatrical economy of production. For example, a set designer might seek out the untapped creative possibilities of readily available resources (such as stock items, found objects, and discarded materials), or materials that might ordinarily be rubbished or otherwise devalued, as a means of creating something of beauty and resonance that might also extend beyond the performance event.

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STRUNG performance (This Is Not Rubbish) using reclaimed salami netting, Central School of Speech and Drama, 2014  (London)

Reimagining the Ruins of Scenography begins by introducing the concept of ecoscenography, a practice I define as the integration of ecological thinking into all stages of scenographic production and aesthetics.  Rethinking conventional production processes, I examine contemporary thinking about material culture and agency through the scenographer’s practice of “making.” Using a practice-based research project—This Is Not Rubbish, which began in December 2012 and unfolded in four phases over a span of two years—I explore the journey of material rescued from the landfill and its capacity to create immersive performance spaces and wearable artefacts.

This Is Not Rubbish considers how post-production procedures may be considered an integral part of the scenographic event and its broader artistic project.  The project situates itself in the field of expanded scenography, where scenographic practices are considered outside of “conventional roles and sites of theatre”  to engage with broader issues of social and environmental advocacy. While This Is Not Rubbish was conducted primarily outside of traditional contexts of theatre making (to enable greater flexibility to explore novel ideas and approaches), the essay also considers potential applications of the project to conventional theatre design practices as well.


The post, Reimagining the Ruins of Scenography, appeared first on Ecoscenography.

Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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Refugium: Performing Resilience in the Heart of the Urban Landscape

This post comes from Ecoscenography

As an artist confronted with a world of increasing environmental uncertainty, I believe we need a hopeful vision: one that acknowledges the challenges and constraints that we face, but also focuses on opportunities for positive change. Put simply, the scale of contemporary ecological concerns can be paralysing and disconnecting; a perverse outcome at a time when custodianship of the natural world could not be more important. Contribution is the antidote, because for most of us it is the idea of contributing that ultimately motivates and inspires us. I see my role as one that facilitates reconnection and spurs contribution by creating moments of ‘wonder’, of ‘awe-inspiring beauty’ and ‘potential’ that reunites us with the natural world.

Refugium is a temporary art installation – a ‘bush refuge’ in the heart of the urban landscape of Federation Square – which seeks to engage the public in regenerative potential. The work explores biodiversity in the city through participatory art making with native plants. It includes a number of free public workshops in kokedama making (an ancient Japanese technique of wrapping plants in moss and string) which employs the community to create mini plant-sculptures that will contribute to a growing exhibition in the Fracture Gallery. On the 17-18 June, the plants will be temporally installed in the centre of the public square for the opening of The Light in Winter festival, before being distributed into the broader Melbourne community to bring greenery into the wider city.
kokedama_01

At the heart of Refugium is the investigation of alternative narratives for engaging urban communities with ecological themes and practices. Accompanied by an interspecies sound design and inspired by Melbourne’s unique climate, the project brings together flora and fauna of past and present to examine the city’s unique stories of place. Refugium uses sound to consider how urban spaces have transformed past ecosystems; how multi-layered historic and contemporary landscapes intersect with human trajectories and spatial hierarchies; and how these stories might be revealed to audiences through new forms of communication.  The 20 minute soundscape created by Nick Roux follows the unique seasons of the region and takes influence from Tim Entwisle’s ‘Sprinter and Sprummer’ – a concept which redefines Australia’s seasons based on the climatic habits of plants.

73Refugium considers how highly visual, sensorial, interactive and participatory events can catalyse engagement, cultivate empathy, precipitate action and engender regenerative potential. Through the work, I ask: (i) How can we engage audiences to reveal urban nature, and provoke humanities intrinsic emotional connection with nature?; (ii) How can artistic practices deliver ecological understanding of environmental adaption and resilience?, and; (iii) How can artistic practices reveal pathways for community involvement in environmental stewardship and cultivate hope for the future?’.

My hope is that the Refugium provides an act of ‘performing resilience’ – a tangible example of how artistic public engagement tools and strategies can sow the seeds of ecosystem awareness, community vitalisation and environmental stewardship.

More information about the event can be found here

Refugium is looking for ‘kokedama masters’ (i.e. crafting and gardening enthusiasts) to help guide our public workshops.  The instruction workshop to become a ‘kokedama master’ will be held on Saturday the 28th of May from 1-3pm in Port Melbourne. Please email tanjabeer.design@gmail.com if you are interested.

