Rhythmic spatiality as a means of expression in the expanded scenography

Elina Lifländer

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Middle ground between performance and installation art. It is a placeless place, where this scenography doctoral thesis and the three included pieces of art fall in to. During my thesis, I develop new kinds of working methods to be applied to the preparation of a performance, to counterbalance the stage designer’s work that has mainly focused on material and visual design. As a research starting point, I have found spatial rhythms. They offer a natural way of looking at intangible, interactive and structural compositions in the overall performance. With rhythm, I approach scenographic work as an action that is space-oriented and reactive to its immediate environment, as well as, a communication between a person’s multiple senses and a performance space. Surveying the rhythms of the space and combining them with theory has changed phase-by-phase into rhythmic spatiality – from observation to a systematic tool. My research topic and intangible working methods stems from the idea of the invisible scenography, which I developed during the years 2006-2008. I limited the use of concrete scenography material to the minimum and gave more time for the creation and development of the performance in an artistic group work process. This caused my personal designer identity to change towards being an independent spatial artist engaging in new ways. Following this assembly, the study currently at hand responds to the post-dramatic, observer-engaging and processual working culture development, which has been recognised since 21st century art, for example, in the areas of contemporary dance, performance art and installation art. The extension of scenography takes place together with this engaging and process-like development, and can no longer be limited merely to the visual and material aspects of the performance space; instead scenography can also focus on working with the invisible, intangible and eventful matters. In my thesis, thinking and trying together with artistic working groups, as well as different methods of motional, rhythmic and bodily engagement and communication, are also crucial. In this way, scenography is present in various physical environments; inside and outside, as well as in the form of “mind scenography” that expands and is applied to the spaces of imagination that are conceived in the mind. In addition to the written part, the thesis ensemble includes three spacebound work processes: Between two Skies (live installation, 2012), Corridor (participatory performance, 2014) and Skin of the Space (live installation, 2014). The immersive and engaging pieces take in to account their observer-experiencers and the surrounding reality as part of their ensemble. In addition to the art processes, the study material consists of their documentation, work diaries, collected observer feedback, as well as design discussions with the artistic working groups. During the completion of the artistic components, the study question has specified to the form; how can a scenographer work with intangible methods of expressions, such as with spatial rhythms? I apply rhythm analysis to my study, which originates from Philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s ideology (2004/1992). In this analysis, rhythm presents itself as a pacer related to the entire human world, physicality and the cycle of the environment. Cultural geographers, such as Tim Edensor (2010), Filipa M. Wunderlich (2008) and Edward W. Soja (1996) continue from Lefebvre’s previous ideology of social space. For example from the rhythm analysis’s cyclic and linear time concepts to today’s static and flowing rhythms of urban environments, to the observation of time and spatial sense, and additionally the ideology of a third space. The third space together with its transitional states is finally compared to the interpretation of the performance and the associations in the observer’s mind. Separately from Lefebvre’s ideology, Theatre Researcher Erica Fisher-Lichte (2008) brings up the autopoietic feedback loop in rhythm, which is created between the performer and the observer, as interactive gestures andexpressions. These rhythms and messages that are created between people, on the other hand, lead on to the synchronisation of expressions addressed by Psychoanalyst Daniel Stern (2010). He brings up the concept communicative musicality, which takes place intuitively in interactions between people, when people seek to synchronise their expressions and voice tones to the same frequencies with others. This can also be applied in artistic group work, where communication often also takes place beyond articulation. With the aid of the previously mentioned theories and concepts, in my study’s artistic components’ analysis, I look in to rhythms between spaces and people, as well as the audience’s involvement in to the spatiality and creation of rhythm in a performance. My rhythm-analytical approach, which has been convened from different sources, is laid out in this study with the experiential and bodily information of dialogue which has developed as the artistic components of this study have been completed. Through the artistic components’ analysis, my study indicates that the work scope of a scenographer includes, particularly in an experimental field, the design of social and mental spaces of human encounters and those formed by these encounters. This expands the job description of a scenographer from physical performance spaces and visual elements to also include the creations of mental significance, in which case the scenographer, either independently or with a working group, in principle, is involved in creating the entire performance and not just part thereof. The new kind of scenographic method that has formed during the study process: rhythmic spatiality consists of visual, motional, interactive, aural, natural and inner-mind rhythms. Overall, it approaches a kind of sense of rhythm; spontaneous reaction and intuitive rhythmic understanding, in encountering living beings and environments. I suggest that by taking rhythmic spatiality as a conscious working tool, a scenographer can create spaces and situations, which may correspond to the needs of ever-expanding scenography in contemporary performances’ and other fields with living, interactive and different spatial starting points.
Translated title of the contributionRhythmic spatiality as a means of expression in the expanded scenography
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Helke, Susanna, Supervising Professor
  • Ikonen, Liisa, Thesis Advisor
  • Pitkänen-Walter, Tarja, Thesis Advisor, External person
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7073-5
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7072-8
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • skenografia
  • ilmaisukeinot
  • tilallisuus
  • rytmisyys
  • scenography
  • means of expression
  • space
  • rhythm


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