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The Body and Mask in Ancient Theatre Space - Research Project

The Body and the Mask in Ancient Theatre Space: The State of the Art

2 day interdisciplinary conference 9-10th July 2009

THURSDAY: King's College, London (Strand Campus)
FRIDAY: King's College, London (Strand Campus)

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This conference is being organised by the AHRC-funded project "The Body and Mask in Ancient Theatre Space", a research collaboration between King's Visualisation Lab at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London and the Department of Classics and Ancient History, Durham University. The project concerns ancient masked performance - specifically in terms of spatial environments, intercultural performance and perceptual experience.

Using leading-edge 3D technologies it addresses fundamental questions concerning the conditions and actualities of the ancient theatre:

  • What can be inferred of the actor's technique and use of mask and body?

  • How does their semiosis relate to other performance traditions and to constants of human perception?

  • How were these phenomena experienced in the various indoor and outdoor performance spaces of Greece and Rome?

  • How can one productively integrate the study of practice and of the surviving iconography in this research process, and how can 3D technologies be brought to bear at their interface?

  • How does perception of masks compare with that of living human faces, and how far can methodologies concerning visual perception inform an understanding of the ancient mask? How is perception of body and physical movement related to how the mask is "read”?

The work of the project includes the creation of full-sized masks for performance based upon terracotta miniature artefacts, complemented by other sources of material evidence, and the use of 3D motion-capture and Chromakey video to record movements of performers and place them in virtually-realised ancient theatre spaces. In addition the research team is collaborating with artists from Asian and European mask theatre traditions whose insights into the use of masks help to illuminate expressive aspects of these ancient mask artifacts.

This conference will examine the work of the project to date, addressing issues raised by this work from three perspectives:

  • Methodologies and Technologies of Maskmaking
  • The Mask in Space: Directing and Performing
  • Theatre Historical Approaches to Masked Performance: Classical and Intercultural

An array of scholars and practitioners will present material on their own work in the field and interrogate the impact and potential applications of the work developed by the project.

Dr Anna Bentkowska-Kafel - anna.bentkowska@kcl.ac.uk

King's College London AHRC Durham University