Investigating the Aesthetics of Ecological Design and Eco-Scenography

‘I have this idea that before too long, the arguments will not be about how to green the theatre, how to convince people to use less energy, how to make productions, buildings and transport less intensive in their uses of carbon. The arguments will flip. And the convincing – at least on materials and energy – will be going the other way. Those who want massive spectacles, world tours, and blazing lights will have to openly justify and account for those excessive drains. Theatre and performance will have changed. And it will looked changed.

Theatre is always changing, with new technologies and with new versions of what constitutes the human – what we think the human is.

I’ll talk about two of the ways that ecological ideas interact with aesthetics –

Firstly, To talk about conventions is to talk about relations between systems of ideas, to talk about breaks and revolts, about habits and about the power of the artist. It is to talk about social power, the tacit everyday kind and the institutional kind. It is to talk about what suddenly can be heard, when the convention breaks and what previously has been allowed to be heard goes stale, and what needs to be heard and seen comes into being, and is able to be sensed. And this changes – changes the public realm, the public space, the space of theatre…So to talk about aesthetic conventions is also to talk about politics.

Secondly, matter. Materials have histories. They pass through a production and move along – which they do whether they are considered waste to begin with, or are relatively new materials, whether they are used again in some way or sent to landfill to continue their history there. They are in movement, and in the brief moment of performance, they have a meaning, in that field of engagement. In performance, what is the balance between the agency of matter – as waste – and the intentions, force and design of the artist? To talk about matter is to talk about consequences, transformations and relations over time….So to talk about the aesthetics of matter is also to talk about ethics’.

at ‘People, Profit, Planet’ at World Stage Design, Cardiff 2013