Sensorial in theatre – on the scent trail in and beyond the everyday
The international scientific and artistic conference will take place in October 2020 as a part of the Professional
Programme of the 55th Maribor Theatre Festival. The symposium will join forces of the Academy of Theatre,
Radio, Film and Television and of the Faculty of Arts, both part of University of Ljubljana, Slovenian Theatre
Institute and the Sensorium Theatre which specializes in sensorial language. The principal aim of the
symposium is to map this largely unexplored but significant field of performing and visual arts with the
performance studies, anthropology, cultural studies and other fields studying art and culture.
Today, sensorial theatre is linked to a highly popular branch of immersive theatres that emerged since the turn
of the millennium as a popular form of performance. It interweaves playfulness into the relationship between
performer, audience, and performance space. While the discussion on immersive theatres has largely focused
on a selection of urban theatre companies that have acquired reputations as the forerunners in the field, it
neglected the practitioners of the sensorial or sensory theatre who develop immersive methodologies within
theatre. These are, as yet, largely undocumented. The aim of the conference is to contribute to the field of
sensory within the theatre culture, and to extend its discussion by considering the work and the ‘poetics of
the senses’ by the Colombian theatre director Enrique Vargas as well as his followers. It will try to expand the
current conceptualisation of immersive sensorial theatres and examine the possible transformative potential
of its specific performative practice.
The conference will also try to link the notion of sensorial theatre to Victor Turner and his “crossing of a
threshold which separates two distinct areas, one associated with the subject’s pre-ritual or pre liminal
status, and the other with his post-ritual or post liminal status”. Sensorial theatre started in Slovenia in
1996, with the premiere of Oracles by Enrique Vargas, the world-renowned director of Teatro de los sentidos
(Theatre of the senses), whose creative work introduced this specific system to a group of participating
Slovenian artists. One of the most prominent researchers in sensory, i.e. multisensory studies, David Howes,
points out that the time of the sensorial revolution is coming, not just as a turnaround or a turn (in terms of
performative, linguistic, spatial, ontological and other turns).
The conference will focus on the following issues and topics: studies of specific performances and performing
models, as well as examples from the field of sensorial in theatre, performing practices and culture in
general. Its aim will be to outline specificities of the sensorial languages within the immersive and devising
contemporary art; mapping, defining and foreseeing which new tools bring sensory theatre to the stage,
to galleries and museums and to the spaces of the everyday. It will try to define in what waythe sensorial
method activates the process of self-examination by unlocking images, memories and associations and how
it builds up a specific self-reflection and self-awareness. How do performing and visual arts use the scents
in their specific; what the sensorial revolution contributes to the future of art and culture scholarship, locally
and globally? It will include contributions which deal with specific performances and performance models,
performing practices and sensory culture, with sensorial as a possible tool for social mediation and association
of different social groups.
The event will also be accompanied by a sensorial trip around Maribor.
Rajko Muršič and Tomaž Toporišič