Seeing scenography

Scopic regimes and the body of the spectator

Authored by: Joslin McKinney

The Routledge Companion to Scenography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138917804
eBook ISBN: 9781315688817
Adobe ISBN:


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Given the designation of theatre as “the seeing place” (Aronson 2005: 2) and the strongly visual nature of scenography, we might wonder at how little consideration has been given so far to the act of looking, whether in scenographic studies or in theatre scholarship more generally. Yet concerns within wider cultural discourse about a dominance of the visual that “has its end in rapt, mindless fascination” (Jameson 1990: 1) have certainly influenced the way we conceptualize the visual dimension of theatre experience as “a medium of optical illusion” (Rancière 2007: 272) and have marginalized scenography as mere decoration or as a distraction. But there are, to borrow from John Berger (1972), different ways of seeing scenography that reveal themselves in the act of looking. In this chapter I challenge dominant interpretations of the act of seeing in theatre by arguing for the explanatory power of a dynamic, embodied conceptualization of scenographic spectatorship centered on co-construction.

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