Assoc. Prof. Margaret C. Perivoliotis, BA, Dr.
Department of Interior Design, Technological
Educational Institute (TEI), Athens, Greece.
Department of Interior Design, Technological
Educational Institute (TEI), Athens, Greece.
The paper addresses an
exploration and co-creation in art, design, stage design and performances. The
case study is an interaction of different disciplines, in regards to their
methods and techniques, for their use and application of images in stage design
production, applied and educated within the framework of the European funded
programs. The project is a co-designing project, with the direct
involvement of professors, students and people of art, design, and the theatre
business, aiming to offer new possibilities to designers, artists and students.
The research team explored connections within the areas of art, applied design,
stage design, textiles, ancient arts and crafts and new technology.
Participating students’ applied research, on a team assigned project, on a
selected performance from the Ancient Drama, followed. The approach was
interdisciplinary, operating at a number of levels, from exploration of the
aesthetics, design, stage design, to new technology applications. It focuses on
the possibilities of incorporating the strengths of new technology in stage
design applications and presentations as a vital starting point and an
alternative way of international dialogue, and as a new medium for expression
of feelings, emotions and ideas. The use of technology was vital during all
stages of the present work, expanding the range of possibilities and outcomes.
It is a proposal that wishes to stimulate further interdisciplinary,
international/intercultural educational projects and to open up new horizons to
educators and stage designers with a spirit for innovation.
The project is a multidisciplinary art, design/stage design work, part
of the educational collaborations between TEI of Athens and Budapest
University, aiming to offer new possibilities to the students of both
Universities and new approaches to stage productions. The idea that motivated
the present work derived from the fact that during the last years many local
stage-design production companies have produced poor designing and inadequate
performances, with subsequent major financial problems. Different factors
contribute to a performance success or failure, but often they can be traced
back to the designers’ designing ability or inability of innovative and
human-centred design approaches. Designers are asked to bring quality,
innovation and human consideration to their designing, if they wish to be
competitive in the present highly demanding era [11, 25].
Design innovation is always closely related to critical reflection,
experimentation and practical delivery. Innovation and design go hand in hand
as any new design is effectively an innovation in itself, especially if new
approaches or new concepts have been incorporated, and what one designer does
could benefit another; exactly as innovation is addressed in the hereafter
presented work. Innovation in design does not have to be product related, as
happened in the present experiment. It can encompass new media/material in a
traditional application or the use of a known component somewhere where it has
not been adapted before. The co-creation of the performance event, as discussed
in this paper, has been applied and educated within the framework of the
European funded programs. It was an interdisciplinary event, relevant to
partners’ curricula and of common interest.
Designing can be generally defined as an activity. Design is also a
language that we use to bridge disciplines. The activities a research community
considers appropriate are its methods and techniques. The adapted activities by
the partners were research on design, stage design and drama, performances,
new technology, textiles/fibres and the ancient encaustic art.
Participating students’ applied research, on a team assigned project, on a
selected performance from the Ancient Hellenic Drama followed it. Within both
the preceding of the design creation, as well as during the process of the
performance event, research on all the above aspects was a substantial part of
the partners work .
The objectives of the project were to promote interdisciplinary intercultural design
research among partners; to analyse the visual aspect of performances from an
art/design point of view; to facilitate a dialogue on the benefits and
limitations of contemporary technological developments . The aims of
the case study were to create new opportunities, visions, skills, design
directions and media for the participating students. Additionally the research
team was targeting to improve the present situation of local theatrical
business that is one of the oldest local cultures and thus of the greatest
value to Greece.
Teamwork is an area that requires delicate handling, as power
relationships can begin to emerge. If clumsily handled this can lead at best to
hurt feelings, and at worst, a failed project. Keeping always this in mind the
research team adapted the following methods and actions, in relation to
the project: meetings to discuss and outline the main activities; a framework
of tasks; discussions to enhance the scope of stage design, performances,
modern technology, textiles and the application of ancient/traditional arts and
crafts beyond the existing application limits.
