To celebrate the second anniversary of our first Performing Light symposium, we are launching an online book club! We want to use this as a space to cultivate discussion and thinking about light in performance. The idea is that we can use this as a digital meeting place, where we all read the same piece of research, and share our responses, thoughts, and questions with each other over the next month. Discussion will open on Monday 18th of February and run until the 18th of March.
We have nominated Scott Palmer’s article ‘A Choréographie of Light and Space: Adolphe Appia and the first Scenographic Turn’ as our shared reading. This is an open-access article, available to all, for free, here. This article looks at a key moment in the history of lighting design in European theatre, and points to some highly significant links between Appia’s ideas about light on stage and his practical experience in theatre production. So, we think this will provide an excellent jumping-off point for discussions around legacies of thinking about light in performance and the important overlaps between research and practice in light for performance.
Participation in this e-symposium is open to all, and we hope you find the discussions and questions that arise to be as inspiring as we have found our live events to be! We really look forward to your thoughts, comments, and questions, as well as this opportunity to share ideas about light with each other. To aid the discussion, we will be posting a new question or provocation every Monday morning, and we also invite contributions or responses outside of these prompts.
Please use the comment space below to add your voice to this open conversation about light, practice, and research in performance. We are looking forward to your contributions and an engaging discussion.
Week 4 (11th March) Provocation:
One of the things Palmer does in this article is to examine Appia’s discoveries about the theatrical possibilities of light in the context of the specific staging practices of the late nineteenth century. The emergence of electric carbon arc and limelight sources introduced much more intense beams of light than were previously possible. Palmer argues: ‘it is the impact of these technologies, rather than the advent of electric lighting, that underpins Appia’s notion of ‘active light’ which is so central to the scenographic revolution of the twentieth-century stage’ (34).
If that particular nineteenth century mixture of lighting technologies – the softer gas light and the more powerful limelight and carbon arc – was of such fundamental importance to Appia’s re-imagining of the aesthetic and dramaturgical potential of light on stage, might the same be true in our own context?
How might we begin to recognise how the specific technologies of our own era invite contemporary understandings of performance light?