Mediated Matters, with Dorita Hannah and Julian Hetzel

Performance Design as Critical Perspective

This symposium-plus-masterclass explores performance design as critical perspective on the complexity of our contemporary condition in which we cannot separate the theatrical from the sociopolitical. Performance design is an extended notion of scenography that adopts performance theory as a means of acknowledging and critiquing the proliferation of events played out in a world that, as Jon McKenzie contends, ‘has become a designed environment in which an array of global performances unfold’ (2008: 128). Performance design provides a perspective that moves beyond a focus on the self-staging and self-design of individuals within these environments, and towards a post-human approach that investigates and reflects on the ways in which environments set the stage for performances in the broadest sense, from the arts to politics to public space. Performance design de-trivializes the ‘theatrical’ – too often considered false, exaggerated or histrionic – emphasizing the fact that the lived world itself is far stranger than fiction: a complex mixed reality-event unfolding though a multiplicity of material practices and scenographic screens. Furthermore, performance design acknowledges the potential of design itself as what Jane Rendell describes as a critical spatial practice, i.e. a practice that like critical theory is reflective rather than objectifying, and aims to change the world, or at least the world in which the inequalities of market capitalism, as well as patriarchal and colonial (or post-colonial) interests, continue to dominate.

During this masterclass with Dorita Hannah we will explore the theoretical foundations of performance design and explore the potential of this approach through a series of case studies. These examples will include the work of Julian Hetzel, in particular his performance installation Schuldfabrik, present at the Spring Festival. Julian Hetzel will join us for the discussion about his work. Participants are also invited to bring examples, including examples from their own practice.

Dorita Hannah (Research Professor of Interdisciplinary Architecture, Art & Design: University of Tasmania, Australia and Adjunct Professor of Stage & Space: Aalto University, Finland) works across the spatial, visual and performing arts as a scholar and design practitioner. Specializing in theatre architecture, as well as the design of cultural venues and public space, she also creates dance-architecture events and performative installations as practice-led research and was Theory Curator for PQ 2015 (Prague Quadrennial), Research Curator for WSD 2013 (World Stage Design) and Architectural Commissioner for PQ 2011. She has been on the boards of OISTAT (International Association of Scenographers, Theatre Architects & Technicians), Performance Studies international (PSi) and the Interior Architecture/Design Educators Association (IDEA). Hannah currently co-Chairs the Performance+Design Working Group for PSi and sits on various editorial boards and international research centers. Focusing on how the built environment housing an event is itself an event and an integral driver of experience, she has completed Event-Space: Theatre Architecture & the Historical Avant-Garde, a book to be published this year by Routledge Press. Dorita Hannah is Centre for the Humanities SPRING Festival Fellow 2017, a fellowship generously sponsored by the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. This masterclass is co-organized with the Centre for the Humanities, SPRING Performing Arts Festival and Theatre Studies at Utrecht University.

Dates: May 19 and 22. Participants are requested to visit Julian Hetzel’s Schuldfabrik at the Spring Performing Arts festival on May 18, 19, 20 or 21. Tickets (16 euro) will be available through the festival website.

Venue: tba.

Credits: RMA Students can acquire 2 EC if they attend all events, complete the readings and write an assignment related to the topic of the workshop.

Registrations: Please contact Eloe Kingma at Be sure to specify your home institution and programme.