Photos by Nick Roux

Sketch by Tanja Beer

The post, Refugium: Performing Resilience in the Heart of the Urban Landscape, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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The Boy and the Sunflower

This post comes from Ecoscenography

Since 2012, I have been developing a series of projects under the banner of The Living Stage, a concept which combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. In this post, I reflect on my time working with Glaswegian Children’s theatre company Eco Drama during the development of my third Living Stage.

bring life into concrete playgroundsIn the UK Summer of 2015, I collaborated with local theatre company Eco Drama to create a travelling garden with and for children that could brighten up Glasgow’s concrete playgrounds; fusing live performance with living plants.

me&gardening3The project involved working with four Glasgow primary schools to design, grow and build a portable stage. I joined permaculturist Katie Lambert and the pupils in their concrete playgrounds in late Spring to plant out quirky containers with basil, parsley, tomatoes and carrots. Despite the dreary Glaswegian weather, the children’s enthusiasm to be outside and get their hands dirty was infectious – placing their hands into the soil was regularly met with audible ‘aahs’ and ‘ooohhs’. Even in pouring rain, there was an instinctive desire for the children to engage with the world beyond the classroom walls.FB_IMG_1438862682003

Together, we planted seeds, made willow arches and wrote plant labels for the set. As we absorbed ourselves in the act of gardening, the children learnt to gently ‘tuck’ their seeds into the ‘bed of soil’ and give the earth a ‘good drink’ of water. By the time the children left for their summer holidays, the seeds had started to sprout, turning the once humble soil into hopeful speckles of green.

FB_IMG_1438862577280Through the growing season, the director, performers and I began building a show around the budding plants, coupling storytelling with experiences of gardening. The story that emerged followed three characters (Plum, Lily and Basil) singing to the salads, flowers and herbs amongst their curious home of plants. Told through music, movement and multi-sensory storytelling, Uprooted connected audiences with nature through the view of the wider planet as home. In true Living Stage spirit, Uprooted became part theatre show, part garden and part installation, where audiences had the opportunity to nibble at the stage and sample drinks made from the set.

FB_IMG_1439020088656FB_IMG_1439020306523Uprooted toured to various outdoor venues and schools across Glasgow, before finding its way back to the schools that helped plant it. As the students returned from their school holidays, they watched the performance and were excited to see how much their plants had grown. They were amazed at how the plump vegetables, bushy herbs and soaring sunflowers that inhabited the set had emerged from the tiny seeds that they had planted months ago. The students revelled in tasting unusual herbs and flowers, and embraced new textures, flavours and sensations. I have never seen so many children so excited about a zucchini. But more broadly, they also shared an immense pride in the space and the fact that ‘their’ stage had been touring around their home city.
After our final showing at Corpus Christi Primary School, we turned to the task of transplanting and installing the set as a permanent feature in the playground, turning an ugly metal fence into a beautiful space for future gardening and storytelling. Again, the children became an integral part of this process, transplanting the living stage pots into the soil of their garden beds and gently ‘tucking’ the greenery into its new home. This time, I witnessed an even greater eagerness to be in the garden and contribute to the next phase of the growing. There was clear comradery and confidence amongst the group, with many of the children playing a leadership role in the planting process. The pupils had been shaped by gardening’s lessons and its potential.

boy with sunflowerAs the children returned to their classrooms after the final session of planting, Eco Drama’s director Emily Reid pulled me aside. She had seen how a boy had taken the initiative to claim responsibility for a sunflower he had planted during the transplanting of the set – even giving the flower its own name ‘Jack’. Emily saw the boy standing by one of the garden beds and started walking towards him, when she suddenly stopped, intrigued.

Lost in his own world and focused inward, the boy did not know that Emily had been close by. As the boy stood there, sharing a moment with his newly found friend ‘Jack’, he began to sing softly to the flower. In the context of Uprooted, where the characters sing to their plants on stage, this would not have been considered unusual; however, it had been a striking moment to experience in the real world. It was only a moment (perhaps only a few seconds before the boy joined his classmates), but Emily’s description of the event bought me incredible joy.

FB_IMG_1438862648341This boy had found a way to break through perceived binaries between humans and nature, nature and culture. He had connected to the ecological complexity of the living world with such simplicity. In this moment of more-than-human communication, this small boy had seen himself as an integral part of the web of life, as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

A short documentary film of Uprooted here.

Photos by E. Reid and E. Carey.

