Greek Precarious Body: Designing and Performing Through the Materials
“The body is outside itself, in the world of others, in a space and time it does not control, and it not only exists in the vector of these relations, but as this very vector.” (Butler 2009: 52-53) Judith Butler conceptualizes the body as an entity that cannot be perceived without being affected by “others” (norms, social and political organizations that have developed historically and gained power); simultaneously, the body is also complicit to their development and function.
I argue that there are parallels between what the Ancient Greeks called “fate” and what Butler describes as “the world of others”, thus, I explore generic meanings from the myth of Oedipus, in contemporary terms via Butler’s concept.
I use the idea of the costume as a metaphor for all those “others” that control the human and that are also affected by it. In practice, I design costumes that restrict the body and by moderating experimental scenographic practices, I explore the notion of “the precarious”.
In this presentation, I will explain the two improvised methods applied on my project. One is the idea of thinking and designing costumes through the materials and their engineering properties, rather than speculate designs first mentally. I will discuss the significance of the choice of the materials and suggest considering materials unusual for costume design. The other, is the use of the same idea, but applied this time on the design of the performance itself. By keeping exploring the materials – through performing bodies – and by staying longer in the creative process, performance can be designed through the costume-performer interaction. Thus, I suggest allowing shared agency between the material and the body.
I will show how space design can be directly driven by the costume and how one can push further materials’ performativity, by adding sound into them. Conclusively, I will refer to the dramaturgical value of the above strategies, through phenomenological lenses.
Olga Ntenta BEng MEng MA is an experimental scenographer that has been trained in engineering at the National Technical University of Athens and in scenography at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She has worked as a scenographer in Athens and in London, where she is based at the moment. She designs sets and costumes for theatre and also works on personal and collective experimental projects as performance designer. Olga has given lectures and run workshops on scenography at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and the University of Athens, Theatre School.
As an artist and a researcher Olga has a particular interest in Ancient Greek Tragedy and its contemporary significance. In particular, she is seeking for new readings on Tragedy through experimental scenographic practices. Those practices intersect with science, engineering, architecture and dance. Her work-in-progress project Greek Precarious Body has been presented at its early stage at the Scenography Open Studio RCSSD 2017, has participated in the Staging Places: UK Design for Performance Exhibition in PQ 2019, has been exhibited in the V&A Theatre and Performance section as a part of the same exhibition and has been presented in UAL Central Saint Martins’ Work in Progress Festival 2020.