Like ecology, scenography is concerned with inter-relationships – the interactivity between architecture, light, sound, bodies and the senses; a metaphor for the ‘ecosystem’ of total theatre experience. However, I propose that a combination of the two terms ‘ecology’ and ‘scenography’ suggests something more comprehensive and far reaching than the purely metaphorical. To be ‘ecological’ means being concerned with the wider effects of scenographic production, to consider how it affects and relates to the broader ecosystem (beyond the theatre). It entails incorporating principles of ecology to create recyclable, biodegradable, restorative and/or regenerative performance spaces. This is intrinsic to ecoscenographic practice.
At the very core of combining ecology with scenography is the understanding of the interface, or the connections between living systems and human design. Ecological thinking acknowledges that materiality and environments are mutually-dependent in making beings, things and places – it recognises humans as part of nature’s system, rather than a separate entity to use nature at its disposal. Being ‘ecological’ means integrating an awareness that no decision stands on its own: every choice is intertwined with social, environmental, economic and political consequences that are far reaching and capable of having long term effects. Ecoscenography demonstrates that those consequences need not be negative; that the choices that ecoscenographers make can just as easily achieve positive social, political and environmental outcomes, and that this can inspire new modes of artistic practice and engagement.
Ecoscenography is inspired by ideas of ecological performance outlined above and is not to be confused with the superficiality of nature inspired set decoration or the use of the natural environment as a scenic backdrop. While aesthetics are important, the ecoscenographer is also concerned with the inherent ecological value of his or her design intentions. This means that the quality and success of the scenography is not only measured by its aesthetic outcome, but also by how it relates and contributes to social, environmental, economic and political systems beyond the theatre. While ecoscenography uses ecological thinking to explore new aesthetics and artistic paradigms that are inspired by nature, it is also interested in scenographic practice as a form of activism, used for positive social and environmental change. As a result, the ecoscenographer can easily take on an advocacy role in challenging and bettering performance practice.
The appeal of ecoscenography is that it isn’t a style, but rather a form of engagement with nature or ecology that is not bound to any particular methodology. It is a holistic approach to considering environmental impacts that is also applicable across a range of platforms, including both high art and community sectors. The ecoscenographer acknowledges that the creative process is not straight forward, but is willing to explore uncharted territories, undergo new measures not only in design but also in personal and creative development.
While ecoscenography may seem like a daunting concept, this is ultimately where the challenge and excitement lies. Adopting an ecoscenographic approach allows the scenographer to imagine ideas well beyond the performance – to consider how ideas of ‘creative expansion’ can make a contribution to the wider world. Ecoscenography works from the premise that there is nothing more fulfilling than connecting to the living world in a way that is fundamental, positive and inspiring.