Table of Contents1. Issue 079 (Full Issue PDF)
Photography and theatre have strong connections. The two artforms speak to authenticity, fiction, and craft, and in coming together create an engaging dialogue of visual references. The premise of this conversation was to question and explore the dynamic role performance photography has within the world of theatre and live performance. This conversation between professional practitioners aims to open further inquiry into the field and speak to the intersection of performance photography and theatre within Australia’s contemporary performance landscape from the photographers’ point of view.
The recent rise in sonic-led dramaturgical analysis has contested previously perceived hierarchies of sound and vision in the theatre. This paper seeks to move away from a binary approach and offers a heterarchical approach to directing the relationship between sound and vision. Carole Crumley defines heterarchy as “the relation of elements to one another when they are unranked,” so that the power is “counterpoised” (1995, p.3), and this paper applies this concept to the process of creating a multi-sensory, site-specific interdisciplinary work, Plunge (2017).
Drawing on the spectacle of elite sport, Plungeexperimented modes of viewing: up close, through glass, up a 10m dive-tower, through illuminated water and at vast distances from an open-air stadium, as audiences promenaded across the aquatic centre viewing small and large-scale videos projected onto the body, buildings and pools. heterarchical approach to composition facilitated the ambiguity of ownership between verbatim techniques and fiction to deliberately blur the ‘truth’ claims of the form and broaden public perceptions of elite athletes. Through a de-hierarchical approach to artforms and interplay between sound and vision, Plungesought to create a highly sensate, large-scale spectacle that still felt deeply intimate, personal and political.
In this article, I discuss Mapping the Sound/Soundscape Portrait (206, 2018), an audience-participatory, synaesthetic sound/drawing live performance. I perform my synaesthesia: sitting on a large piece of paper, I draw the sounds that I hear as I “see” them with the eyes of my mind, and I move accordingly— if sound is a place (soundscape), what does it look like? Conceiving sound as a performative element with agency, Mapping invites those involved to pay attention to the liveness of the soundscape in which they are immersed and their relationship with it. This work questions the sight-hegemonic and purpose-oriented human experience of place by centralising the presence and presentness of sound as the key-element of narrative-making and knowledge production. The agency of the audience and of sound in the performance de-centralises the artist, who ceases to be the protagonist of the work and becomes a vehicle for its process to unfold. The performance offers a new sensorial perspective on the surrounding environment to those involved, contributing to the scholarship studying the role of live art and embodied practices as tools in investigating the world.
Three prominent Australian artists who work with projection discuss the ways in which they collaborate within creative processes and creative teams, forging new visual dramaturgies of performance-making in a rapidly expanding practice.
This practice-led research opens the heart of collaboration in Composed Theatre, capturing the dynamics of the earliest stages of creative development from the inside, through the eyes of artists who specialise in music, theatre and the territory in between.
This paper uses text, image and sound to tune in to productive tensions in creative development of SOX , a work of non-verbal Composed Theatre led by live looped music within which artists may locate and concentrate the inventiveness necessitated by an intermedial approach to making performance. This note from the field examines themes of experimentation and collaboration, and identifies oscillations between form and indeterminacy, spontaneity and plasticity in creative development where music is allowed to lead.
Siren Song premiered at the 2017 Dark Mofo Festival, in Hobart, Australia. Twice daily for the duration of the festival, at dawn and dusk, 450 speakers, mounted on the roofs of 6 buildings across the Hobart waterfront as well as the speaker set from a tsunami warning system mounted onto a retired defence helicopter, blasted choral soundscape of female voices through the streets of Hobart and out across the Derwent River. I argue that Siren Song forms part of a wider sound-led shift in contemporary Australian festival programming which rejects English theatre hierarchies of text and vocal clarity, instead drawing on sounds ability to engulf, to rupture and to claim air space in contemporary performance. In this paper, I analyse the ways that Siren Song deployed politics of sound, how it claimed volume, took up vibrational space and asserted echo and how these vibrations and volumes possessed landscape and airspace. Drawing together theorists from sound studies, performance studies and gothic studies, I argue that the sonic innovations driving Siren Song are substantial and offer new approaches for the confrontation of cultural anxieties through a decentralising of text and an immersion in states of sonic extremity.
The radical disruption of live performance that began in 2020 and continues in 2021 raises a fundamental question regarding the presence of the present in the time of performance.
