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Exosomatic (light) organ: Creating and using an ‘expressive instrument’ for theatre lighting control

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For more than 30 years the operation of stage lighting for theatre has almost always involved the replay of pre-recorded lighting states, so that the operator makes no creative contribution to the performance ‘in the moment’. Meanwhile, digital performance practices have examined the relationship between the performer and a variety of technologies, often problematizing this relationship in diverse ways. However, theatre lighting and its operation have rarely been given such attention. In this article I describe a custom-built lighting control system, ‘Theolux’, designed to enable the operator – who I term the Lighting Artist – to respond and make an expressive contribution in the moment of performance. In particular, Theolux has a variety of interface controls that the lighting artist can choose to use, each of which offers a different expressive potential and which collectively constitute a ‘playable’ instrument. I go on to describe a performance work, Passages, made specifically to investigate my proposal that some creative decisions about the lighting should be deferred until the moment of performance, enabling the lighting artist to respond to the other performers and to the audience. I give an account of some of the affective performance qualities produced by using Theolux to control the lighting during Passages, and describe my own experience as the lighting artist using the various interface idioms during different sections of the performance. I also recount audience members’ experiences, which both confirm some of my own observations and begin to suggest the performance-making potential of my revised approach to theatre lighting.

Keywords: affect; creative agency; exosomatic organ; interface; lighting operator; playability

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/padm.9.2.295_1

Affiliations: Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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  • The journal is a forum to energise, innovative and inspire creative thinking and practice surrounding the combination of digital technologies with the performance arts (theatre, dance, music, live art). Disciplines may be domain-specific or in convergence.
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