 

The post, The Boy and the Sunflower, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
———-

Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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The Salmon Surveyor by Janne Robberstad

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Janne Robberstad is a Norwegian stage designer who is passionate about reducing waste in her designs, combining sustainability with creativity and place-based responses. Here, she talks about her sustainable approach on The Salmon Surveyor and how the unique cultural, social and environmental landscape of the Southwest region of Norway inspired her process and aesthetic. You can find out more about her work on her website: http://www.spindelmaker.com

12496428_10156299258010411_3776350336391254622_oBømlo Teater is an amateur theatre on a relatively small municipally on the west-coast of Norway.  There are 12,000 inhabitants located on a labyrinth of 1007 big and small islands. With a wide horizon stretching out beyond the land, the locals are immensely proud of this place they call home. Many of the inhabitants work offshore, as part of the oil-industry or farming Salmon (delivering 10% of the world market). As well as a booming economic market, the west coast has a thriving cultural scene, with three theatres, including Northern Europe’s largest outdoor amphitheatre. It is here that I find myself working amongst lots of half-crazy, creative people committed to making art and theatre.

This is also the background for the show which I designed in April 2015, called The Salmon Surveyor (Lakselinja). Based on Norway’s salmon industry, the narrative of the play deals with the people working on the assembly-line, their monotone daily rhythm (how it allows their minds to wander freely) and their relationships with each other. Part dance-performance, part theatre, the show also includes a unique music composition based on taped sounds from the real assembly-line.12496470_10156299258075411_6041454947268578407_o

The Salmon Surveyor ‘s author and director requested a simple and elegant design, with the potential of using Styrofoam fish-crates as multi-elements. I’ve worked in the theatre for 30 years now and I’ve seen firsthand how there is so much waste after a show simply because there is no storage-space.  As a designer dedicated to working as sustainably as possible, my initial thoughts were to check if Styrofoam would be safe to use (tick) and to see if I could recycle the boxes (tick). Once these aspects were approved, I began working on the aesthetics of the design.

12401682_10156299258085411_239556304560342281_oI was interested in expressing a sense of monotony with the Styrofoam – the institutionalised cleanliness of a food-factory in a massive scale while at the same time, maintaining a sense of poetry. I did this by making walls out of piles of 950 Styrofoam crates that I sourced at a factory only 2km away from the theatre. While it was very simple, when placed together the multitude of boxes had a lovely effect – perfect for the lighting-designer to play with, and for projecting video. 50 of crates were also used on stage by the actors as changeable items (e.g. chairs, beds, TVs, the assembly-line).

12401764_10156299258095411_8186048432705076507_oTo assist with the poetic feel, we collaborated with a local salmon-factory, who provided us with live film footage inside one of the fish-cages. With the music going, it looked like the salmon was dancing along with the actors, in their own ballet!  Another local salmon factory gave us the white overalls. They were pre-used so all we had to do was to cover their logo on the back.

After closing night, 937 of the crates were still in pristine condition and were sent straight to a nearby salmon-factory (only 3km away) to be used directly in their manufacturing process. The remaining 13 were sent back to the Styrofoam-factory, where they were recycled into little plates for the meat-industry. While Styrofoam may not be a particularly sustainable material, we considered it within a closed loop cycle, where The Salmon Surveyor essentially ‘borrowed’ the materials to help support the telling of a local story before being placed back into the assembly line once more.

The post, The Salmon Surveyor by Janne Robberstad, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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Ecoscenography: The Paradigm and Practice of Ecological Design in the Performing Arts

IMG_9096 - CopyAs the deadline of handing in my PhD draws closer, I’m excited about uncovering the potential of Ecoscenography. Here, I share a short summary of my research and the possibilities of contributive practice in the performing arts. 

Contemporary ecological concerns bring with them an opportunity for innovation; to rethink traditional practices and forge new approaches that not only strive for sustainability but also push intellectual and creative boundaries. My PhD research investigates the emerging paradigm of ecoscenography – a movement that seeks to integrate ecological principles into all stages of scenographic thinking and production in the performing arts. The thesis explores the potential of ecoscenography through a series of creative works projects that incorporate ideas of ecological thinking, community engagement and contributive practice.

A major focus is the notion of ‘positive legacies’. Moving beyond recycling and efficiency, my research seeks to investigate a more hopeful paradigm, one where scenographic practices are capable of generating positive and far reaching rewards. In my thesis, I ask: 1) how might designers engage with communities to play a central role in social and environmental advocacy and celebration?; 2) how can stories of place be communicated through scenography?, and; 3) can we create designs that not only enrich our audiences, but our communities and environments as well?’.

TheLivingStage_climbing_the_edible_stageSince starting my candidature, a selection of my creative works have developed under the banner of The Living Stage – a global project that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Part theatre, part garden and part food growing demonstration, The Living Stage considers ecological principles and environmental impact as opportunities rather than constraints: ethics that can illuminate, and be integral to aesthetics. At the end of the performances, my living stages are returned to the communities that helped grow them. Physical structures become garden beds and community spaces; plants become healthy food; and waste becomes compost. As each living stage evolves out of a direct response to the localities of site, ecology and community, no project is ever the same.