In this essay, I examine my own sound design and the evolution of a pandemic-restricted solo practice as a site in which a ‘post-pandemics’ of performance might become possible. If 2020 in its upheaval and chaos showed the all-too-narrow limits of our care for others, what is the role of performance design in the recovery of that care? I engage a poetics of care and consent in performance design through notions of Pirate Care, xenofeminist action, and the relation to Other proposed by Jean-Luc Nancy. I reflect on and dissect my own response to pandemic time and space, and the shapes that vulnerability, fear, and uncertainty build in our performed worlds. Deploying this knowledge I look to a way forward for performance design and live performance, real-time and asynchronous, physically distant and present, that can engender this ‘post-pandemics’.
If theatre reflects contemporary society, a director ignores screen cultures at their own peril. Audiences increasingly view and communicate via screens. Television in all its forms (live to air, subscription and on demand services) provide readily accessible content to the public in the comfort of their homes – a viewing pattern exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Screen cultures that overtook live performance in the 20th Century as the preferred entertainment medium continue their dominance. However, when theatre did resurface from Australia’s first pandemic lockdown in late 2020, audiences returned in large numbers, suggesting a significant appetite for live performance still exists. At the same time, screen aesthetics, because of its cultural ubiquity, shape how theatrical mis-en-scène is created. Theatre has been challenged for some time in the way(s) the presence of the live actor is staged in reference to screen technologies. Directors, Russell Fewster and Geordie Brookman, reflect on creating text-based work for the stage in a mediatized age. They refer to examples of their work to illustrate and examine how they create mis-en-scène with a keen awareness of the dominance of media technologies. As a composer and musician, Richard Chew reflects on how the physical presence of playing live music in a theatre context differs from its pre-recorded counterpart.
12. Authenticity within Digital Performance: A New Framework to Understand the Relationship between Audience, Vision Technology and Scenography Tessa Rixon, Gene Moyle, Steph Hutchison and Joslin
The notion of authenticity is experiencing a resurgence within the theatre and performance field. With its myriad of meanings and associations – from ‘the original’, ‘the real’, ‘truthful’, ‘genuine’, ‘believable’, ‘emotionally resonant’, and more – authenticity is a key component in engaging audiences with live performance. Despite an increasing body of research considering the authenticity of performance, performer and audience experience, little conversation has taken place in the field of digital performance and scenography. This article examines the field of authenticity to arrive at a definition within the context of digital performance. Through the identification of the core constructs of truthfulness, believability and emotional engagement, we introduce a new Authenticity Framework to inform future studies on the authenticity of digital performance. Focusing specifically on vision technologies, we demonstrate the application of the framework through first-person reflection on two Australian digital performances - Laser Beak Man by Dead Puppet Society (2019) and Wireless by Lisa Wilson and Paul Charlier (2017) – and argue this Framework can offer new approaches to the creation of authentic digital performances for the benefit of practitioners and audiences alike.
Focusing on Fraught Outfit’s On the Bodily Education of Young Girls (2013), photographer Pia Johnson and director Adena Jacobs, reflect upon the unique collaborative relationship that was created for the production. Exploring how having a photographer as a visual dramaturg provided a different perspective on notions of the feminist gaze, the body, young women and the making process.
This essay seeks to think through some of the features and meanings of blackouts in contemporary Australian theatre. A blackout is normally understood as a visual and temporal absence, an agreed break, a functional, conventional hiatus, having developed from the use, and subsequent abandonment, of the house curtain. However, a range of contemporary Australian theatre works conceive of the blackout as more: a palpable presence, an affective void, tangible rather than conventional, informing narrative structures, and fundamental to the work’s understanding of image creation and meaning. These visual voids reflect different dramatic and philosophical traditions, drawing on and contributing to genealogies of darkness.
Four artists working across performance, music and sound consider the ways in which technological advances and embodied and material approaches to sound practice have shifted their work over time.
Table of Contents1. Issue 078 (Full Issue PDF)
Theatre is sometimes imagined as an art form at risk – from talking pictures in the 1920s and television in the 1950s to the Covid-19 pandemic in the 2020s. But the Wolanski Collection and data from AusStage tell a different story. Theatre companies and venue buildings come and go. Yet, over the last hundred years, theatre in Sydney is a story of growth: more venues, with more seats, presenting more performances in a wider range of genres to more spectators. This essay uses maps of venues in Sydney and visualisations of repertoire patterns to reveal insights into the city’s history of theatre production and cultural change between 1920 and 2020. It demonstrates an approach to research that integrates digital records of theatre production with theatre programs from an archival collection. Maps are arranged in a time-series to reveal what venues to audiences in Sydney. Genre terms drawn from theatre programs trace the evolution of performance, while information on the national origin of artists frame the efforts to produce Australian works. In visualising data on theatre production, the essay reveals longitudinal patterns in repertoire that challenge assumptions about theatre in Sydney and extend the story in new directions.
Keywords: theatre, history, visualisation, database, archive7. The Guthrie Report and Its Discontents Chris Hay
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