Materiality, Embodiment and Urban Spaces

The School of Performance and Cultural Industries invites you to the first seminar in the 2019-20 research seminar series.

Location: Alec Clegg, stage@leeds, University of Leeds

Please register for you place by emailing Linda Watson

In the first seminar of the series Joslin McKinney, School of Performance and Cultural Industries and Azadeh Fatehrad, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, will be presenting their research on materiality, bodies and the city. McKinney will firstly discuss her work on scenographic attunement and how the body orientates itself in the city through material objects and Fatehrad will then focus in specifically on women’s aesthetic, social and political experiences of veiling practices in Iran.

Joslin McKinney

Scenographic attunement in urban environments

This presentation is part of a larger project where I am using scenography as a methodology and asking: How can scenographic knowing contribute to an understanding of embodied and affective experience in urban environments? The interplay between environment and bodies is a foundation of theatrical scenography that underscores the transformative power of performance and performance environments (Erika Fischer-Lichte). My project draws on the way that theatrical scenography operates on a bodily level through the composition and orchestration of materials and applies this to perception and experience of urban environments.

In this presentation I will outline an idea of ‘scenographic attunement’ as an approach to registering the affective dimension of everyday environments. It also builds on Kathleen Stewart’s idea of ‘atmospheric attunement’ to notice the ‘charged atmospheres of everyday life’ and the moments when matter begins to shift into a register of ‘emergent expressivity’ (2015). I consider the formation of ‘affective atmospheres’ as a kind of scenography where the latent potential of space and material comes into focus and where the material-discursive nature of scenography can be applied to the diffuse and sometimes disorientating nature of being in the city.

Scenographic attunement is proposed as a technique or disposition towards urban space and material, where compositions, correspondences, patterns, juxtapositions or dissonances of all kinds of matter might be sensed and registered as ‘scenes becoming worlds’ in becoming to feel how things are and imagine how they might be different.


Joslin McKinney is Associate Professor in Scenography in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds. She trained and practiced as a theatre designer and completed a practice-led PhD in 2008: The Nature of Communication Between Scenography and its Audiences. She is the lead author of the Cambridge Introduction to Scenography (2009) and co-editor of Scenography Expanded: an Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design (Bloomsbury 2017) and book series editor for the Performance + Design series for Bloomsbury. She has published articles and chapters on scenographic research methods, scenographic spectacle and embodied spectatorship, phenomenology, kinaesthetic empathy and material agency. Her current research is concerned with using scenographic thinking to understand the material and affective dimensions of experiencing urban environments.


Azadeh Fatehrad

Veiled Women: Performing resistance in Post-Revolutionary Iran

This presentation explores the lives of women in Iran through the social, political, and aesthetic contexts of veiling, unveiling, and re-veiling. Through poetic writings and photographs, Azadeh Fatehrad responds to the legacy of the Iranian Revolution via the representation of women in photography, literature, and film. In particular the relationship between the female body and the alienated system of looking in Iranian urban spaces are the focus of this presentation. What that means is that there is an invisible yet powerfully omnipresent state/ individual gaze over everyday life activities. The images and texts exploring this position are documentary, analytical, and personal. In exploring women’s lives in post-revolutionary Iran, Fatehrad considers the role of the found image and the relationship between the archive and the present, resulting in an illuminating history of feminism in Iran in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Dr. Azadeh Fatehrad is a Lecturer in Contemporary Art and Curating at the University of Leeds and affiliated researcher at The Artists’ Writings and Publications Research Centre. Her work has been exhibited internationally at the Royal Academy of Art (London), Somerset House (London), Weltkulturen Museum (Frankfurt am Main), Index: The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation (Stockholm), Lychee One Gallery (London) and The Barn Gallery (Oxford), among others. Fatehrad has received her practice-based PhD from the Royal College of Art (2016) and has curated diverse public programmes such as ‘Sohrab Shahid-Saless: Exiles’ at the Close-Up Film Centre, Goethe-Institut and Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London (2017-18); ‘The Feminist Historiography’ at IASPIS, Stockholm (2016); and ‘Witness 1979’ at the Showroom, London (2015). Fatehrad is co-founder of ‘Herstoriographies: The Feminist Media Archive Research Network’ in London and she is on the editorial board of the peer-reviewed Journal for Artistic Research (JAR). Fatehrad is also the recipient of St. John’s College Artist in Residence 2018 at the University of Oxford .