Contemporary scenography appears – in and beyond the theatre – in many guises: the spectrum ranges from stage sets, performance design and ‘environmental scenography’ through exhibition design, film and media scenography to urban design and staged commercial events. Starting from this observation, the seminar discusses scenography as an interdisciplinary arts phenomenon: In its diversity of forms, it emerges primarily not as a visual art but rather as a spatial art, in which media, objects and scenographic constel-lations do not figure as a backdrop or décor, rather they are actors and ‘non-human agents’ (Latour) within performative processes. It is in this way that scenographic practices shape our spatial experience and perception. With regard to this, since around the millennium a very lively debate commenced, especially in the anglophone theatre & performance studies. Numerous publications appeared, discussing the remarkably diverse object described as ‘contemporary scenography’ (cf. Howard [2002] 2019, McKinney/ Palmer 2017, Hann 2019, Aronson 2019, Wiens [2019] 2021). The seminar will provide an introduction into this research discussion.
In more recent debates, three major trends can be seen: a. an increased 'digitalision thrust' that theatre makers, scenographers, and audiences are experiencing under the current (post-)pandemic conditions: Experimenting with digital performance, virtual spaces, gaming, AI, and remote interaction, with VR, AR, and XR, performances in 'extended co-presence space' (dislocated, but connected via media in real time), or with immersive installations located in real space. These experiments offer, again, opportu-nities to rethink space – not as a 'replacement’, but as an extension of hitherto customary spatial formations of theatre (historically seen, they are not without precursors, cf. Wiens 2014, O'Dwyer 2021). b. Another aspect, different but related, concerns the 'ecology of the arts' and the ‘ecological footprint’ that scenography causes with material and re-source consumption as well as the amount of travelling and domestic and/or internatio-nal touring that occurs with each theatre and performance piece. (cf. Handley 2021, Beer 2022). c. The third aspect is based on the thesis that perhaps the proper core task of scenography, as an art, is to actually design 'shared spaces’, which always include both aesthetic and social dimensions (Lotker 2015); this is now linked quite strongly with the questions regarding diversity, participation, democratic participation, and decolonising perspectives on European theatre in its relationship to and with other cultures. After a general introduction into the current debate, the seminar will esp. focus on these aspects.