Katherine Graham

Katherine Graham
Panel 1: Dramaturgy and Audience Experience of Light

Paper title: In Visible Light – feeling vision through scenographic light

Abstract: The etymological roots of the word “theatre” emphasise the centrality of vision in performance; the Greek theatron labels the place the audience sits as “the seeing place”. Seeing a performance, however, is not a neutral process of vision taking place but is, as Maaike Bleeker observes, an active practice “rerouted through fantasy and memory” (2011: 2). In the presence of highly controlled and designed performance lighting, the process of seeing is further mediated through the actively transformative material of light.

This paper will explore ways in which light influences sensory engagement within performance. Drawing on J. J. Gibson’s ecological perception to posit a phenomenology of light in performance, I argue that light is not only a visual imposition onto a work, but an active material that addresses multiple sensory, temporal, and experiential processes of apprehending performance. In particular I examine the perceptual and interpretative multiplicity of scenographic light through a lens of Michael Newell’s imbricated phenomenology of vision in painting.

Biog: Katherine Graham is a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds, where her work focuses on the agency of light in performance. She has published on light in the Theatre and Performance Design Journal, and has presented research to the International Federation of Theatre Research and to the Theatre and Performance Research Association. She has also worked extensively as a lighting designer for theatre and dance, most recently The Nature of Forgetting (London International Mime Festival), Blind Man’s Song (touring), and No’s Knife (Lincoln Centre, New York).