How can we come up against the challenges posed by our anthropogenic society in a time when our environment has been irreversibly marked by the growing footprint left by human activities? The performing arts have faced this issue in two ways, concretely in the form of creating eco-responsible sets and performances, and symbolically or poetically by incorporating the issue into performances. Isabelle Moindrot, professor at Paris 8 University and opera specialist discuss these two different ways of addressing the issue with the set director Simon McBurney, the researcher and set director Frédérique Aït-Touati, and with the landscape architect Bas Smets.
Bas Smets founded his architecture firm in 2007 and has carried out projects in more than 12 countries. Some of his projects in France include the public spaces around the Trinity Tower in Paris La Défense, and around the Lyon Part-Dieu train station, as well as the public park where the Parc des Ateliers is situated in Arles for the Luma Foundation in collaboration with Frank Gehry and Annabelle Selldorf. Following a recent call for proposals, he was chosen to design the landscape architecture of the public space around the Perelman Center for the Performing Arts in New York. In 2008, the French Ministry of Culture awarded him with the Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes et Paysagistes prize for young landscape architects. In recent years, he has also taken home awards, including the award for urbanism from the French Academy of Architecture in 2019, and the Global Ahead Award for landscape architecture in 2019. In 2013, Bas Smets unveiled his first monographic exhibition at the Bordeaux Arc en Rêve Centre for Architecture. His works have also been displayed at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, at Bozar in Brussels, and at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris. In 2017, he was named Chief Commissioner at the Bordeaux Biennial of Architecture.
Frédérique Aït-Touati is a researcher and theatre director. She is particularly interested in literary and scientific poetry and explores the links between fiction and knowledge in the 17th century. Some of her written works include Fictions of the Cosmos (Chicago UP, 2011), Contes de la Lune, essai sur la fiction et la science modernes (Gallimard, 2011), Histoires et Savoirs, et Le Monde en images (Garnier, 2015). Today her research and her work as a stage director with her company Zone Critique are interconnected and in collaboration with the philosopher Bruno Latour, she explores the many faces of climate change. (Gaïa Global Circus, 2013; Make it work/The Theatre of Negotiations, 2015; INSIDE, 2016 ; Moving Earths, 2019). She teaches at the French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), as well as at ENS, and Sciences Po. In 2019, she published her most recent book Terra Forma, manuel de cartographies potentielles (2019).
Simon McBurney is one of the most notable theatre directors in Europe today. In 1998, he won the Laurence Olivier Award. He cofounded the theatre company Complicité, which has produced many innovative productions including The Encounter, Beware of Pity, The Master and Margarita, Shun-kin, or Elephant Vanishes. He also directed The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons on Broadway, and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui with Al Pacino. McBurney is also a prolific actor and has cinema, television and radio roles including appearances in The Theory of Everything by James Marsh, Magic in the Moonlight by Woody Allen, Conjuring 2 by James Wan and Allied by Robert Zemeckis. He has also directed operas including Alexander Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart, as well as Mozart’s The Magic Flute and The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky for the Festival d'Aix.
Theatre Studies Professor at the University of Paris 8