NORDIK XII - Scenography at Copenhagen Art History conference. Day 2.

Photo credit: Astrid von Rosen.
Photo credit: Astrid von Rosen.

Second day theme: "Scenographic thinking and architecture." Digital laboratories, creative framing and un-framing, art history scenographed.

s#2.1 Staging Arosenius abroad - the use of digital scenographies for studies in critical historiography

Alexandra Herlitz / Jonathan Westin 

Through the Arosenius Project, a three year endeavour to digitise the art and documents pertaining to the Swedish artist Ivar Arosenius at the National Museum in Stockholm, the Gothenburg Museum of Art and the Gothenburg University Library, a diverse material have been made available through which to deepen our understanding of the painter. In the project we seek methods and technologies through which to stage this digitised material in ways that push the digital archive beyond just being a collection of data and be a source of affect. Our purpose is to shake up the established image of Arosenius and his art and to provoke new narratives about his artistry. In doing so we are concerned with questions about the effects that archival material can have on a broader public and how we can utilise these effects. Some of our case studies focus on historical exhibitions of Ivar Arosenius that were held outside Sweden in the beginning of the 20th century. Little is known in Sweden about these exhibition activities in foreign countries, so by employing the digital archive we are trying to reconstruct these art shows in order to make their contents and the established image of Arosenius outside of Sweden comprehensible but also perceivable on a scenographic level.

Alexandra Herlitz is a senior lecturer in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Gothenburg.

Jonathan Westin is a research fellow and co-director of the Heritage Visualisation Laboratory at the Department of Conservation at the University of Gothenburg.

s#2.2 Empty Niches and Ambiguous Iconography: Using Scenography and Art History to solve the puzzles of Royal Holloway's Chapel

Dr Greer Crawley / Dr Harriet O'Neill 

In the 200 years since its completion in 1886, Royal Holloway's chapel has attracted curiously little scholarly attention. This situation is initially surprising given its finely carved Neo-Renaissance liturgical furniture, gilded wallpapers and the intriguing iconographic scheme contained in the apse and bas-reliefs. The lacunae in our knowledge regarding this architecturally and theologically important space (it was always conceived as ecumenical and multifunctional) can be attributed to both incomplete documentation and the inherent puzzles within. Amongst its most perplexing aspects are the 12-empty, shallow niches with saint's names above them which punctuate the nave. Did the architect intend them to be filled and if so, why do they remain empty and how would their contents have engaged with the rest of the chapel? Our paper would show how this art historical problem was partly addressed by a scenographic project bringing practice-based research to the discipline. Drama students specialising in scenography were asked to produce proposals to fill these niches. The combination of archival research, secondary reading on art and sacred space and the practical research needed to design their scenographic solutions bought new understandings of the performative aspects of the space and possible interpretations of the puzzling iconography to the fore.

Greer Crawley is a lecturer in Scenography at Royal Holloway, University of University of London and in Spatial Design at Buckinghamshire New University, UK:

Harriet O'Neill is Exhibition Curator at Royal Holloway:

s#2.3 Staging Style - Art history and Scenography in Symbiosis

Hedvig Mårdh 

The discipline of art history and the practice of scenography have a long shared history, from the period rooms of the late 19th century, via the reconstructed historic environments of the 1920s and 30s to the numerous missing-person-displays in museums of cultural history. In this paper I argue that art historians should return to these scenographies in order to gain a deeper understanding of their own discipline and how research has shaped but also been shaped by different modes of display. This paper will focus on how the Gustavian period has been staged - using two different examples. The first example is the interaction between silent films and the discipline of art history in the 1920s. The film Två konungar (1925) portrays the life of Carl Michael Bellman, his relation to Gustav III and the murder of the king. The production involved two art historians as experts. The costumes were made from drawings by the professor of art history Sixten Strömbom. The art and theatre historian Agne Beijer oversaw the reconstructions of the open-air theatre at Drottningholm, which was reconstructed for the film. The second example is the artist Pehr Hilleström who still play an important role in the way Gustavian life and interiors are reconstructed and apprehended. His paintings are appreciated because of their ability to encourage us to step into the painting and "make space" and have been used because of their perceived matter of factness, their ability to create what we apprehend as a "snapshot quality". By studying these two examples we can learn more about the strategies used by film directors and exhibition architects when creating what is perceived as authentic scenographies. Strategies that were directly influenced by the development of the discipline of art history.

Hedvig Mårdh PhD, art historian focusing on design history, critical heritage and museum studies. A Century of Swedish Gustavian Style - Art History, Cultural Heritage and Neoclassical Revivals from the 1890s to the 1990s (2017) is her thesis. She works as a senior lecturer and researcher at Uppsala University.

Photo credit: Astrid von Rosen.
Photo credit: Astrid von Rosen.