NORDIK XII - Scenography at Copenhagen Art History conference. Day 3.

Photo credit: Viveka Kjellmer
Photo credit: Viveka Kjellmer

The theme of today, the last day of the conference: "Multisensory scenographic immersion". Three excellent papers:

s#3.1 Fashion photographic spaces: Between action, interpretation and embodiment

Christine Sjöberg 

Charlotte Andersen writes that fashion can be seen "as a playground where we each day practice to live with the challenging fact that we and our surrounding world are in constant change (2006: 8)." The designer Henrik Vibskov (2013) states that fashion absorbs the world as well as mirrors its condition. Fashion is not synonymous with garments and fashion photographs cannot be defined as something that showcase clothing. Instead, they make the things they (re)present to be felt in a certain way. In doing so they establish a relation to their beholder that demands something and that affects what is taking place in the fashion photograph. In this paper, I problematize this taking place through the prism of an expanded notion of scenography and its potential to critically engage with the relation between the photographic and the pre-photographic, semiotic meaning and embodied experience as well as the interface of the digital fashion magazine as a space of affordances and potentials that works both as a "space of action" and a "space of reception". With a focus on setting, light and the choreography of the fashioned body, I discuss how the fashion photograph can be seen as partaking in a performance that is being staged and restaged in front of the camera, as well as in the beholder's embodied relation to the photograph in a culture which embeds visual and photographic acts into everyday life. I argue that the notion of scenography opens up for an analysis in which this performance can be examined as taking place both within the photographs and outside of them, and that it has the potential to "reverse" the process of photography by turning something from two dimensions into three, offering a way of thinking that makes aspects otherwise hard to grasp more tangible.

Christine Sjöberg is a PhD Student in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Gothenburg. She holds a MA in Aesthetic Disciplines with Specialization in Fashion Studies, a BFA in Photography and a complementary MA1 in Artistic Research with focus on photographic archives. Her main interests are in photography, visual culture and fashion theory.

s#3.2 Audiovisual Glossolalia: scenographic evoking and the potentiality of meaning-making processes in a Sigur Rós' live performance

Olga Nikolaeva 

The main purpose of the paper is to explore the possibilities of scenographic evoking as a part of meaning-making processes in a live music performance. By investigating different aspects of the audiovisual presentation in a performance of the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, the paper analyzes material relations that generate an affective performance, focusing specifically on collaborations between sound, imagery, body and light in the performance. The study is based on firsthand observation of the band's performance that took place on 5th of October, 2017 at Annexet Arena, Stockholm. The performance continuum presented an audiovisual journey through ghostly imagery, atmospheric music and grotesque interplay of the musicians' bodies and light, neatly packed into a cage-like scenic construction. As with many Sigur Rós' live performances, music and imagery played a more important role than the musicians themselves, generating an affective environment that evoked an ambiguous sense of something primordial and natural as well as industrial and man-made. Following the recent interest in "agentic capacity of materials" in scenography, the study explores how material relations between imagery, light and sound gradually transformed the stage into someplace else, with the musicians' bodies and the audience placed in affective exchange with the scenographic spectacle.

Olga Nikolaeva is a PhD student in Art History and Visual Studies at the Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg. She holds a MA in Visual Culture from Lund University and a Specialist Degree in Art History from Russian State University for the Humanities. Her main interests are audiovisual presentation and scenography of live music performances.

s#3.3 Immersive Aesthetics and the Promises of Expanded Scenography

Katharina Alsen 

The immersive paradigm follows the phantasm of complete absorption into a physical environment or an imagined fictional world. In doing so, the factual or virtual sphere is literally conceived as a fluid medium that the visitor plunges into, that (s)he immerses herself in. Recent scholarship has unmasked this illusion of 'pure' immersion in various ways. Adam Alston (2016) points out the potentially manipulative character of immersive aesthetics and the conceptual alliance with neoliberal experience industries. Still, Alston and other critics of the immersive paradigm (such as Rancière or Pfaller) unanimously refer to scenography as a fundamental, yet terminologically vague category for experiencing immersion. Scenography is, again, faced as "something to be experienced, something that one engages with" (Lotker/Gough 2013).

In this paper, I want to draw on the main case study of my recent PhD-research - the performance-installations by Danish performance collective SIGNA - and reprocess it through the spectrum of a scenographical view. SIGNA is known for durative site-specific works which conceptually refuse a distinct disciplinary classification within performance art and the performing arts. 'Spect-actors' are confronted with hyper-naturalistic and hermetic scenographies that revolve around isolated communities and their internal rule systems based on physical and mental violence. The multisensory experience opens up spaces of otherness, of undesirable bodies and social practices.

Questions to be tackled are about the correlation between scenography and the installative moment of SIGNA's works in the tradition of installation art, as well as the role of scenography for the much-debated techniques and aesthetics of immersion.

Katharina Alsen majored in history of art at the University of Oxford (M.St.), and studied literature, theology and philosophy at the University of Hamburg (MA equiv.). She was a scholar at the international network "InterArt" at Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Copenhagen with a PhD-project on "Staged Intimacy in Theatre in Exhibition Space".