Nancy Bussières is first and foremost an artist and a researcher. Since receiving her degree at UQAM, she has continuously worked for the sensitive integration of light into the performing arts. To this end, she has completed over sixty lighting designs in domains as varied as theatre, dance music, circus, performance art and spoken word. Having also designed many visual installations, she has greatly contributed in situ to the redefinition of the perception of space through light.
A professor at Université du Québec à Montréal and a researcher with Hexagram, research centre in the media arts, she also part of an international network dedicated to research and creation in media, design, technology and digital culture, she works largely in the field of emerging technologies in the live arts. Having worked on Canti del Capricorno, this project is her second collaboration with Chants Libres.
Material Light: A Paradigm Shift in Light Composition and Technology in the Theatre
Over centuries several roles have been given to artificial light in the theatre: it was first used for set and actors visibility (early Renaissance); then to create atmosphere and visual sensations (Renaissance); next it became part of the scenography by replacing the traditional painted set (end of XIX) and finally, it developed in a medium conveying meaning—a language for the theatre (XX). Every single step could occur only in relation to technical evolution. This slowly evolved towards a chronological and representational use of light, that is, the creation—and rigid playback—of a sequence of powerful images. If I intend to lay stress on how available technologies were and still are closely entwined with the evolution—and limitations—of stage lighting design (and as a consequence of how it developed into a language), nevertheless my aim is to highlight an actual paradigm shift in composing with light for the theatre pinpoints how it modifies the technological needs. The rise of new materialism theories combined with the present major technological revolution (portable sources such a DEL, OLED, wireless control and open programing software, amongst others) set the ground for a conceptual turn. According to new materialism theories the relation subject-object is abolished and light, as a non-living material is endowed with agency. The perception of the work of art can therefore occur in the inner eye of the observer and the meaning is co-created. In these conditions, composing with light can no more be a chronological-representational-language- based practice. A paradigm shift for stage lighting design has begun—for we now have available technologies to operate it: it shifts from language to behaviour, from representation to embodied experience. By demonstrating the current limitations of the technical apparatus and the potential of the latest technologies for flexible lighting and control, the paper will operate as a comprehensive highlight of the conceptual turn undertaken in stage lighting theatre and the inherent technical expectations and implications.