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Playing, Viewing, Touching, Modelling, Mentalizing: Theoretical Reflections on PQ 2023

Drabek, Pavel



Artefacts exhibited at PQ 2023 challenge our disciplinary heritage in several ways: What is scenography now? How does it engage the viewer/spectator/participant? How does it change our conceptions of theatre, performance, and scenography? How should we exhibit and experience scenographic artefacts? How can we re-engage the sensorium after the distancing measures of the Covid-19 pandemic? On critical reflection, I would also ask to what extent PQ 2023 was an exhibition of playful, sensory artefacts; of museum (archival) artefacts; and/or of performative/theatrical scenographies. The fluctuation between the three has worried me but it has also troubled our current conceptualizations of what theatre, performance, and scenography are. This paper builds on the theories of relational aesthetics (Nicholas Bourriaud), of performative and scenographic models (Brejzek, Wallen, Hann, McKinney, Palmer), and of ostension as an act of showing performed interaction (Zich, Osolsobě). I propose a reconceptualization of the three troubled concepts with the help of Robin Dunbar’s anthropological and evolutionary psychological notion of mentalizing (Dunbar 2022), and analyze and theorize selected artefacts presented at PQ 2023. This proposed theory of mentalizing, I argue, allows for a novel functional understanding of scenographies of theatre (in a broad, inclusive sense), and reconceptualizes theatre not only as an act of performing, showing, and viewing, but of cultivating high-level mentalization as a social, collective act.


Drabek, P. (in press). Playing, Viewing, Touching, Modelling, Mentalizing: Theoretical Reflections on PQ 2023. Theatre and performance design, 10(1-2),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 21, 2024
Deposit Date Jan 29, 2024
Journal Theatre and performance design
Print ISSN 2332-2551
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1-2
Series ISSN 2332-2551
Keywords relational aesthetics; modelling; ostension; mentalizing; playfulness; scenographic theory; Otakar Zich
Public URL
Publisher URL

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