Stage designers are responsible for designing stage settings for
performances and productions, from a single event or drama performances, where
the action takes place in one room, to complex productions with scenery and
scene changes. They may also become involved in costume design and to identify
suitable outside locations for productions. Considerable research is necessary
before the design work. They produce models that are used to demonstrate the
setting of stage or location, and they are often skilled in modelling. The
traditional medium for conceptualisation of stage design was pencil and paper
sketching that facilitated the rapid development of design ideas in a short period
of time. Recently, for the design process, computer aided design and model
making are increasingly used in all kinds of performance designing .
Drama has its roots in the ancient Hellenic religious
worships/performances. The transition, from religious worship to drama,
occurred around sixth century BC in Athens, according to the legend, by
Thespis, who first had the idea to add speaking actors to the religious
performances of choral song and dance, which took place throughout Greece.
Masked actors held these archaic wordless performances outdoors, in daylight,
during religious festivals, since the Minoan era - long before the Dorian
invasion. These archaic performances inspired the current research experiment,
offering the idea to use the international language of design, of ancient arts,
of textiles and textures, of shades and colours, in order to express feelings,
Was there an ancient equivalent of a stage/costume designer? Stage and
costume design is not a static art with fixed rules, but in antiquity neither
architecture nor costume/fashion changed as rapidly as they do now. Theatre is
ephemeral by nature, but scholars have managed to make intelligent and
convincing inferences about costumes, masks, properties, wooden stage buildings,
and even stage business and acting techniques. Indirect evidence has been found
in vase-paintings and sculptures.
Concerning costume design and since the material had
to be produced in the same way and the available raw materials and dyes
remained the same, changes in clothing style were likely to be variations on an
old theme. It is a fact that the ancient theatrical costume has received very
little attention in the study of stagecraft. One reason for this is the lack of
direct evidence, due to the perishability of the cloth from which those
costumes were made.
In order to identify the project paths, the partners studied selected
parts and scenes of well-known classical dramas, international stage and
costume design productions and performances, masters’ paintings, ancient
statues, frescos and fragments of fifth-century pottery representing drama,
stage, actors and chorus wearing everyday clothing, boots, masks and also
richly pleated chitons in purple and gold. The participating students selected a
single scene/event from an ancient drama of their choice to work on, focusing
on costume design and scenery, combing traditional arts and new technology. The
encaustic was used as an experimental artistic medium for the creation of
scenery and costumes. The participants academic background of design/interior
design was more that adequate, since all were familiar with interior and basic
costume design, basic art applications, modelling, and applications of new
The author addressed the issue whether there is any relation between
modern theatre and classical drama. Comedy and tragedy are the types of drama,
which were developed and flourished in ancient Athens the fifth century BC.
They have influenced nearly all the subsequent Western drama, starting with
that of the Romans, with their extravagant public performances and spectacles
that included everything from pantomime to mock naval battles. Opera owes its
existence to an attempt to return from the Roman to the Greek type of theatre.
Both French classical tragedy and 19th and 20th century
Irish drama feature Greek themes. Even Brecht wrote an Antigone, and Jules Dassin's film ‘A
Dream of Passion’ is based on Euripides ‘Media’.
Commedia dell' arte bears a strong resemblance to Roman comedy. In modern
times, many television programs echo the topical humour of Aristophanes. The
contemporary proscenium theatre evolved from a modern misinterpretation of the
descriptions of theatrical buildings by the Roman architect Vitruvius. Greek
and Roman plays remain among the most powerful, moving, provocative, funny,
biting, witty, and pertinent dramas with a lasting influence. They are part of
European culture, flourishing on stages around the world, moving beyond their
traditional Western sphere of influence, as directors explore their structural
and thematic links with the performing arts of India, Korea, Indonesia, Africa,
and Japan - to name only a few.
Presenting ancient drama from a new viewpoint and with
new media is an art/design work, since during the process the artist views
things without preconception. Designing for
performances can be considered as a human-centred design, in its very broad
meaning of the
term, since culture and drama are fundamental parts of human nature, and this is how has been addressed from antiquity.
