The Hidden Life of Space: Site Base Performance Ecology

Workshop Leaders: Tanja Beer, Paul Cegys , Ian Garrett, Justine Garrett, Andy Houston

Contemporary ecological concerns bring with them an opportunity for innovation; to rethink traditional theatre practices and forge ecologically inspired approaches that push intellectual and creative boundaries and the aim of the workshop is to explore how scenographers might consider their practice within the broader system of ecological organisation to build designs that encompasses environmental, social and political potential. This is a three day workshop in which participants work in small groups to create mixed-reality performances using principles of ‘ecoscenography’, site-responsive dramaturgies and virtual-scenographic techniques in Stromovka park.

Environmentalist David Suzuki proposes that our current environmental crisis is in part to do with the situation that most of what we know about the world, comes to us through various forms of representational knowledge, media, history, economics, politics or other discourses – even our own stories or anecdotal versions of events could be considered as such representational knowledge. To challenge these conventional ways of knowing, this workshop will introduce participants to the concept of ‘ecoscenography’, where embodied, creative, and environmentally conscious processes align to become a fundamental part of the scenographer’s ideas, processes and aesthetics

Using a variety of analogue and virtual technologies, we will examine how considering wider socio-ecological factors of place can lead to a renewed investigation of scenographic materials, processes, aesthetics, roles and partnerships that can also guide a positive future. This will be rooted in Peter Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Lives of Trees” in which he describes urban trees planted in parks and by the side of roads as the street kids of the forest. They have been cut off from the their family with no parents, no uncles, no aunts to comfort them and no cozy, calm, moist forest floor to support their development. The creation of site-specific performance is akin to this act of enunciation, to be perpetually working between the absence of what we imagine the space to be and the material evidence of its proper and present uses. We will work with these principles of ecoscenography and site specific performance to examine the ecologies of Stomovka and examine the use of immersive media tools such as 360/VR video, spatial and binaural audio, and geolocation as a method for enhancing the performativity of this place and reexamining how we create representational knowledge.

On day one, participants will be introduced to our conceptual foundations in ecoscenography and site-specific performance before moving to the site of our exploration. The second day will then introduce new media forms to continue an iterative exploration of space. The third and final day will continue to refine the performance explorations in preparation for a public presentation in the evening.

About the non-Toasterlab Workshop Leaders:

Tanja Beer PhD, is an award-winning ecoscenographer, community artist and Academic Fellow in Performance Design & Sustainability at the Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne, Australia. She has more than 20 years of professional experience, including creating numerous stage designs and public installations for organisations in Australia and oversees. Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design, a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making, and a PhD by Creative Works. As a leader
in ecological design practice, Tanja has taught subjects across scenography, architecture, performance making, sustainability and climate change at several Universities in Australia and around the world. Tanja’s most significant work is The Living Stage, a global initiative that combines stage design, horticulture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable, biodiverse and edible performance spaces. Since its inception in 2012, The Living Stage has been successfully realised in six cities around the world, including Glasgow and New York as well as being featured in exhibitions at the V&A Museum (London) and the 2015 Prague Quadrennial. Tanja has published over 13 papers in a variety of peer reviewed journals and recently coedited a special edition of the CSPA Quarterly on Expanded Scenography with Ian Garrett. She is currently writing her first book on Ecoscenography with Palgrave MacMillan.

Paul Cegys’ (MSc) work merges multiple practices of performance creation and design, from theatre and opera to site-specific installation and intermedial VR/MR scenographies. Paul is on Faculty at the University of Waterloo in the Department of Communication Arts and is a PhD. student in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at Aalto University in Finland. Upholding his commitment to ecological imperatives he merges his artistic work with his sustainability practice (MSc in Sustainability Science and Environmental Studies, Lunds University, Sweden. Paul is currently a lead designer for the Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation VR project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and in partnership with Oculus VR. He currently serves as Digital Curator for the Canadian emerging artists exhibit for PQ19 and as Co-Curator and Workgroup Leader of the VR/MR 36Qº for PQ19

Andy Houston is an artist-researcher in intermedia and site-specific performance, and an associate professor of theatre and performance at the University of Waterloo. In the last twenty years, he has directed and dramaturged several large-scale sitespecific, intermedia productions. As a scholar, he has published broadly in his field and edited a Canadian Theatre Review issue on site-specific performance, as well as a collection of writings
on environmental and site-specific theatre in Canada, published by Playwrights Canada Press. For more information see: