Perception---you have that power.

There is purpose in design. There is information in a setting. There is truth in your environment. Fake or real, it's there.

All images are copyrighted by Heidi Hoffer unless otherwise indicated. Your courtesy in using my photographs must include crediting me as the photographer. You must tell me when and where you've used them and send the link to me showing your use of them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Puppet World inside a Play

A world inhabited by both puppets and humans worked well in a play called The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht. The title refers a little boy whose care is being disputed by two women. He is placed in a circle and the two women are asked to grab his arms and pull him out of the circle. The woman who pulls him out is …well, perhaps not the best mother. Of course the woman who loves Michael cannot harm him, and the woman who wants him for power and status is willing to rip him apart. Azdak, the judge, gives Michael to the loving woman.
The play is about many other things concerning judgment, and the ugly world created is no place for children. The director and designers decided to have all of the children in the play be ¾ sized puppets controlled by actors. By separating the human qualities of real children from the tasks they had to perform onstage, the poignant issues surrounding the children, especially Michael, become pretty clear and strong. Michael’s emotions depicted through his operator’s work were heart-rending. This puppet idea was inspired by the Bunraku puppets of Japan. Michael’s puppeteer was
going through the same emotions in order to transmit them to her puppet. At the top of this entry is a picture of the wooden armature for the Michael puppet made with scrap wood and a Styrofoam wig block, and left is a picture of the Michael puppet in the famous chalk circle. Part of designing this world included several pencil sketches, one of which is pictured on the right. The audience, when asked about the puppets responded, “What puppets?”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Artist's Creation Space

The Prague Quadrennial, or “Quadriennale” as the international world says it, is a place for sharing the scenography of visual and performing arts. In the 1988 exhibit from America, the exhibit designers John Conklin, Douglas Schmidt, John Lee Beatty, Carrie Robins, and Jennifer Tipton, chose studio spaces as their theme for the background of the artwork, including video, being displayed. The staff and students at the North Carolina School of the Arts executed the design.

This was a most effective creation of a world by design. It was even more than that. It was a world within a world for the display of yet even other worlds. "It was in part a gentle parody of official exhibits of official design," explained Conklin in American Theatre. It was also "an attempt to show design as process, not an end in itself." (Arnold, Aronson. “PQ 87: Stimuli and Responses,” TD&T: Theatre Design & Technology 23:4 Winter, (1988) p. 17.)

The creation of this world was so believable that attendees actually took designer's research books off the shelves of the exhibit, sat in the designer’s chairs or stools in the exhibit and read them. They obviously felt right at home. Indeed, most of the research books “were stolen over the course of the PQ by information hungry viewers from Eastern-bloc countries.” (ibid: p. 16.) Clearly the created and the real worlds collided through the exhibit.

The website of the 2010 PQ exhibit is It is a dense and exciting website available in several other languages. The photo of the exhibit above was supplied courtesy of TD&T, Winter 1988, photographer unknown.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

conscious environments

Welcome to the blog in which I explore designing and recognizing new worlds. All artists/creators help give one a vision of another world besides one's own. I am a stage designer--a scenographer-- and really familiar with designing the environment for a theatre piece. What intrigues me, though, is the conscious work involved in creating environments for other realities: some made-up and totally not realistic, and some so real it touches you in your heart. Environments are about the inhabiting people. Sometimes the environment is more real than real. Have you ever turned your eyes onto a moment at just the right time to catch power behind it? Have you ever said, " Wow! Did you see that?" Well, when someone creates a moment like that on purpose, they've designed a new world for you to experience. Sometimes it happens when you see a play, and sometimes it happens when you read a book or listen to music. You willingly disbelieve you are sitting in a dark auditorium and believe you are in the new world in front of you. You enter into the presented world. You cry, laugh, dance and in general carry on until the story ends. The theory is, that you have been changed in some way by the experience.