Although dramaturgy is a skill commonly associated with the performing arts sector, it is also quite useful in visual arts in general, including drawing.
At the first sight, dramaturgy may seem almost opposed to drawing in the sense that the first deals with logic, whereas the second with imagination – the nature of the thinking process is different. But, perhaps that is not the case. They are both useful tools, used in different moments.
When one speaks about dramaturgy, one invariably thinks about theater practitioners such as Erwin Piscator (1893–1966) or Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956), credited to have founded the basis of modern dramaturgy. Although when it comes to claiming the origin of something, one always gets in trouble, and arrives atancient Greek civilization.
What is dramaturgy? In simple terms, it’s the ability to think in strategic terms; to order ideas, materials, feelings, etc. In artistic terms, it deals with evaluating the coherence between concept, development, and idea. It can relate with concrete elements, such as how to display different works in the room – what comes first and last, how to display them on the wall. How do the workscommunicate with each other, among themselves? That is a materialistic use of dramaturgy. But, there are also less palpable uses for it. For instance, if we make a drawing, what parts of the page are left empty? What idea introduces the story? What color best communicates the concept? In this case, dramaturgy works best as the after-tool. Once the work is done, one may look at it and remove the unnecessary bits, or develop new parts. Perhaps we spend six months creating ten drawings and come to the conclusion that only one is enough. Similar to poetry, one poem can be reduced to one word.
Thus, dramaturgy, in my view, is one of the most useful skills. After the pleasure of imagining, wondering and getting lost, we have to clean up after ourselves.
Once I attended a session at the Berlinale Talent Campus, where a duo of Brazilian filmmakers Daniela Thomas (*1959) and Walter Salles (*1956) spoke about their working methods. Thomas described Salles as the magic head, who would come with the brilliant ideas, throwing them around. Then, Thomas, »the chicken« as she described herself, would clean up the mess, and work on detail. So, this is the dramaturgical head.
As much as I don’t like overtly theoretical work, as it is boring to death, it is rather useful to be able to rethink, order, and sort out the process. It makes it more efficient.
Sometimes, it takes ages to pass from the creative mind to the detail maniac. In my case, it can take two years, rethinking the works mentally, before deciding to take the idea to the page. For instance, in the case of my video On Drawing, I spent two years, thinking about the video mentally without pushing a pencil. Not that much changed from the initial idea to the final work, but that decision took me years to make. I wanted to be fully immersed in the video to create it. Yet the decision to keep it simple is only possible when we pass that initial feeling of joy that comes when we arrive at a new idea or project. Through time, ideas are naturally polished and everything falls into place.
Strangely, I created the trailer only two years after the video. I could not arrive at making it the way I wanted, so I delayed the production. My goal was to make a trailer that would show the work without being descriptive. I also wanted to create something that would portray Mina Pegourie (the character) rather than acting as a teaser to the video. Thus, after an extensive screening career, I got an idea to make the trailer. It became rather simple, just by using one of Mina’s drawings, her breath, and some floppy movement that shows her thinking process.
Once again, the work was the product of different minds, as I created the trailer out of my imagination, and afterward it w technically perfected to a minimum level – the rawness of Mina’s work/thinking process.
Therefore, this trailer is an example of how dramaturgy can help us to perfect one idea, and to step back from our own work. It is rather relevant for artists who tend to be quite embedded in their own worlds and ideas. Getting back to reality is rather healthy.