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WSD2022: how to hold water
11.21 - 08.22
researcher | designer | collaborator
Queensland University of Technology (AUS) -
Griffith University (AUS) - York University (CAN)

As part of an overarching practice-led research project, two seed design concepts were developed for exhibition at World Stage Design 2022. The design processes of these concepts  were framed by an ecoscenographic methodology (coined by Tanja Beer), as well as a central research question:

"How can non-human entities be included in an ecoscenographic design process as collaborators with their own agency, shifting the scenographer’s role from designer to facilitator and curator?"​

In response to this research, both designs reconsider the relationship between the human and non-human in performance-making. By placing the non-human in the position of performer and artist, the scenographer becomes a liaison between the non-human performer and the human audience member.

i | the outcome

Taking key inspiration from Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s play ‘How to Hold Water: a Spell for Adaptive Living’, this seed concept encourages audiences to connect on a deeper level with the bodies of water that already exist as part of their daily life, taking a moment to listen as Water becomes Storyteller. By utilising spectrogram analysis techniques used by phoneticians, the frequency patterns of human speech are replicated by compositing select sections of audio recordings of water. In this way, the non-human/human divide begins to be bridged, facilitating a new form of communion and communication between them.

ii | the ecoscenographic framework


As defined by Tanja Beer, an ecoscenographic design process is marked by three cycles inspired by functioning ecosystems; co-creation, celebration, and circulation.


In this performance, water becomes an active collaborator by lending its voice as narrator of the play’s text. If realised, the audience would listen to the audio file while engaging with a body of water local to them — be it ocean, river or bath — thereby becoming a key aspect of each unique performance experience. 



This communion between the human and non-human seeks to establish new relationships built from a desire to understand the familiar in new ways.



With the performance space additionally acting as performer with very low human intervention, its physical cycle remains in accordance with the natural order of things. In fact, the hope is that audience members would leave the experience with a deeper sense of compassion for the water, motivating them to care for it by clearing harmful litter and debris.

Key Skills/Mediums:​

  • Practice-led Research

  • Interdisciplinary Practice

  • Sound Design and Editing (Adobe Audition)

  • Design Visualisation (Adobe Photoshop)

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