LIQUID STAGING – The „spatialisation of film“ as a basis of new show creations and new show and event formats
Ever since the advent of film, it has been incorporated in theatre and musical productions as well as many other types of shows, from Erwin Piscator in the 1920s and the “Laterna Magica” project of the late 1950s all the way up to the latest phantastic stage and concert productions. Yet until very recently, film has never been considered or used as a medium to blend and unite disparate design components (stage, acting, dance, acrobatics, music, sound, light etc.), i. e. as a medium that keeps changing its role and remains in constant flux and transformation. Most of all, it has never been used to encompass and control the entire theatre’s interior architecture.
Such a simultaneous and equal development and production of stage and film action generates a new symbiosis, a new “osmotic performance genre” that is far more than the mere sum of what’s happening on stage and the corresponding stage or film set.
Liquid Staging translates film to theatre spaces and auditoriums, enabling an entirely novel kind of show – “show” denoting all performance types, from theatre, ballet and opera to concerts, musicals, performances, events and exhibitions.
The Liquid Staging concept creates the scope for an “analogue 3-D show”, one that places the guests truly “center stage”. It serves as the basis for creating a deeply emotional and all-encompassing theatre illusion. The audience no longer needs special glasses or viewing aids to delve deep into another world. Liquid Staging thrusts them straight into an “experience space” with exciting scope for the realization of a brand-new type of performance with the options of 21st century technology and aesthetics.
Liquid Staging paves the way for spatial stage aesthetics that focus on triggering a new kind of dramatic emotionality, i. e. on addressing the audience’s “heart” and “senses” in a different way. An approach that is less about content and more about an entirely new mode and format since – over the years – I had noticed how all established show traditions not only seemed somewhat “cold” and “abstract” (these terms are not meant to be judgmental), but also strangely staid and outdated:
– The Revue format, evolved from late 19th century French cabaret, reached its peak in the 1920s and continues to be copied ad infinitum, especially in Paris (Moulin Rouge, Lido) and Berlin (Friedrichstadtpalast).
– Musicals had their heyday between 1930 and 1950. The virtually unchanged format continues to enjoy great success, most of all in its two hubs, London and New York City.
– Cirque de Soleil’s fantastic show circus was developed in the 1980s by Guy Laliberté in Canada and its unique show format keeps going from strength to strength, both internationally and in Las Vegas as a one-of-a-kind theatre production.
– In theatre, the cult of design formalism (something Apple continues to market in a different arena and with extreme and lasting success) culminated in the exceptional productions of Robert Wilson and many others since the 1990s.
– Opera, circus, variety, rock concerts etc. tend to follow traditional, almost “set in stone” performance formats. Some of these have reached an obvious aesthetic cul-de-sac and need to reinvent themselves sooner or later – which invariably happens when new stage ideas capture the zeitgeist. For prime examples, look no further than the iconic productions of André Heller, Pink Floyd, U2, Roger Water’s „The Wall“ or Rammstein’s seminal 1998 live-from-Berlin gig, not to mention their later concert projects.
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Liquid Staging champions the aesthetics of “unshackled theatre”, of a modular, structured production style that splices epic and dramatic theatre with film; a spatial staging method that – besides empathy (imitation and identification) also leaves room for the abstract (reflection and alienation). Yet Liquid Staging principles could also be used and employed in entirely different ways. In any case, this “spatialization of film” translates to new challenges for directors, costume designers, composers, light designers, and stage technicians. And it completely redefines the role and tasks of the stage designer/art director who now needs to become the show’s scenographer, film director, and motion graphics artist in one. At the same time, Liquid Staging also rewrites the role of the “author” – he becomes a blend of scriptwriter, dramaturge, choreographer, and playwright.
When implementing this concept, you quickly hit the limits of what is currently feasible in terms of aesthetics, production technology and budgets. After all, such a “real stage movie”, precisely choreographed to sound, light, movement and costumes from the very first second, requires entirely new approaches to work and truly exploit the sheer emotional potential of cinema for a stage production. It’s an enormous challenge – and a fitting one for today’s creative explorations and emotional-creative cravings. The result promises to be a truly unique show as it has never been seen – or experienced – before.