Since making its debut at the 2013 Castlemaine State Festival, The Living Stageconcept has travelled to Cardiff and Glasgow (UK) and continues to generate interest and inspire other projects around the world. New creative teams have emerged, taking local ecological ideas to engage communities and create positive legacies. Each project is unique, but share clear commonalities: the celebration of multisensory elements, effective and multi-level engagement with audiences, and a legacy that exceeds the celebration of the project through performance. Through projects like The Living Stage, the investigation of ecoscenography has provided me with the opportunity to embark on a new course – to reimagine and cultivate stronger relationships with communities and ecosystems, and to invest directly in their future.

For more information about The Living Stage projects see link below:http://www.tanjabeer.com/the-living-stage/

Sleeping Bag Metamorphosis by Andrea Carr

This post comes from Ecoscenography

This post comes from Andrea Carr – a London based ecoscenographer, artist and co-founder of the ecostage pledge*. Andrea is passionate about investigating the creative potential of repurposing materials in ecological practice. Here she talks about her latest ecoscenography adventure: how discarded camping equipment from UK’s Reading Festival can be given a new life.

How can we inspire one another to make sustainable choices in the creative industries? What are some of the ways in which we can creatively flourish whilst addressing ecological concerns? These are just some of the questions that motivated me for the design of HOAX  Theatre’s  new production exploring mining and climate change.

second.tents at readingLoosely based on Jules Verne’s epic adventure, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, starting in Iceland, three ‘wunderkind’ Geo-Scientists (Flavia Bertum, Ayesha Tansey and Sabrina Manach) from ‘MyGeoCorpse Mining Corporation’ set off in search of precious minerals. As they drill down through the earth’s layers their machinery breaks down, finding themselves lost in the darkness. As panic ensues, they continue on foot, delving deeper into the collective unconscious they begin to unearth the complexities of climate change.

The brief for Journey to the Centre of the Earth was to design four layers of clothing for each Geo-Scientist. This was conceived as part of a series of dramaturgical revelations – with each layer progressing from extremities of cold (at the earths crust) to heat (at the core). Embracing the expedition spirit, I decided to use secondhand camping equipment for my concept. I utilised the particular characteristics (zips, padding and chrysalis shape) of sleeping bags as the first layer of the costume, so that it first appeared as if people are curled up asleep before transforming into unique expedition outfits. The idea was to also depict ideas of metamorphosis and evolution.

My first step to ethically sourcing camping equipment was to contact Julie’s Bicycle (a great resource and champion of sustainability and culture change), who alerted me to the fact that each year volunteers scour the campsites at Reading Festival, as part of the cleanup operation, recovering camping equipment left behind. So while HOAX went on a research and development residency to Fljotstunga Eco-Farm in Iceland (for an invaluable immersive experience exploring the terrain) I joined the volunteers salvage operation.

Perhaps I drew the shorter straw? On the way down to Reading (with Peter, my husband at the wheel) I fretted, “would there be enough sleeping bags left?” But, I need not have worried for nothing could have prepared me for what met my eyes as I stood looking over a sea, not of water, but of abandoned tents! Nevertheless, spirits were high as gloves were excitedly shared amongst the volunteers. I met the Scouts and people collecting for refugees at Calais (all generously providing tips of where the best equipment could be found). It was a pretty devastating sight to see so much discarded camping equipment – but not without hope. It was muddy and stinky (gloves being a must!) but so worth it. By the time my four hour slot was up the light was fading and we had retrieved over forty bags and nine tents, plus other camping bits and bobs for the set and costume design.

IMG_0867It is worth noting that camping equipment is made from synthetic textiles such as nylon, polyester and ripstop derived from the petro-chemical industries (which will take between 20 and 200 years to biodegrade). A sleeping bag is composed of three layers: outer shell (synthetic material), filing (feather or synthetic), lining (synthetic, fleece, silk or cotton), zips – (aluminum, metals, plastic), toggles and cord (plastic and cotton) and polyester sewing thread. It is estimated that 45,000 tents are brought to Reading Festival with 13,500 abandoned at the end of the weekend. The cost of tents (£20) and sleeping bags (£10) has been cited as one of the causes and has changed the nature of camping from a ‘once in a life-time’ purchase to a throw away item.

third (1)The good news is that Reading Festival in collaborative partnership with Julie’s Bicycle, Knowledge Transfer Network and other organisations are pioneering a new project to tackle campsite waste by testing festival-goers interest in services such as tent cleaning and packing away to encourage them to take it away.

