Ecoscenography: The Paradigm and Practice of Ecological Design in the Performing Arts

IMG_0682As the deadline of handing in my PhD draws closer, I’m excited about uncovering the potential of Ecoscenography. Here, I share a short summary of my research and the possibilities of contributive practice in the performing arts. 

Contemporary ecological concerns bring with them an opportunity for innovation; to rethink traditional practices and forge new approaches that not only strive for sustainability but also push intellectual and creative boundaries. My PhD research investigates the emerging paradigm of ecoscenography – a movement that seeks to integrate ecological principles into all stages of scenographic thinking and production in the performing arts. The thesis explores the potential of ecoscenography through a series of creative works projects that incorporate ideas of ecological thinking, community engagement and contributive practice.

A major focus is the notion of ‘positive legacies’. Moving beyond recycling and efficiency, my research seeks to investigate a more hopeful paradigm, one where scenographic practices are capable of generating positive and far reaching rewards. In my thesis, I ask: 1) how might designers engage with communities to play a central role in social and environmental advocacy and celebration?; 2) how can stories of place be communicated through scenography?, and; 3) can we create designs that not only enrich our audiences, but our communities and environments as well?’.

IMG_9096 - CopySince starting my candidature, a selection of my creative works have developed under the banner of The Living Stage – a global project that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Part theatre, part garden and part food growing demonstration, The Living Stage considers ecological principles and environmental impact as opportunities rather than constraints: ethics that can illuminate, and be integral to aesthetics. At the end of the performances, my living stages are returned to the communities that helped grow them. Physical structures become garden beds and community spaces; plants become healthy food; and waste becomes compost. As each living stage evolves out of a direct response to the localities of site, ecology and community, no project is ever the same.

TheLivingStage_climbing_the_edible_stageSince making its debut at the 2013 Castlemaine State Festival, The Living Stage concept has travelled to Cardiff and Glasgow (UK) and continues to generate interest and inspire other projects around the world. New creative teams have emerged, taking local ecological ideas to engage communities and create positive legacies. Each project is unique, but share clear commonalities: the celebration of multisensory elements, effective and multi-level engagement with audiences, and a legacy that exceeds the celebration of the project through performance. Through projects like The Living Stage, the investigation of ecoscenography has provided me with the opportunity to embark on a new course – to reimagine and cultivate stronger relationships with communities and ecosystems, and to invest directly in their future.

For more information about The Living Stage projects see link below:http://www.tanjabeer.com/the-living-stage/

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