Human-centred product development is the process that focuses on users and
their needs rather than on technology; needs meaning here physical, mental and
cultural. The human centred approach of this work applies to the entire project,
considering cultural, social, emotional and physical factors of
participants/designers and receivers/participants. Of course if one is unfamiliar with the real culture,
the attempt to recreate drama can destroy both the performance and the artist’s
intention. Stage/performance designers,
producers and companies need to rethink the ways in which they communicate
values, culture and technology – old and new ones. The last two decades
stage/performance design and application have been integrated by technology.
Design follows technological imperatives for the most part, but is it also
influenced by it? The project attempts to discuss the designing of a
performance event using technologies that do not limit or over-influence it.
The goal of the partners was the adaptation of technology that is serving
and not overcoming, users/educators/participants, fitting their task,
necessities and limitations.
Encaustic is an ancient Greek art, as drama is too. Both words, drama and encaustic, are Greek
words, with encaustic deriving from “encaustikos” meaning "the
burning in", while drama means “action”. The encaustic art became familiar
to the Western world from the funerary portraits that were placed over the
mummies found in Fayum, Egypt, of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, painted by
Greek painters of the time. A significant Greek population had settled in Egypt
following its conquest by Alexander the Great, eventually adopting the local
customs. Many of these pieces have survived with their colour as fresh as any
recently completed work. In Antiquity,
sculptures, marble or bronze, were coloured, just like the mosaics, the wall
paintings and many other classical works of art, mainly by the application of
the encaustic. In the period of economic instability that
followed the decline of the Roman Empire, encaustic fell into disuse. The
painting of icons was carried on as late as the 12th century, but for the most
part it became a lost art, until 19th century, when artist started
experimenting again with the use of the encaustic.
Encaustic is a
beeswax-based paint that is kept molten on a heated palette and then is applied
to a surface. It can be polished, modelled, sculpted, textured, and combined
with collage materials. It cools immediately, so that there is no drying time
and it can always be reworked. The durability of encaustic is due to the fact
that beeswax is impervious to moisture. Encaustic paint has no toxic fumes, nor
does it require the use of solvents. As a result, a number of health hazards
are reduced or eliminated. Can the encaustic be applied on paper and fabrics?
20th century’s availability of portable electric heating implements and variety
of tools has made it possible. Images on wax-coated cards can easily be
transferred onto fabric. Pigments of colour and beeswax can draw designs on
paper and clothing like pencils. Then they are ironed, the wax melts and is
absorbed into the fabric, creating a print. These simple processes opened up
all sorts of possibilities on natural fibres that will retain a reasonable
version of the printed wax image and offered support to the present research
work, its applications and conclusions.
The use and implementation of technology was vital during all stages of
the research work and the case study, and included the adoption of multimedia
and the interactive learning environments of computer-mediated communications
and computer-supported collaborative learning. Through centuries and from the
cave era to the age of industrialization, design has evolved with the
assistance of technology . Design practice has changed dramatically in the
last decade, because of the technological revolution that directly impacts on
design in its various forms and in many ways. New technology has become part of
lives and education. Computers are powerful and flexible tools addressing the
needs of individuals, providing access to a wealth of information, and
encouraging designers to explore and create [22, 23, 27]. These new tools and
resources have provided exciting and unprecedented opportunities for both, the
participating students and the research team. The research procedure indicated
as the best collaborative approach for long distance researchers, the
adaptation of asynchronous computer-mediated communication, as a system that
allows groups to interact over time and geographical location [2, 3, 5, 7, 8,
A method is a set of steps, or guidelines, used to perform a task. The
research activities and the interaction/participation between partners were
studied in order to build a successful work methodology. The task started with
research, continued through didactic strategy definition, requirements and
application, concluded with the design process and technology adoption, and
finished with performance presentation and evaluation . The adapted
research methodology for the present assignment had five steps, interlacing and
linked one to the other. It is a
methodology that has been already tested to previous design projects,
undertaken by the author and the research team [19, 20]. Any of the phases of
the design methodology may be revisited from any of the other phases,
especially in the early stages of the project, though it is difficult to
identify exactly where in the process the change could occur .
