RespOnce – Design for breakdown

Scenografisk forsknings- og metodeudviklingsprojekt fra 2004, i samarbejde med PRAMnet og Cantabile 2, der bl.a.  udsprang som en nødvendighed af mit arbejde, under PAToolboxInteractive Institute i Malmø fra 2000-03, omkring udvikling af interaktiv scenografi. Systemet blev til på baggrund af en række teoretiske og praktiske undersøgelser, omkring de styrende principper og forudsætninger der danner grundlag for udviklingen af foranderlig og interaktiv scenografi til fysiske og ”mixed media” omgivelser. I den forbindelse var målet bl.a. at udforske det sceniske materiales iboende kvaliteter og betydningspotentiale. Dette førte i første omgang til udviklingen af The RespOnce System, og senere mit arbejde med teori og praksis inden for feltet Objektets Dramaturgi.
Af andre tematiske undersøgelser, som Responce projektet også har affødt, kan bl.a. nævnes Valgets Anatomi og Labyrinten som rumlig dramaturgisk model.

Yderlig beskrivelse af The RespOnce System og udviklingen af det kan læses her:
Design for Breakdown – tools and methods for responsive stage design (Download PDF)
How and why do artist research? (Download PDF)


The RespOnce System is a non-verbal communication and devising tool developed by stage designer Katrine Nilsen, for stage designers and others who works with the interpretation and staging of the scenic object. The aim is to deals with stage design as a fundamental basis for the development of actions on stage, in its functions as partner and opponent to the live performer and for an active and creating participatory audience.

The notion of text within the modern theater has changed. It is no longer only reflecting a prewritten linguistic text, but is often devised and developed through improvisation as a combination of all the signs formed by the scenic images and actions. Even the ‘Frames’ of the theater has been deconstructed, new technique from the interactive digital medias has been introduced and the audience is let onto the stage to interact with the scenery. This means that the role of the scenography is gradually changing from primary being regarded as an image, to rather being seen as a playing material and treated as a potential co-actor.

To deal with this great complexity within the modern theater and the digital media and to be able to contribute to the creation of a constant changing and living image, the stage designer needs to find new working method that will make it possible to deconstruct, improvise and deal with the terms of interaction concerning the physical elements of the stage, on the same level as the choreographer, the director and the performers.


The intention was to create a ‘Toolbox’ as a common working ground for the designer and the actors, performers, dancers and directors etc. which would make it easier for all of them to understand, handle and develop object related theater and interactive stage design.

The result, as a first step, was to develop a kind of matrix or basic vocabulary, which is called The RespOnce System. This is a schematic classification that makes it possibility to identify, isolate, group and regroup the scenic objects and materials according to their physical appearance, purpose and connotation. On the basis of this system different Toolboxes can be developed, containing a number of basic materials, products and three-dimensional modules, chosen or designed within the categories of the system.

These elements of the toolbox serve as Dummies or training implements for the “devising” of a basic idea for a choreography, a scenography or a dramatic action, which will allow designers, directors and performers to continuously change, “breakdown” and rebuilt the scenery, during the whole process. Eventually this initial work will then create the basis for the final development of the actual scenic elements, by progressively trying it out with different materials, surfaces, colours etc. until the right visual expression is achieved.

The RespOnce System can be used to systematically investigate different objects and materials, to become aware of and be able to divide between what it is, what it can do and what it can represent. This knowledge can then be used in the performance with a certain material or object or by picking one type of object or material and investigate this through all the categories, to compare and pick from the different expressions and contexts that this will generate. On the basis of what the performer has learned from the object, they can choose either to transfer this into their own act, or they can construct lines of action with it and this way compose a whole performance or scenery, by simply combining the different line of action or still-life developed with the scenic objects. Finally the system can be used to further develop the material, by analyzing what qualities is acquired or preferred and which you want to change or get rid of.

The principle of the Matrix can represent a common frame of reference, which can serve as a “brainstorm” or devising tool for creating scenic material, in connection with education, training and production. The intention is that these experiences and expressions eventually also can be transferred and applied to the virtual space or even being used for other purposes that Performance art.