86529: Performative Spaces: Castles in the Air

First performed in 1893, The Master Builder is one of Henrik Ibsens most celebrated plays and is significant for its critique of 19th-century societal norms in relation to power, gender, the workplace and the home. Premiered at the Lessing Theatre in Berlin, the play provoked mixed reviews due to its ambiguous fusing of realistic and symbolic elements in the portrayal of an ambitious (and ageing) architect; Solness, and his questionable conduct to sustain his constructed identity as The Master Builder. Through an interpretation of The Master Builder situated within Sydney in 2018, this studio seeks contemporary understandings of the gendered workplace, marital conventions, and the spatial politics of the domestic realm.

The domestic realm: home or house?

The quarter acre block and the nuclear family were once offered up as ‘The Australian Dream’. In recent times, negative gearing and low interest rates have led to an investment frenzy in Sydney’s housing market. This exponential growth has pushed the median house price to an unprecedented high of $895,000, effectively out-pricing a whole generation from one day owning their own homes. Questioning the inequalities of today’s housing market, this studio seeks to unpack the shifting significance of ‘the home’ vs ‘the house’ to offer contemporary understandings of what will become of the ‘castles in the air’ for future generations.

The gendered workplace

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that has resonated globally, a new wave of feminism has been mobilised under the banner of ‘Time’s Up.’  Comparing the gender politics of the post-Weinstein workplace of today to the personification of the characters within The Master Builder, this studio will explore a new generation of thinking about feminism in relation to gendered expectations of the stay at home mum and the bread winning father through an investigation of the gendered workplace.

Traversing the urban and suburban realms of Sydney, you are asked to identify and explore a range of sites where gender politics play out in contemporary society from which you will develop a theatre set design that reflects a critical understanding of societal expectations, feminism and suburbia.  Framed by a questioning of how we can make gender politics visible through set design practice, you are asked to position a scenographic outcome that embodies the notion of ‘critical realism’ founded upon an understanding of the gendered workplace, marital conventions, and the spatial politics of the domestic realm in Australia.

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