Contemporary scenography, no longer confined to theatre stages, is now being used to interrogate and transform urban space. The ‘place-orientating methods of scenography shape other social and art practices’ (Hann 2019: 5) and it ‘provides a critical tool to reflect, confront and realign worldviews’ (Hannah and Harslof, 2008:19). As a device, scenography offers an approach to ‘intervening, defamiliarizing and re-orienting experiences of hegemonic spatial politics on an urban scale’ (Janssen 2019:208).
But it not only through spectacular, artist-led interventions that scenography can operate to effect transformations and re-orientations. Quotidian environments can also be experienced as or through the lens of scenography and foreground the spatial and sensory effects of urban spaces on individuals. Now, following prolonged periods of lockdown, the need to understand the diversity of urban experience and the ways in which people feel themselves to belong (or not) in the city seem more urgent than ever. This presentation considers how the affective, creative and imaginative dimensions of experience that scenography deals with might provide new ways of thinking about urban experience and ‘the complex materialities of the urban’ (McCormack and Latham 2004).
Joslin McKinney is Associate Professor in Scenography and Programme Leader for the MA in Performance Design at the University of Leeds, UK. She is the lead author of the Cambridge Introduction to Scenography (CUP 2009) and co-editor of Scenography Expanded: an Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design (Bloomsbury 2017). She has published articles and chapters on scenographic research methods, scenographic spectacle and embodied spectatorship, phenomenology, kinaesthetic empathy and material agency. She is co-editor of the Performance + Design book series for Bloomsbury that reflects the recent growth of scenographic practices and the expansion from theatre/stage design to a wider notion of scenography as a spatial practice. Her current research is concerned with using scenography to understand the experience of urban space.