The set designer wants to enhance an experience through the design of a space, and I’ll consider some of the decisions made at Efteling, which is an older but highly interactive experience, as well as the Institute of Sound and Vision in it’s more contemporary and environmental role. A key intention of set design is how it can affect emotions and efficiency, both key considerations for an amusement park. An archive/office space/museum might have less obvious needs, but Sound and Vision was very considerate in their design of space, beyond what might initially be expected.
I also attended some dance performances that were meant to consider the ways body and place affect each other. Seeing how movement is designed in relation to a pre-existing space is a compelling flip on the set designers role. I’ll look at the way the ‘set design’ can be used to highlight an artistic message that wasn’t part of the architects intent.
The first piece I attended was A Question of Ma, choreographed by Amos Ben-Tal which took place at Pontsteiger. The audience sat on a floating pier which faces a small open courtyard where the dancers performed. The ‘windmills’ were developed in collaboration with interdisciplinary artist Gosse de Kort, and it seemed that the interactivity was less about the geographic location, and more the interaction with the specially constructed pieces. Even so, the reflective background of mirrors from the hotel expanded the performance, continuing the image of the spinning rods as well as the dancers. The musical accompaniment was simple, a rhythmic pulse that complexified slightly during the performance. I wondered if the pulsing water which separated the viewers from the performers was taken into consideration, but we didn’t have an opportunity to discuss the piece afterwards. From my own interpretation the artists drew from the cultural relation to windmills, though the title refers to the Japanese term for ‘gap’ or ‘pause’, which indicates that the piece may have been pre existing, and just adapted for this performance.
Conversely, The Fool by Connor Schumacher was very integrated into the space, taking us around the building, having us touch and interact with it while he explained the way it impacted those that inhabited it. He set a context of the struggle between individuality and community, and how we draw straight rigid lines that are really made of soft curves. This metaphor was then extended to the seemingly hard surfaces of Museum Het Schip. We followed the front of the building to the integrated post office, and learned that it was a major shift for the community. Here was the first time the status symbol of sitting in public spaces was broken, and everyone was treated with equal consideration. It also took over the responsibility of dispersing paychecks, which had previously been a responsibility of taverns, and directly connected income with family and community rather than frivolity.
Drawing an even more direct connection to the community, we ended in the courtyard which hosted the Haard of Het Schip, the hearth, where the communal residents would gather for events. Their place for recovery. Here we were guided to raise our hands and walk forward mingling and shaking hands with each other. From our somewhat dispersed points of observations we ended in a solid circle around The Fool, and he highlighted how few places there are for people to just be, as we’d just done. It was an impactful reaffirmation of the importance of library spaces.