Cena#1: Outlooks

In addition to the works presented by  the 16 artists selected, the project  has the special participation of Pamela Howard, author of the book “What is Scenography” and Marketa Fantova, artistic director for  Prague Quadrennial, PQ’ 19, who  cordially accepted the invitation to write for the catalogue, contributing and sharing their vision an experience on ‘ drawing scenes ‘

PAMELA HOWARD  (United Kingdom)

Creating the context of a narrative on stage  

All drama is about love and death, tragedy and comedy, illusion and reality, and is told to spectators by actors – the ‘ carriers of the myth “ in a dedicated performative space.   The spoken or sung words tell the story, and the visual artist seeks to enhance those words so that the ‘ eyes see what the ears do not hear ‘. To tell this story, there has to be a synchronicity of all the component parts, verbal, musical, visual, textual, ideally bound into a coherent theatrical language, that provokes and engenders critical debate. For the American designer Ming Cho Lee, Theatre is ‘ an arena where the great issues of life are wrestled with “ . Words are ambiguous, and frequently create misunderstandings and misconceptions. “ Design’  implies an applied art, and ‘ Scenography ‘ in the English speaking world, is often mistaken as another word for ‘ Set Design’ . In 1970  the  young writer and theatre creator from a small village deep in the Ardeche in France, Roger Planchon, began quite naturally in his productions to ‘‘paint pictures with people“  on the stage describing his evolving practice as  ‘l’ecriture scenique‘ – the writing of the stage space, the original definition of  the Greek skeno-grafika  .  ‘Director ‘ a title now taken for granted, no longer describes  the interdisciplinary skills and vocabulary  needed  to meet the challenges of contemporary theatre practice, that unite the disciplines .  Drawing however, is very precise, even when free.  Just  a movement from thin to thick of a line drawn by Matisse describes  the volume of a body, clearly, beautifully, evocatively.  The  visual theatre artist has to be a compulsive observer of human life, and have instantly at hand the means to record what is seen, and a retrieval system  so that  they are of use to the retelling of timeless stories that are the lifeblood of theatre. Nothing co-ordinates memory as efficiently as the brain, eye, hand  and pledging a drawing to paper.. and a pencil never lets one down !  Telling a story, even the same one, from generation to generation, is the most enduring legacy in human civilization, and is always re-interpreted in contemporary context.

Pamela Howard  is a director, scenographer and freelance designer in many of the major Regional Theatres in UK, including the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Theatre and many productions in Europe and USA. Since 2000 she has been working mainly as an opera director/scenographer in Czech Republic and UK. She is author of “What is Scenography” (published by  Routledge), production designer of The Great Game (Tricycle Theatre London/USA) , and an educator, gallery curator and fine artist.

MARKETA FANTOVA  (Czech Republic)

Performance Design unlabeled

We shouldn’t try so hard to prescribe, intellectualize, sort and label what are the exact components of performance design. Openness and freedom is what encourages new ideas…  There seem to be many attempts to bring on new and original work by rejecting and deconstructing the old practices. Rejection and intellectualization creates limits that are unnecessary.  The more we try to get out of the box this way, the more we are finding ourselves boxed in.   Instead, we should consider ourselves very lucky to have an opportunity to realize our dreams, watch them materialize and disappear, with only memories and few artifacts left. We create moments to share with our generations, temporal worlds; emotional capsules measured by a qualitative mind clock not the quantitative one dividing our lives into seconds.  If we work with outmost honesty, we are never bored, constantly searching for solutions, ideas and inspiration.  We are pushed by the urge to share something important with others, search for the deeper meanings, surf the edge between the rational and irrational, emotional and logical, bring the glimpses of the far corners of our human imagination, blur the boundary between reality and the imagined. And above all we strive to create a universe in which the performer and the audience can live through an experience together. A universe with inner laws and inner logic, that has endless possibilities of bringing the unexpected. We look through the lens of here and now, bring past moments and the future into the immediate present, touching on current events, situations, things that move us and bring on changes.  What kills our work is routine, empty repetition of the same steps, inability to listen and connect with others. Our work fails when the viewers, the performers, we humans feel nothing, when there is no emotional impact, when we fail to bring on any level of a visceral excitement.  The work of design for performance can be done in theatre, public space, or in the middle of a lake. Design for performance can use any approach, discipline, or technology, from painting, sculpture, architecture, to building a space out of sound or light alone. There are no boundaries, other than the ones we make for ourselves and the only limits are our fears…

Markéta Fantová  was born in Prague, is a scenic, lighting and costume designer for theatre, dance, and performance art. She has worked in theatres, galleries and visually inspiring sites in both the United States and Europe. In June 2015 Marketa led the USITT-USA team as the curator of the US National and Student exhibits for the 2015 Prague Quadrennial and recently moved to Prague from Philadelphia, where she accepted a position of the Artistic Director of the Prague Quadrennial 2019.

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