DisPlay: Remembering a Performance Landscape

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Media Release: March, 2004. 

Crossing the boundaries of performing arts, visual arts and architecture, DisPlay: Remembering a Performance Landscape offers Festival goers, theatre enthusiasts and gallery visitors a unique opportunity to experience an exhibition of contemporary theatre architecture and stage design.

The Michael Hirschfeld Gallery’s contribution to the Visual Arts programme of the 2004 New Zealand International Arts Festival, DisPlay: Remembering a Performance Landscape is the brainchild of internationally recognised theatre architects and stage designers, Wellington-based Dorita Hannah, Sven Mehzoud and Lee Gibson.

Taking its cue from The Heart of the PQ exhibition at the 2003 Prague Quadrennial, DisPlay: Remembering a Performance Landscape is an exhibition that playfully examines the ways in which a performance event might be viewed and displayed in a gallery setting.

For Hannah, Mehzoud and Gibson, stage design involves far more than providing a backdrop for performance. For them, architecture takes a more active role as they aim to create a ‘space-in-action’ that challenges our expectations and blurs the distinction between the audience and the performers.

DisPlay: Remembering a Performance Landscape is an interactive experience that engages the gallery visitor with the surroundings of the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery: a gently sloping layered ramp is constructed, rising above the floor of the gallery to entice viewers into the gallery space. Text runs around the walls of the gallery drawing people in and suggesting a narrative that will unfold. Once the visitor steps on to the raised platform they become incorporated into the exhibition as both the viewer and the viewed.

In 2003 Hannah, Mehzoud and Gibson collaborated with the Czech Theatre Institute to lead an international team of artists developing a site-specific exhibition for the Prague Quadrennial – an international forum for the display of scenography (stage design) and theatre architecture. In their award winning Prague exhibition, The Heart of the PQ, performance was exhibited as a ‘lived experience’, rather than typical exhibits displaying models, images and artefacts. Thus the exhibition became the performance, and the performance became the exhibition.

Dorita Hannah is Associate Professor and Head of Interior Design at Massey University Wellington. Sven Mehzoud is a lecturer in the Department of Three-Dimensional Design at Massey University Wellington and Lee Gibson is a lecturer in Design at Victoria University Wellington’s School of Design.

DisPlay: Remembering a Performance Landscape is presented within the 360 programme – a full perspective on Wellington art and design, which is generously sponsored by Designworks. Thanks also to Colourcraft, Publication & Design, Wellington City Council; Massey University; and Aesthetics Lighting. City Gallery Wellington is managed by the Wellington Museums Trust with major funding from the Wellington City Council.