Reflection on Digital Theatre and Scenic Spectacle by Steve Dixon

Chapter 14 of Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation by Steve Dixon focused on how the incorporation of media screens affected and enhanced the spatial possibilities of a traditional three-dimensional theater space. Digital projections, despite being two dimensional, offer “pliable and poetic space”. Pliable refers to the flexibility of the medium, for example, to view from multiple perspectives through various camera angles simultaneously. Visuals ranging from 360 panorama to extreme close ups and slow motion shots. With the combination of video editing, space and time may be altered by the artist build scenes impossible to materialize physically.

Poetic, the latter, I believe, refers to the “semiotic dialogue between screen image and stage action.” As seen in Robert Lepage’s performance, the use of computer technology can be used as a prop to deliver dramatized and surreal imagery. Dixon made an interesting point about how projected media is often used to “appeal to the senses rather than to the rational intellect”; drawing on the visceral instincts of the audience instead of intent. This statement brought Inter-Mission’s performance to mind. Was the “Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery” with INTER—MISSION trying to engage the audience consciously?  Is that why its meaning was lost in the process?

Under one of Dixon’s examples – The Builders Association, it was mentioned that “their Brechtian use of media displays reminds the audience of the dialectical interplay between the actors and the screen.” Brecht argues that theater should not blur the boundary of reality and allow the audience to view the performance more as a past event. I think this is where Matapolis would be classified under because Dixon also wrote that Brechtian critiques more on the aspects of culture and society more than the political. The use of “the ubiquity of electronic images and their falsifying and banal natures” is exactly what we are doing with Matapolis. Minus the live-actors, we are doing the same, creating distance between the viewer and the content by fictionalizing it. This way the audience can enjoy recognizing references close to home.


“Bertolt Brecht | Biography, Plays, Poems, & Facts”. 2019. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Dixon, Steve. 2015. Digital Performance: A History Of New Media In Theater. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Author: Ying Hui

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