Recently, a project titled Freespace Tech Lab took place in Hong Kong to explore possibilities that innovative technologies can bring to the black box theatre space. Zuni Icosahedron, together with West Kowloon Cultural District, has initiated this three-year project with showcases, exchanges and training sessions, responding to the growing number of new theatres being built in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
We speak with the creator, artistic director and spatial designer of Freespace Tech Lab, Mathias Woo, to find out his thoughts and vision for technology in theatre.
(Woo responded using a recording device in Hong Kong. The sound clip was sent to Singapore, and the answers were transcribed and edited by Arts Republic.)
1. In 1941, Robert Edmond Jones wrote this in The Dramatic Imagination: “Theatre owners take great pains to make the auditoriums of their theatres glowing and cheerful and comfortable, but what we call a stage today is nothing more than a bare brick box fretted with radiator pipes. Why should this be so? One would think that a stage was something to be ashamed of, to be hidden away like an idiot child. Surely the first step toward creating a new stage is to make it an exciting thing in itself.”
With the emergence of black box and alternative spaces for theatre performances where the audience ‘shares’ the same space as the performers, is today’s stage still ‘something to be ashamed of’?
No, I don’t think there should be a shame or not a shame. I think it’s just a different approach. But with latest technology the traditional relationship between audience and performer, the stage and the auditorium could be reviewed and experimented. That’s why this time with Tech Lab, we’re experimenting different ways for audience to experience the space so the audience can be inside the space to experience the mirror space, or above the mirror space to look at it as a stage. And the concept of stage could be different. Especially in a kind of a ‘handphone’ era, where people are always looking down at their phone, the phone becomes the stage. The relationship between the viewer and the performer is getting closer and closer. I think people are spending a lot of time with their phones, rather than go to the stage. So somehow, how can we create a new experience? Something that is not a traditional performance space, which is kind of detached, and which cannot have a more interactive approach between the audience and the performer, and the audience kind of retreats or become passive – they are just receiving what’s happening, rather than interacting. But then, this Tech Lab mirror space actually allows audience to move around, to experience, to make a decision on how to move or navigate, whether to sit down or lie down. So I think this is an approach, it is more like a museum too. When you go to a museum, you, the viewer, can choose how to view a painting. I think in the future, theatre will be exploring this new way of expression, rather than just the traditional way of stage-and-auditorium kind of one-way relationship.
Read ArtsRepublic’s complete interview with Mathias Woo here.
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