Sunday, July 9, 2017

Adventures in Taipei - Day 2

My day started out with a workshop. I then intended to see a couple of performances but only ended up at one before the awards were handed out at World Stage Design that evening...

Workshop: The Whale Inside the Shell - Kinetic Scenography and its Symbolic Applications

I was lucky to be able to grab a last minute seat in this workshop with Francesco Fassone, the artist behind the previous day's performance Shape. There seemed to be two ideas at play here - one, the concept of using one form that could change shape (in the way that the cloth did in Shape) to represent different scenes during a performance; and two, the idea that objects used in scenography could be archetypes that would work on a subconscious level for the audience. I was far more interested in the first than the second, and while I can see a connection between the two I'm not sure that connection was made entirely clear, or at least it wasn't for me.  The challenge of finding an object that can change its form repeatedly and represent multiple places onstage is exciting and far more difficult than I think. And not something that easily fits into a show that one might already be slated to design - say, The Cherry Orchard. But my attendance at WSD this year has had me thinking about what kinds of projects I can start on my own in the next couple of years and this workshop gave me food for thought there.

Flimmerskotom - Gregor Glogowski, Benjamin Hoesch, Alisa M. Hecke

This was described as "a performance based on the machines, objects, and devices of the theatre space itself." And it started off beautifully, with what looked like a mountain of PARs and halogen lights flickering on and off. The feeling, to me, was one of being in a swamp at night, watching fireflies or other insects and animals wake up. The haze and the lights pointed directly at the audience masked the "performer" doing any of the moving of the fixtures, and so they really did feel alive...however, once a person visibly entered the space, this spell was broken. It changed the vocabulary so drastically, and something that was beautiful and alive no longer seemed that way. I absolutely loved everything about it until that point. But if the goal is to anthropomorphize these machines, don't let us see the operators ever. I get excited about design-driven performance and the chance to see lights actually perform - "act" - as characters seemed irresistible, but was ultimately disappointing when the puppeteers showed us just how not alive they really were.

Awards Ceremony

I stayed through the awards ceremony that night - most of the winners were from Asia and Taiwan in particular, which isn't surprising. This conference's attendance can be largely determined by its location because not only is travel there expensive but transporting models and other display elements can be expensive too. It was a really amazing experience to be around this much stellar design work and bleeding-edge performance work. Now I just have to get the cats to help me make some of my own.
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