It may not have been apparent to many designers in Europe that scenography might be considered a design philosophy, were it not for our American colleagues. Indeed were it not for the Internet and working on co-productions with American Theatre companies the suggestion may have never been known to me. Essentially the quality of work is no different either in terms of presentation or artistic merit – to suggest that the “Scenography Model” is in some way superior would suggest that American theatre itself is inferior – which it certainly is not.
To my mind Scenography is as much a philosophy of design as it is a practice, and one that of course has a pedigree deep-rooted in European theatre. Debates concerning the birth of “Scenography” are exciting enough for academics, though most will agree that Josef Svoboda was the first celebrated pioneer of a holistic approach to design in contemporary theatre.
So what is the philosophy of Scenography? In the UK some might argue that the development of a holistic approach is a driven by financial and logistical concerns, in part due to the nature in which our theatre is funded, evolved (with help of scenographic thinking from continental European) into a practice of design for performance and theatre that unites the visual, auditory image and environment into one single artistic form of communication. Naturalism for the most has been left behind in favour of symbolic and supportive aesthetics; costumes are no longer simply descriptive or historically accurate – they also serve to enrich or support the design, as does lighting, sound and venue.