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Keynote Speaker



Costume scenographics: caught in the act of appearance


In this presentation, I revisit orthodoxies on costume to establish a new framework for investigating the felt orientations produced by and with costume practice. Namely, I apply my argument for ‘scenographics’ as the place orientating traits of staged material cultures to focus on what costume does (as distinct from what costume is). Costume, while considered a ‘visual’ craft, is often forgotten when discussing the spatial or felt capacity of performance design. Instead, I propose that costume can be understood as the most immediate performance environment and a critical agent in ‘placing’ performance. In terms of theory, I combine process philosophy (new materialism, worlding, etc) with queer phenomenology (Ahmed 2006) to present the case for what costumes do – as a reciprocal event between the worn, the wearer, and the witness. To illustrate these positions, I will draw upon my experience at the Costume Agency workshop in Oslo (2021) and several costume performances – by artists such as Sally E Dean, Natálie Rajnišová, and Lotta Barlach – that, I argue, investigate costume scenographics in action. My overall aim is to consider the critical capacity of costume practice to realign, underscore, and highlight how appearance happens in relation to material, political, and social frames. 

Dr. Rachel Hann is Senior Lecturer in Performance and Design at Northumbria University, Newcastle. Her research is focused on the material cultures of scenography, trans performance, and climate crisis. Rachel is author of Beyond Scenography (Routledge 2019), which was shortlisted for the Prague Quadrennial 2019 Publication Prize. In 2013, Rachel co-founded the research network Critical Costume and in 2014 co-edited a special issue of Scene (Intellect) on costume. In 2016, she proposed ‘second wave practice research’ to account for shifts in academic knowledge cultures, which led to invited seminars and consultancy roles at 14 universities. Rachel’s leadership activities were recognised in her shortlisting for the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Early Career Prize 2017 for 'leadership in costume and practice research'. More recently, Rachel has also started publishing on trans performance including a forthcoming chapter on gender-assemblages and the drag artist Sin Wai Kin. Rachel’s next book project investigates how 'world imaginations' are practiced in an era of climate crisis, which draws upon Global South epistemologies and ideas associated with 'new materialism'.

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