Call for Contributions: Scenography and/or symbiosis | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University

Call for Contributions: Scenography and/or symbiosis

Dates or Deadline: 
8 March 2023 to 1 April 2023

May 15, 2023 – BnF Richelieu (Paris) and Zoom




As part of the 28th edition of ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Art), the one consecrated to the theme of “symbiosis”, Franck Ancel with the collaboration of Federico Biggio (Paris 8/Paragraphe) organize a conference on Jacques Polieri’s (1928-2011) research and realizations, with the aim of studying contaminations and hybridizations (i.e., symbiosis) between experimental scenographies and other scientific fields.

The year 2023 is not chosen at random, as it also marks the 20th anniversary of the first conference on “Scenography and Technology” as well as the 40th anniversary of Jacques Polieri’s historic “man-machine interface” video conference in New York, Tokyo and Cannes in 1983.

Since the Jacques Polieri retrospective, the meaningful scenography, as Polieri announced, has conquered the whole of creation at the speed of technological change. For Polieri, scenography is not only a scenic attribute, but a complex system of different linguistic elements that the director must orchestrate in the spaces, as s/he would do with the living bodies of the actors. This system is elaborated by the designer through the tools of different epistemological fields – scenography, semiology, performing arts, media art. Four of Jacques Polieri’s fundamental works, questioning these disciplines, will logically give the titles of the four sessions on Monday, May 15th, on the eve of the ISEA 2023 week in Paris.

In the first place, Polieri’s research on scenography raises questions about its aesthetic specificity as well as the semantic significance of the space of the performance. The architecture of the stage and theater space, their hybridization with the plastic arts, electrical engineering and lighting find a solid and coherent systematization in Polieri’s theoretical work. They constantly invite us to rethink what scenography is, as well as its functions, which is anything but incidental, as can be deduced from the numerous encyclopedic and iconographic definitions of contemporary scenography as they have been set out in Scénographie. Théâtre, cinéma, télévision (1990). Here, scenography is in constant dialogue with the twentieth-century avant-garde. Polieri’s scenography is a continuation of the history of stage machinery from antiquity to the Renaissance, as documented by art history and by the producers themselves. This makes this work an important contribution to the morphological evolution of theatrical and stage spaces.

Secondly, Polieri’s contribution to a formal theory of scenography adopts the methodological tools of semiology, by proceeding to a meticulous analytical deconstruction of the multimodality of the scenic device. The use of structural models allows him to put forward numerous taxonomies and to name different levels of immanence which, until then, had been conceived as an indivisible totality, going so far as to propose intuitions capable of explaining the implicit ideological aspects of language. In order to take his topological research, the adoption of elementary geometric forms to explain the possible interactions and intersections of the syncretic elements that combine to create the effect of symbiosis (sound, image, light, movement, song, dance, mime, play) was fundamental. This opened up a semiography of action, of gestures in a total movement (of actors, audience, stage and theater architecture) which is not, however, a Gesamtkunstwerk.

A third trajectory is that concerning the performing arts: in this field, Polieri’s contribution was not just historical: for example, in Jeu(x) de Communication (1981), he highlights the use of theater in the experimentation of visual media, and cinema in particular, between the 19th and 20th centuries. From proposals for the use of projections as intersemiotic translations between literature, art and performance to archaeological research on lighting and projection 

techniques, Polieri’s legacy invites questions about the hybridizations between the languages of theater and performance with other media languages (in the proposal of definitions ranging from “pre-cinema” to “post-theatre”), while preserving a specificity of the art of theater up to the electronic arts. We invite researchers to seize these concepts to propose contributions that transfigure the relationship between theater and stage.

Finally, the last trajectory will focus Polieri’s contribution on media art: the particular attention Polieri provided to the emerging visual media leads to the definition of new operational concepts that make it possible to imagine a more immersive and “hyper-topic” restructuring of the scenic space, such as cinematographic scenography and an “electronic image”, which will give rise to architectural proposals, from the “Théâtre mobile” (Paris, 1960) to the “Théâtre du Mouvement Total” (Osaka, 1970), or the concretization of his original intuition of a “kaleidoscopic theater”. Furthermore, the research on stage machinery – that published in Scénographie. Theatre, cinema, television – constitutes a veritable “archaeology of the media”, from the prehistory of cinema to the video art of the 1970s, through a documentary methodology capable of bringing together research on the image (in particular the “projected” image), specific to visual studies, and research on the devices and cultural “periods” of vision.

This combinatorial process allows us not only to grasp a score in acts for the modernity of the arts but also from artistic abstraction to the conquest of space. From the conference room of the BnF site Richelieu, the former map room, between the public, the interventions (in presence and at a distance), we bet to create the data of a possible symbiotic cartography of our contemporary environment, not to say an art of the memory of today, beyond any exhibition scenography.

Each session will see the presence of a major figure in these fields, as well as early career researchers, who will be selected through this call for contributions. Finally, the aim is to shed light on the Polieri Fund at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Its Department of Performing Arts possesses, for example, the preparatory documents for these scenographies, from Kandinsky’s Sonorité Jaune to Miro’s L’oeil oiseau from Le Livre de Mallarmé, not to mention his productions during events such as the Universal Exhibitions in Canada and Japan, before the Olympic Games in Munich, where he definitely left the enclosed space to open up to the times of the networks…

 #body #device #space #fiction #memory #media #scenography #semiology #technology #topology #symbiosis


Programme of the day

Monday, May 15 2023, anticipation of the ISEA Paris week

9:00 am Welcome of the participants by Franck Ancel, and Joël Huthwohl from the BnF
9:30-11:00 50 years of research in the performing arts
11:00-12:30 Scenography Semiography
lunch break
14:00-15:30 Communication game(s)
15:30-17:00 Scenography, theater, film, television
17:00-18:00 Discussion with all participants, animated by Federico Biggio


Information about participation

Launch of the call, on Tuesday, 2023 February, 14 by Franck Ancel (collaborator of Jacques Polieri, psychoanalyst) Federico Biggio (media semiologist, Paris 8/Paragraphe) from Paris.

Languages: French (preferred language) and English (second language of the day).

Each proposal should be one page long containing the abstract (500 words) and a biography (200 words)

Deadline for proposals: Saturday 1st April (two proposals will be accepted per section)
Deadline for registration, 64 numbered places, Monday 1st May

e-mail for submission:

For further information, please contact Franck Ancel +33 652 283 939 Federico Biggio +33 7 69 45 31 01


Scenography and/or symbiosis is a partner event of ISEA2023, 28th International Symposium on Electronic Art.

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