Whilst also aligned with the professional practice of the scenographer
A scenographer develops the appearance of a stage design, a TV or movie set, a gaming environment, a trade fair exhibition design or a museum experience exhibition design. The term originated in theater...

, it is important to distinguish the individual elements that comprise the 'design' of a performance event (such as light
Stage lighting
Modern stage lighting is a flexible tool in the production of theatre, dance, opera and other performance arts. Several different types of stage lighting instruments are used in the pursuit of the various principles or goals of lighting. Stage lighting has grown considerably in recent years...

, environment, costume
The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances...

, etc.) from the term 'scenography' which is as an artistic perspective concerning the visual, experiential and spatial composition of performance. Influenced by the work of Modernist pioneers Adolphe Appia
Adolphe Appia
Adolphe Appia , son of Red Cross co-founder Louis Appia, was a Swiss architect and theorist of stage lighting and décor.Appia is best known for his many scenic designs for Wagner’s operas...

 and Edward Gordon Craig
Edward Gordon Craig
Edward Henry Gordon Craig , sometimes known as Gordon Craig, was an English modernist theatre practitioner; he worked as an actor, director and scenic designer, as well as developing an influential body of theoretical writings...

, scenography proposes that design practices within performance are considered an equal partner, alongside other elements such as literary texts
Play (theatre)
A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of scripted dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference whether their plays were performed...

 and performance technique
Acting is the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theatre, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play....

, within the construction and reception of meaning. The practice of scenography is thereby a holistic approach to the composition of performance and can be applied to the design or curation of events within, and outside, of the conventional theatre environment. Or as Pamela Howard states in her book What is Scenography?:
"Scenography is the seamless synthesis of space, text, research, art, actors, directors and spectators that contributes to an original creation."

Joslin McKinney and Philip Butterworth expand upon this to suggest that:
"Scenography is not simply concerned with creating and presenting images to an audience; it is concerned with audience reception and engagement. It is a sensory as well as an intellectual experience, emotional as well as rational."

Etymology and Cultural Interpretations

The term scenography is of Greek origin (skēnē, meaning 'stage or scene building'; grapho, meaning 'to describe') originally detailed within Aristotle's Poetics
Aristotle's Poetics is the earliest-surviving work of dramatic theory and the first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory...

as 'skenographia'. Nevertheless, within continental Europe the term has been closely aligned with the professional practice of scénographie and is synonymous with the English language term 'theatre design
Scenic design
Scenic design is the creation of theatrical, as well as film or television scenery. Scenic designers have traditionally come from a variety of artistic backgrounds, but nowadays, generally speaking, they are trained professionals, often with M.F.A...

'. More recently, the term has been used in museography with regards the curation of museum exhibits.

Selected Bibliography

  • Aronson, A. (2005) Looking into the Abyss: Essays on Scenography, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • Baugh, C. (2005) Theatre, Performance, and Technology: The Development of Scenography in the Twentieth Century, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Beacham, R. C. (1994) Adolphe Appia: Artist and Visionary of the Modern Theatre, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers
  • Brockett, O. G., Mitchell, M. and Hardberger, L. (2010) Making the Scene: A History of Stage Design and Technology in Europe and the United States, Austin (TX): University of Texas Press
  • Craig, E. G. (1911) Towards a New Theatre, London: Heinemann. [Reprinted in 1962, London: Mercury Books]
  • Hannah, D. and Harsløf, O. eds. (2008) Performance Design, Nijalsgade, Denmark: Museum Tusculanum Press
  • Howard, P. (2002) What is Scenography?, London: Routledge [Second Edition 2009]
  • McAuley, G. (1999) Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • McKinney, J. and Butterworth, P. (2009) The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Svoboda, J. and Burian, J. ed. (1993) The Secret of Theatrical Space, New York: Applause Theatre Books


  • 'Scene' published by Intellect [first issue expected 2012],id=206/view,page=2/

External links

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