- Awareness of Problem: Awareness of problem comes from multiple
sources. The output of this phase is a proposal, formal or informal, for a new
research effort. Out of the detailed analysis of the present situation of local
theatrical enterprises and of the possibilities of new technology emerged the
first awareness of the problem on which the research would focus: how to design
and present a performance adapting new media and technology.
- Suggestion: The suggestion phase follows immediately behind the proposal and is
intimately connected with it. There were many approaches to the problem and the
research group discussed them over a period of months. New insights into the
problem continued to emerge from the students’ undertaken applied research.
During the alternating cycles of discussions, reading and individual cogitation
that characterized the design research efforts, the adaptation of the encaustic
as means of artistic expression/creation for the present assignment was
identified as the best answer to the request for innovative design development.
An asynchronous communication system was adapted among the long distance
partners for fast and flexible communication.
- Development: Design is implemented in this phase. The techniques for implementation
will of course vary depending on the artefact to be constructed. In the present
work the participants, with the pre-determined criterion of the cultural
quality of the performance designing, implemented the encaustic art with the
quality of a paradigm, and presented their designs by technological means.
- Evaluation: Once constructed, the artefact is evaluated according to criteria that
are always implicit and frequently made explicit in the proposal (Awareness of
Problem phase). Deviations from expectations, both quantitative and qualitative
are carefully noted and must be tentatively explained. In a sense evaluation
takes place continuously in a design process, since a large number of
“micro-evaluations” take place at every design decision. The consulting assistance
off stage designers in a kind of “market research/acceptability” and the
evaluation by both partners of the participants’ designing and performances
were the main actions of the evaluation process.
- Conclusion: This phase is the finale of a specific research effort. Typically, it
is the result of satisfying, that is, though there are still deviations from
the (multiply) revised hypothetical predictions, the results are adjudged as
good enough. The knowledge gained in the effort and the facts that have been
learned, can be repeatable applied and may well serve as subject of further
research. For the present case study the gained knowledge and the facts that
have been learned, can be indeed characterised repeatable, and can be applied
by researchers, designers, artists and stage designers to other similar
An important issue of the adapted methodology was the involvement of all
the participating students in activities that allowed them to get close to
information and gain access to data. They were assigned to inquire libraries,
theatres, cinemas, museums, archaeological sites, and select information,
photos and slides on performances, drama, theatre, to attend performances in
different theatres and places, to see videos and DVDs with international
performances. A rapid virtual access to the places and people of their choice
was offered to all of them, through a combination of activities and visits, as
a part of their education program. The didactic of the design process had the
-Vision/Inspiration: to imagine, inspired by a visual or mental
input/procedure, of how the assigned work will appear, giving also an idea of
-Proposal: This is the phase that gives form to vision, the designing
-Motivation: It is fundamental element of the
design process, made up of general and specific goals that generate the final
face of creation.
The design sessions were expanded with lectures
on construction, style and composition and also with a discussion of
aesthetics, including video, slides and image
presentations. The students were supported both in content and in process by
supervisors, by methods of research during the fist part of their assignment,
and by application research methods during the designing part of the
assignment. After one semester’s work the participating groups collected their
design work in a folder for evaluation. They presented designs, inspirations,
and research on the ways, means and media to be adapted into the final
performance event. All designs were created during the design sessions by a
combination of hand and computer work. Encaustic was also applied to the
designed costumes by hand and by technological means, (Figure 1).
