From Skin to Presence: Sculpting in Rehearsal as a Process of Creation in Costume Design.
Our research project looks at the way drawing is used during the creative process of scenography within the performance arts, and it aims at generating a public digital database which can be used as a source for discussion and reflection by practitioners and academics alike. It is our intention to structure and reflect upon the artistic and pragmatic relationship scenographers have with drawing as a device for the creation of space and time of performance and as mediator between the bodies of actors or dancers on stage and the drawer’s page. The study of these relationships informs the creative process of scenography and poses the hypothesis of a particular relationship between the gestuality of the drawer-scenographer and that of the performer generating space.
Nevertheless, as interviews were carried out several costume designers spoke to us of how they slowly stop drawing during rehearsal. They describe drawing as a necessity for reflection, critical thinking and the development of memories of rehearsals which was very soon left behind once they were faced with the specifics of the actor’s bodies. All these designers follow rehearsals closely and all schedule early fittings as opportunities to sculpt on and with performers. It seems to them that they carry on drawing, but on the body and in space. What’s more important: in time. Even though this could be understood as sculpting, they refer to it as drawing with materials. Since they have all worked with these performers for a number of years, they have intimate knowledge of their bodies. What they look for in these fitting sessions is the character’s gestuality. They use their own embodied knowledge of past rehearsals to add to the performers’, creating a symbiosis between body and materials able to develop during time and space of performance. They explore possibilities of enlarging or restricting action, changing movement and bodily shapes through scenographic materials. They search for a way to pass on what they have learned through drawing, in rehearsal and in research, for the purpose of creating a scenographic skin which can generate a presence.
In this presentation I will discuss examples from this research project and from my own practice where costume sculpted in rehearsal acquired spatial-temporal characteristics generating a specific presence on stage and consequently moulded the performance.
Filipa Malva is a scenographer and architect. She has a doctorate degree in Art Studies/Theatre from the University of Coimbra and a masters in Performance Space from the University of Kent, UK. She is a freelance set and costume designer working with several theatre and music groups around the Coimbra district, such as O Teatrão, Trincheira Teatro e Casa da Esquina (https://www.facebook.com/FilipaMalva1977/). She is a founding member of the Portuguese Association of Scenography – APCEN and currently a recipient of a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). She is a full-time researcher at INET-md’s Dance Studies Group (inetmd.pt) where she is developing a project on the role of drawing in the creative process of scenography.