Returning from Reading, my flat soon filled with drying sleeping bags – it took 4 days from collection to being ready to use. In my studio, we undertook the wonderful and highly creative process of discovering ways of re-purposing the sleeping bags. This I did with help from my team (Central St Martins graduates: Harriet Fowler, Rosie Elliot-Dancs, Roisin Straver and Elisa Nader) and proved to be more challenging than we had anticipated. The materials had so many layers and surprisingly complex shapes.fourth HOAX IN THE WIND (1)I believe that there is nothing that can give you a deeper appreciation of the resources that go into the production of an item than mindfully deconstructing it. Initiatives and ‘tear downs’ run by places such as FabLab, Hackerspaces, Makersspaces and Restart are great teachers of this process. Once you have experienced this (which I highly recommend!), it becomes increasing difficult to relegate things to the scrap heap. It is a highly insightful process.

There is always a balancing act to consider in any of these ventures – the use of fuel, water and electricity as well as extra support and time. Eco-driven initiatives can take longer than going out and making a direct purchase or even making something from scratch. A deeper understanding and reframing of design and production practices is of vital importance. The materials may cost less, in this case, the total for the van hire, fuel and eco-laundry liquid was £56.00 but the labour was more intense. I believe this needs to be reflected in how budgets are calculated and people’s skills and time valued.

fithMy journey has just begun with HOAX and there will be lots more scope for exciting ecological and creative solutions to inspire the next stages of the design. A work-in-progress presentation of Journey to the Centre of the Earth took place at the Pleasance Theatre, London in October 2015 (as part of ArtCOP21) where I also shared this story as part of a post-show Q&A. The show was a great success, paving the way for a full-length production planned for 2016. My costume also had another outing (worn by Flavia Bertum) at the Omnibus Perception Festival – Voice INTERROBANG: ARTCOP21 opened by Vivienne Westward – where I was given another opportunity to say a few words about the project. As Vivienne snapped a picture of my costume, I did wonder whether it might inspire her next collection!

I personally find it deeply fulfilling when imagination can find creative expression within sustainable practices and this can be linked to helping build awareness around environmental issues – such as, the impact of camping equipment after festivals. While re-cycling and re-purposing was once the remit of ‘poor’ small-scale productions – driven mainly by necessity – production companies of all sizes are now embracing its potential, whether driven by economic or philanthropic concerns. Having witnessed the ‘re-branding’ of re-cycling over the years it is now time to accentuate its opportunities.

Andrea Carr is a scenographer, performance maker and artist interested in the intersection between different disciplines. She is part of a growing community of designers exploring the emerging paradigm of ecoscenography incorporating sustainable practices and  developing ecological projects. She is also a practicing  artist.

*The ecostage pledge (launching in early December) is a new global initiative for the performing arts sector which aims to place ecological thinking at the heart of creative practice.  Join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for updates.

The post, Sleeping Bag Metamorphosis by Andrea Carr, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

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The Ecostage Pledge Launch

This post comes from Ecoscenography

Join us in building a community of change-makers, passionate about combining creativity and ecological action.

Every industry must engage with the reality of ecological consequences and the performing arts can be a unique and powerful platform to imagine and inspire new realities. The ecostage pledge is about commitment and values, because with a conscious set of shared values we have a greater capacity to take action.

What: The ecostage pledge (www.ecostagepledge.com) is a new global initiative for the performing arts sector that aims to place ecological thinking at the heart of creative practice.

Why: Envisioned as a public declaration and conversation starter to help raise awareness of ecological issues, the pledge is intended as a platform for advocating change. It consists of a set of ecological values and provocations aimed at engaging with ecological practice as a creative endeavour that deepens our relationship to the more-than-human world.

Who: The pledge is for performance makers, directors, designers, choreographers, producers, administrators, technicians, video and sound artists, performers and playwrights (basically anyone who is passionate about sustainability in the performing arts!).

How: To join a community of ecologically-minded theatre makers, go to www.ecostagepledge.com and take the pledge and download the ‘ecostage pledge stamp’.

This initiative has been instigated by three ecoscenographers (Tanja Beer, Andrea Carr and Alice Malia) and will be launched globally in 2015/2016. Beginning at ArtCop in Paris on the 4th of December, the ecostage pledge will launch in Australia at Cop-Out (Arts House, Melbourne) on the 11th of December.

Join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for updates.

The post, The Ecostage Pledge Launch, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

Go to MELD

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