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2015 Edward Gordon Craig Lecture by Prof Serge von Arx

May 18, 2015 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm


This year’s Gordon Craig Lecture, in association with the Society for Theatre Research, will be given by architect and professor of scenography Serge von Arx.

Framing the Unknown

Scenography is the intertwinement of theatre and architecture, resulting in an amalgamation of  two essentially opposing fields. At the same time their synthesis inherently is symbiotic in the  emerging plethora of potentialities which it opens up to. The lecture will focus on the following two aspects of this dialectic:

Firstly theatre always is fictive whereas architecture inescapably is real. Naturalistic theatre does not exist. As soon as we enter the theatre, the opera building or any site for performance, we progress into a realm beyond the reality surrounding us. Not only our mental awareness and our sensory expectations are in a different state, the social and political context evokes different behavior as well. What we perceive in the widest understanding of the notion “theatre” is fictive, we do not take for real what we witness on the stage, independent where it takes place. The actor always is acting. Architecture on the other side unavoidably is reality, the built environment which our lives unfold within. It is the physical frame where we meet, where we work, where we eat and where we make love. With more than 50% of the world population living in urban areas, the discrepancy of a natural and a humanly created environment increases furthermore. Even weekend trips into the countryside foremost are experienced as a counterpoint to urban life. Architecture is the key physical context of our lives.

Secondly theatre inherently is ephemeral whereas architecture is enduring to a degree that the process of aging becomes an intrinsic agent. While theatre – events unfolding on stage – strictly relates to a human time scale, the bodily experience of space within architecture stretches beyond an according comprehension of diachronic development; our bodily knowledge results from how we witness architecture as a frozen moment in time. Scenography fuses these time scales into a constant vibration, a pregnant momentum constantly on the brink of implosion. To maintain, juggle and control this inner tension is the task of the scenographer, whose balancing act always risks to fall flat into decoration on the one hand side or to become a dead architectural shell on the other.

Our sensory experience of both, the expansion of our bodily knowledge, is where architecture and theater coincide and where the two engage into a unity. That unity is called scenography. But scenography as such does not exist. It is mere agency. Scenography is the definition of potentials where the yet unknown unfolds. This lecture will question common understandings while trying to assess common knowledge.

Serge von Arx, Professor of Scenography, is the Artistic Director of the scenography department of the Norwegian Theatre Academy (of the Østfold University College)  and an independent architect and scenographer. His research focuses on the encounter of architecture and theatre. He inquires this field of “performative architecture“ in theory with various international publications and in practice. In 1998 he began his collaboration with Robert Wilson on various stage, exhibition and installation design projects all over the world. And since 2003 he is a regular mentor and architectural consultant at the “Watermill Center” on Long Island, New York. Serge von Arx is based in Oslo and Berlin and aside from his academic activities he works as an independent scenographer and architect. Currently Mr. von Arx curates the architecture section for the Prague Quadriennal 2015.

Central is delighted to be able to welcome Prof von Arx to give this prestigious annual lecture.

More information via this link


May 18, 2015
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
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