Asteris Kutulas, 2016
LIQUID STAGING MANIFESTO
… is the basis for new, innovative, spatial show and event formats
… satisfies the emotional and mental needs of our digital age
… allows for „hybrid Gesamtkunstwerke“ (hybrid total works of art), based on the latest technological achievements of the 21st century
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The „Liquid Stage Design“ is a hybrid „medium“ that unites all design components. These components include film, stage, acting, dance, gaming, music, sound, lighting, design, architecture, digital art, virtual reality, etc.
The „Liquid Stage Design“ is a constantly evolving and constantly changing „medium“.
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The „Liquid Stage Design“ is a „film“ that is composed from the first to the last second of the show or event.
The „Liquid Stage Design“ not only plays on the stage background, but also on the entire floor area, the ceiling area of the stage space, the side walls, and, depending on the storyboard, the entire audience area.
The „Liquid Stage Design“ incorporates the architecture of the „theatre“ interior and, if necessary, the „theatre exterior facade“ and „redefines“ it.
With the „Liquid Stage Design,“ a „hybrid experiential space“ is created in which a new „osmotic“ form of performance can be realized with the technical-digital possibilities of the 21st century. („Hybrid“ here always means the inseparable connection of filmic-visual/digital and real action.)
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Liquid Staging completely overcomes the boundaries between „stage“ and „film“.
The „Liquid Stage Design“ opens up new, cross-genre uses of film and establishes a new type of show production. In this context, „show“ refers to all possible forms of performance (e.g., event, theatre, concert, ballet, opera, musical, performance, exhibition, keynote, product presentation, fashion show, etc.).
Liquid Staging introduces many novel options and opportunities just waiting to be tried or rediscovered for future productions. The following aspects are key:
- We are dealing with a constantly changing stage design that can switch from static to cinematic to embedded to interactive in an instant according to need.
- Time and again, the cinematic illusion replaces the theatrical illusion (according to storyboard directions), only to disappear behind the latter and then return to the fore again – an ongoing, dynamic process that shapes the entire show. During certain phases, the stage design morphs into a movie and vice versa.
- The actors on stage also frequently transform into protagonists of a film scene. Throughout the entire performance, they serve as both theatre and movie actors – or a vital linking medium for this new creative space.
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The medium of film can be used in at least four ways as the most important element of the „Liquid Stage Design“:
- as an embedded „Moving Stage Design“ (with varying dynamics, narrative form, aesthetics, etc., depending on the storyline and music)
- as a large narrative „cinema“ (e.g., individual film sequences, scene transitions)
- as a medium interacting with the performers and various stage elements and props (mapping effects, etc.)
- as a medium that can involve the audience in the show
The „Liquid-Staging-Film,“ which corresponds to music, light, movement, text, props, costumes, etc. from the first to the last second, requires completely new approaches in order to „work“ and for the emotional possibilities that „cinema“ offers to be used in live performances.
The concept of „spatialization of film“ inevitably leads to a completely new definition of professional roles:
- The author – a screenwriter, playwright, dramaturge, and choreographer in one
- The director – who must master both theater and show, dance, gaming, and film direction
- The set designer – who should also be a film director, art director, scenographer, and motion graphics artist
- The projection artist and lighting designer – whose different areas of work merge with those of the Liquid-Stage-Designer
As a result of the Liquid-Staging aesthetic, the scope and methodology of tasks in costume design, music/sound composition and production, prop development and production, etc. are also changing.
Liquid Staging also represents a new challenge for all the involved technical professions.
The „Liquid Stage Design“ implies a new philosophy for shows and events.
Asteris Kutulas, 2010/2016
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In its issue 5/2021, PMA – The Reportage Magazine for the Event Industry, published my „Liquid Staging“ concept for the first time in Germany, as the cover story. My heartfelt thanks to Ray Finkenberger-Lewin, Lisa Schaft, Ralph Larmann, and the PMA Magazine.
But the #liquidstaging aesthetic would never have developed as far as it did without the input of Ina Kutulas, Achilleas Gatsopoulos, Gerd Helinski, Alexander Strizhak, Ross Ashton, Michalis Argyrou, James Chressanthis, Alto Metzger & the PRG: Germany team, Lars Krückeberg and the Graft Architects, the PIXOMONDO creatives, and the BLACKSPACE team. My thanks also go to Apassionata World GmbH for their support from 2015 to 2017. And of course to the master & light architect Gert Hof.
Asteris Kutulas, November 2021