The research team evaluated the works, and they were turned back accompanied
with written remarks and statements, thus helping the participants to work on
their proposals completion with the best possible results. Within designing,
constraints rose in many forms: the performance cost, the materials and
dimensions the participants had selected and their personal colour/design
selections/preferences, which drama to select, how to apply designs, what
computer programmes to select, how to communicate . The processes that would
be used can constrain the materials and the dimensions the participants had
selected. Preferences were constraints and in many situations constraints
emerged during designing. Linguistic problems could also be constrains, as in
the present work that involved multilingual partners and participants. The
partners decided not to take into consideration most constrains, since the
project was an experimental one, and the students were free to select the media
of their preference in order to design and present the performance. Many of
them were inspired by a combination of technologically oriented modernity and
Figure 1. Applying the encaustic art has created the
modernized costume of Media, of the homonymous ancient tragedy. Colours and
lines are expressing anger, jealousy, revenge.
Two performances took place at the auditorium of the Technological
Educational Institute of Athens in front of the partners, professors,
international students and the research team. The participants followed the
archaic pre-classical ceremonial way. The actors were silent, often masked
figures with costumes “designed” by projected overlapping images (Figure 2).
The scenery was created by two to four overlapping designs that were parallel
projected by slide/video/overhead projectors on fabrics pre-treated with the
encaustic. Colour was applied via the projectors and unusual/extreme colour
combinations resulted. Selected electronic sounds and music accompanied and
completed the emotional atmosphere of the performance. The final, in many cases
abstract, design/colour decisions and combinations were presented together with
the prototype design inspirations in layers, with the multiple parallel
applications of projectors and selected electronic lighting systems. Craft
paper, fibbers and fabrics were also used in order to “build” the scenery and
form the figures. All these elements were substituting words, actors, costumes
and scenery, embodying everything and everybody, creating a magical and
altogether mythical atmosphere for the participants and the audience. Eyes
became the gates for all kind of words, forms, feelings and emotions. Drama
was expressed and evolutes by continues design projections, connected and
presenting the myth, and by colours and sounds that were magnetizing the
audience. Linguistic differences, difficulties and disabilities were minimized
The presence and importance of colour - its importance often neglected
in design disciplines - was the focus-point, the key element and the strongest
medium of communication and the power of creation and expression of feelings
and emotions of all the students involved in the present experiment . Colour
is very important for life - a grey world would have been very sad and
monotonous - since it influences personalities and moods, and provides
enjoyment and pleasure. It has been a powerful tool for humans from the cave
era to nowadays, its perception being one of the first triumphs of the human
intellect. In design works, most of the time, we study and analyse design
deeply, often forgetting the tremendous transformations that would occur - and
do occur - with the use of colour, transformations that do not just influence
forms and shapes, but mainly reflect the designers’ inner cultural and emotional
world. Within the present experiment colours, lines, patterns, textures and
shapes have defined passion, tranquillity, happiness, anger, hate and all kind
of feelings in an astonishing way. With the lines’ and colours’ selections the
students expressed their thoughts, hidden emotions, artistic anxieties,
visions, and even cultural heritages.
Figure 2, Examples of the students’ scenery work for
the final presentation:
The great thing concerning the present work was that it was with, for
and about people. The research team explored a project that has a social need,
developed ideas and aesthetics by making connections across culture and new
technology. Technology proved to be a valuable tool that does not only act for
sharing knowledge; it also provides new aesthetics, innovative designs,
improving sensibility and expressing emotions. The finally successful
long distance co-creating synergy with the Budapest University proved that
initiative, imagination and the application of technology could make the
establishment of long-distance design research possible.
The case study offered many important outcomes for the research team.
Research and practice cannot be seen as separated parts, as well as
technological improvements; they are partners of conversation and they should
be equally balanced. In order to make students aware of this they should enjoy
the research part and the creation that results, showing them that the project
will embody their visions and emotions. The recently growing and enduring
emphasis for technological applications in design and performances could open new horizons for innovation, if the human
dimension of designing is not lost in the process. Promoting creativity and
allowing it to mature in a spirit of freedom is one of the best ways of
maintaining cultural vitality, while access to new technologies opens the way
to original forms of expression. In the here presented experiment the aim was
to create new opportunities for young Greek designers, hoping to bring a
long-term positive effect to their deeply rooted professional problems, and to
help them realize that their competitive power depends on cultural elements,
human intelligence and creativity.
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